Super Castlevania IV (Available on Wii, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Original SNES Release Date: December 4th, 1991
Wii Virtual Console Release Date: December 25th, 2006
Wii U Virtual Console Release Date: October 31st, 2013
Parent Talk: Super Castlevania IV is rated E10+ for everyone ten and older. The ESRB lists fantasy action and violence as the main disclaimer, and I think that’s appropriate. The game isn’t too gory, but does feature skeletons, Medusa, and other creatures of the night which could potentially frighten the very young. That said, I know many people who played this game when they were only five or six and they turned out just fine.
Plays Like: The game plays very much like Castlevania and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse on the NES, although taken to the next level. The whip can now be swung in eight different directions, and even held in any position which acts as a sort of shield.
Review Basis: Having finished the game numerous times on the SNES, and the Wii Virtual Console, I decided to swing into action and play through the Wii U Virtual Console version just because it was an excuse to return to this incredible game.
Hands-down the very best gameplay element added to SCV4 is the eight-way directional whip. Now you could jump and whip down, angle and whip diagonally, or whip straight up, and to the sides. It was amazing! You could even hold down the attack button and Simon would hold the whip out in front of him, which helped to protect against incoming projectiles. Seriously, it can’t be said enough times, this was revolutionary stuff back in 1991. For some reason Konami would ditch this gameplay element in virtually every single 2D Castlevania afterwards, and the only logical explanation is that it helped make the game a bit easier than the previous entries. It’s a real shame though as it was just so awesome!
+ Other gameplay refinements include being able to shoot your weapon with the R button instead of up and attack. It might seem like a minor addition, but it went along way to help make this feel like a different beast. There were also special objects Simon could attach his whip into that would allow him to swing from one area to the next. Simon could also turn direction while mid-jump, and even jump on and off stairs. All little additions that came together to make this something really special.
+ Phenomenal use of Mode-7. Mode-7 is a unique graphical scaling effect the SNES featured, and Nintendo highly marketed. Certain stages in the game made full use of the effect, such as the infamous tunnel stage that would frequently cause people with motion sickness to want to hurl their lunch. It was a true sight to behold though, and made those playing the game feel like they were experiencing something truly special.
+ Outside the Mode-7 stages and effect, were the super refined graphics. Simon’s sprite was larger than ever, the environments were more detailed than anything the NES could pump out, and the boss fights featured some truly massive foes. One of my favorite was the two-headed dragon you fight during one of the early stages. Sure there was some slowdown here and there, but it was worth it for these stunning visuals. They hold up perfectly well over two decades after the game originally shipped.
+ The soundtrack is also fantastic. Many of the classic tracks from the original NES trilogy return here, although sounding better than ever thanks to the SNES’ great sound chip. Bloody Tears in particular was a great standout.
Super Castlevania IV has aged perfectly. It’s one of the best entries in the “classic” series, and while it was never overly difficult thanks to the eight-way whip, it’s made even easier by the Wii U’s save states. The graphics, incredible soundtrack and amazing gameplay prove that timeless classics are always worth revisiting. This is one you shouldn’t hesitate to experience on any platform you can get your hands on. It’s an instant buy!
Final Score: 9/10