Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (1991, Konami, Game Boy)

In 1989, Konami released one of their first two games for the brand new Game Boy system; Motocross Maniacs and The Castlevania Adventure. Castlevania fans were very excited that a new game was coming around for the shiny new handheld, and unlike Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, was thankfully like the original.
But hopes were quickly dashed as fans expressed their intense dislike for what appears to be an incredibly lazy effort. Inconsistent level design and sluggish gameplay (even more so than the Castlevania games already are) are rampant through this mediocre title. Fortunately, Konami released a remake earlier this year, and a awesome one at that.

Konami decided to try their hand once again with Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge. And while it still is somewhat inferior to it's console bretherin, it's still a hell of a lot of fun, and actually is probably the best action game on the handheld. The plot is a continuation of Adventure's storyline. You still control Christopher Belmont, now trying to rescue his son from the control of Count Dracula; thirsty for revenge and bodily fluids. Like usual, not award-winning material, but it gets the job done.

I can tell you right now, Castlevania II's gameplay is vastly improved over Adventure's. Christoper controls like a dream (as far as Castlevania games go, at least), having no noticeable delay on his movements. The game speed is significantly faster, so it feels more like the console titles. Unlike Adventure, Castlevania II actually has sub-weapons such as the Axe and Holy Water. But these are the only two in the game. Unique to this title is the ability to select which stage you wish to go to, however this has no impact on how the game plays out, just the order it goes in. To make the game work with this concept, all of the levels are equally as difficult as each other. This leads to a lack of gradually ramping difficulty, making this game quite easy up until the final few levels. Good news for gamers new to the series, but bad for hardcore fans.

Castlevania II looks great for the monochrome handheld. All of the environments are diverse and detailed, Christopher himself looks improved over the original, and the larger bosses in the game look a bit intimidating as far as 8-Bit goes. Everything looks slick and animates just as well. The music is excellent, even compared to the console games. New Messiah and End of the Day are now staples in the series' soundtracks, and they came from this game. Control is about what you'd expect from Castlevania; slightly sluggish and yet incredibly tight at the same time. You still lose control of your character when he's airborne at all, so you have to plan your jumps carefully, and stay away from pits.

While Castlevania II hasn't really aged particularly well, it's still one of the quintessential games for the famous 8-Bit console. It's looks fantastic as far as Game Boy goes, the music is amazing, a unique (yet pointless) stage select, and the tough-as-nails action are still all here, and in a nice portable package. There's no excuse not to hunt Dracula down once more in this top-notch action platformer.

+ Slick presentation.
+ Awesome music.
+ Fixes most of The Castlevania Adventure's problems.
+ Cool "Stage Select" function..........

- ....that's practically useless.
- Distinctly lower difficulty that most games in the series.

OVERALL: 8.5 out of 10

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