Can I just say that I hate that the title of this game is "Super" Castlevania IV? It's dumb. There was no Super Castlevania 1-3. There was just Castlevania 1-3. Why add "Super"? Is it because it was meant as a sort of remake? Then why not just call it Super Castlevania? The IV makes it clearly the fourth game in a series. Make up your mind, Konami! Plus, I hate that alphabetically, this one wouldn't sit on a shelf next to the others in the series. It's dumb.
Actually, I'm carrying on. But I think in Japan there was no "IV" in the title. I think it was marketed as a remake. But really... it's not that. It's not, guys. Considering that the castle doesn't even show up until the third act, this is definitely a whole new game. And... I'm kind of mixed on it.
I've been a fan of the Castlevania series since the first title on NES. Although I've never considered myself to be especially good at the games, I still consider Castlevania to be within my short list of favorite franchises. Though I'm pretty sure that Castlevania: Chronicles is the only game in the series I've managed to actually beat, I still love these games and have poured plenty of time into the majority of titles released over the years.
I never did play Castlevania IV until just now though. Note, I'm dropping the "Super" from the title for the rest of this piece to give it parity with the rest of the series. Though I played the hell out of the original NES trilogy back in the day, along with Castlevania: The Adventure on Game Boy, I never managed to find a copy of Castlevania IV on SNES. But lately I've been going through this thing where I've been playing some old classics (and not-so-classics) that I've been meaning to play or replay.
As for Castlevania IV, let me start with a strong positive. This game has a fantastic soundtrack. And I say that as a fan of the series who has taken the time to explore the soundtracks released through the history of the series. Yes, this a series known for phenomenal music and this one in particular is a great mix of old NES-inspired tunes with some excellent atmospheric work. It really sets the mood.
But Simon... poor Simon doesn't quite move the way I want him to. As friends pointed out to me, Castlevania IV is unique enough that the original NES trilogy doesn't prepare you for it. You can't really play it the same way because the mechanics are just different. It took me a while to get used to flinging myself around via the whip. And I never did get used to the thing where you hold down the button to kind of flail your whip in a limp way around you. I don't know. So much felt weird to me.
A bigger problem is the difficulty. Now, it's sort of well "known" that this is one of the easier Castlevania games out there. Just not to ME. Nope. I really really struggled with this one. And it frustrated me. With other, harder games I at least felt like I was learning as I went. With this one I found myself cussing at the enemy placement. So many times I'd land a jump only to have some asshole pop out of nowhere and bump me backwards into a pit of spikes or whatever. It just seems unfair. Or like it revolves around rote memorization which I'm not into.
Thank goodness for save states which I abused the F out of. Clock tower? Save states. A race up disappearing stairs with a blade chasing me? Save states. Oh wait - another note about the difficulty... after I'd go through a stage infuriated at stupid deaths, the bosses would be a joke. Just stand there and whip rapidly and a winner is you.
Anyway, I spent three long nights playing this game. Sometimes I had a lot of fun. Other times I had no fun. Mostly I had fun. And even when I was mad, I felt a lot of reward for perseverance. But when I finally made it to the end of the game and into the boss rush I just felt all motivation leave my body. I beat the first two bosses easily enough but the Grim Reaper just made me rage quit. I tried a half-dozen times or so and decided it was best to walk away without the Victory, but still having positive things to say about the game.
See, Castlevania is like pizza. Even bad pizza is good. Same thing. I had a good time, I got frustrated, and I felt pride. But it's still toward the bottom tier of the Castlevania games I've played. I'd place most of them above this. Which doesn't mean it's a bad game, but rather that this is a vast and great series. Maybe someday I'll come back to this save state and try to finish it off. I just don't have it in me tonight.