The original Castlevania and I have had an interesting little exchange, really. I’ve had exposure to it since the heydays of the NES, but never actually owned a copy of it until the GBA’s “Classic NES” line included it as part of the second series (and the third…uh…third party title in America in that series to boot!). I tried to conquer it, as my best efforts as a child only got me to Stage 7. I managed to reach Stage 10 on that cartridge, but just couldn’t persevere the rest of the way. Come the 3DS and its suspending capabilities for Virtual Console games; I quickly picked it up and, after practice and some diligent saving, finally reached Dracula and put him down for the count.
And while the original game is certainly a much more rigid and stiff gameplay experience in contrast to the MetroidVanias that followed, Konami crafted the game around Simon Belmont’s limitations. It’s a fair game — hard, yes, but not unjustly so — and defeating each section is a joyous accomplishment. Doesn’t hurt that Kinuyo Yamashita and Satoe Terashima delivered the first definitive soundtrack for the system, with the trailblazing rock-esque music hammering home the gothic goodness of the visuals. Plus the bestiary (even at this early stage) managed to impress, with its Medusa Heads and Fleamen and Bone Pillars (among so many others) making such an early and memorable debut.
Castlevania began beautifully. Its sequels perhaps polished a lot of the rougher edges and experimented with the framework laid down here, but to be quite honest this game is still a great gem of the NES library and well worth a playthrough. Just…be patient with Simon; he can only trot so fast.