Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
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10  |  Castlevania 3
Scoots , 12/24/2002 6:50:27 AM
When I was in the fourth grade I won 200 bucks in a poster design contest. The first thing I bought was a brand new Nintendo Entertainment System and Konami’s Castlevania. To this day it remains one of my favorite games for the system, and one that has spawned a long and varied legacy over many different gaming consoles.

You might think it strange then that I had never played Castevania 3: Dracula’s Curse until last week. I had a brief dalliance with Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest some years back, but that game left me cold with it’s pseudo-RPG non-linearity. Happily, C3 is a worthy heir to the throne of the original, a true monster-bashing side scroller heavy on gothic atmosphere and challenging gameplay.

Visually, the game looks fantastic. The moody and expressive backdrops of the original are back in full force here: haunted graveyards, threatening forests, the famous clock tower. Guiding Trevor Belmont through these treacherous locales you are fought every step of the way by an incredible array of evil creatures. Many of the enemies will be familiar to those who know the Castlevania franchise: skeletons, fishmen, vampire bats, flying medusa heads, and those @#%&! leaping hunchbacks! An astute eye, however, will notice that while the characters look the same, many have extra frames of animation, making their movements and attacks that much smoother.

Castlevania’s music is already the stuff of legend amongst gamers, and this installment is no exception. Melding perfectly with the eerie backgrounds are a new batch of evocative motifs, with several nods to the past. Holding down A and B and pressing START twice at the title screen will bring up a menu of in-game music. The music is so fitting, and the game so engrossing, that you may be surprised at just how much different music this chapter of the Belmont saga contains.

The biggest surprise to me, and the greatest improvement over the original, has to be the addition of several alternate playable characters that are available to you at points throughout the game. These characters have their own special abilities and limitations—Alucard has a powerful multidirectional missile attack, Sypha can use a variety of magic, and Grant has a high jump and the ability to scale ceilings and walls. These characters will provide even a seasoned veteran of the Castlevania series with ample new tricks and strategies to learn.

Overall, Castlevania 3 managed to pull off an almost unbelievable task: a sequel that improves on the original without parodying it or relying on cheap gimmicks. If you are a fan of side scrolling action, this is a game you can really sink your teeth into.

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