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Video Game: Castle Vania I

Castlevania is the first entry of the long-running Castlevania series, known as Akumajō Dracula (Demon Castle Dracula) in Japan.

The player controls Simon Belmont, the latest in a long line of vampire hunters. The Belmonts have kept the peace of Transylvania for centuries by destroying the evil Count Dracula. Dracula, being a sore loser, has risen again to terrorize the countryside of Transylvania with the help of his minions to draw Simon out for revenge. Vowing to end his reign once and for all, Simon takes up the "Vampire Killer" whip, his family's Ancestral Weapon, and sets forth for Castlevania.

One month after the game was first released in Japan on the Famicom Disk System, a version of the game was released for the MSX2. This version was released in Europe under the title Vampire Killer prior to the NES version. This version featured similar graphics and the same general sequence of levels and bosses, but had numerous major (and minor) gameplay differences, including required exploration of stages to find the key necessary to open the door at the end of every non-boss stage.

The game received subsequent remakes on various platforms as Haunted Castle, Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania Chronicles. Castlevania on the Nintendo 64 was not one of these.

This game has also seen several rereleases, including on the Game Boy Advance as part of the Classic NES Series, a PC bundle alongside Contra, and a Virtual Console release.

Castlevania and Vampire Killer provide examples of:

  • Animated Armor: The Black Knights early on, and later on the Axe Knights.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Using a continue takes you back to the start of the area, unless you died to Dracula or by falling through the stairs leading up to his room, in which case you start back at the stairs instead. (Vampire Killer lacks continues, though.)
  • Barbarian Hero: Simon Belmont.
  • Bat out of Hell: The first boss is a giant bat with a wingspan as long as your whip. You meet a trio of them during the final level, although you can just walk by them relatively easily.
  • Beating A Dead Player: Expected from an older game like this, however, probably one of the most very clear and very creepy example of the early NES day.
  • Boss-Only Level: On the NES, stage 12 is a short corridor leading to a Boss Battle, and stage 18 is the famous stairs leading up to an antechamber to the Final Boss room. The MSX 2 version turns these into considerably longer levels.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Should Simon die at any time, he'll lose his subweapon and double/triple shot, go back to the leather whip and his heart counter is reduced to 5.
  • Clock Tower: Stage 17. The gears aren't moving, though.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: At the beginning of the fourth area, Simon falls down a hole several times deeper than is possible to survive in-game.
  • Credits Gag: The credits to the NES version play on the names of famous Universal and Hammer actors.
  • Degraded Boss: The first boss, a giant bat, pops up as a trio of three enemies very late in the game.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons, Red Skeletons, and even Skeledragons.
  • Difficulty By Region: The original Disk System version in Japan (Akumajō Dracula) not only had a save feature, but also gave out morning stars earlier. The 1993 Japanese cartridge re-release took out the save feature, but added an "Easy" mode which starts the player off with more lives and power-ups.
  • Difficulty Spike: Thought the first half of the game was relatively easy? Well, let that absurdly long fall into the fourth area represent your imminent fall from gaming grace.
    • Make no mistake! This game is challenging from the get go especially if you aren't used to playing Nintendo Hard games in general, but the second half of the game is where the gloves come off and its literally do or die!
  • Dracula: Well, obviously.
  • Dual Boss: Two mummies.
  • Dungeon Shop: Many of these in Vampire Killer.
  • Elite Mook: The Axe Knights; they take eight hits to kill with the full-power whip, and they can kill you in four hits with their boomerang axes. Of course, you can kill them in one hit with the holy water.
  • Evil Overlooker: Dracula himself, looking more Halloween-ish than in later installments.
  • Fish People: Always pop up in the two water segments of the game.
  • Flip Screen Scrolling: Vertically, and also horizontally in Vampire Killer.
  • Flunky Boss: Frankenstein's Monster is accompanied by the invincible Igor.
  • Four Is Death: Starting with Stage 12 (the end of the fourth area), any given attack will do 4 Hit Points of damage to Simon, which is also 1/4 of a full life bar.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: During Death's battle, throwing three items at once with the Triple Shot while Death throws three scythes will likely freeze the game. This was fixed in later releases of the game; the Double and Triple Shot powers simply vanish once you reach the stage where Death is encountered. You can even collect randomly dropped Double Shot powerups during that stage, but they won't actually do anything for you.
  • The Goomba: Zombies are the first enemy type, moving along the ground and dying in one hit.
  • The Grim Reaper: One of the bosses, and what a boss!
  • Holy Hand Grenade: Literally when it comes to the Holy Water.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Meat (found stored in breakable walls) is the only way to restore health mid-stage.
  • Jump Physics: Your jumps can't be controlled in midair, which only adds to the difficulty.
  • Kaizo Trap: The game's MS-DOS port has an unintentional one, thanks to a programming screw-up that means the clock continues to count down even when the "victory" music is playing after you defeat each boss. This means that if you take too long to defeat a boss and have less than around 7-8 seconds remaining on the clock, the timer will run out and you'll die while the victory music plays.
  • Knock Back: One of the reasons why you need to be very careful around holes and jump-heavy areas.
  • Made of Iron: Simon goes to segment 4 of the game by falling down a long pit. In real life, he would've died from breaking his legs.
  • Magical Mystery Doors: Stage 12 in Vampire Killer.
  • Monster Mash: Vampires, of course, plus mummies, Frankenstein's monster, some gillmen, hunchback dwarves, assorted zombies, skeletons, ghosts, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Monstrosity Equals Weakness: Many players, particularly veterans, find the second phase of the Dracula battle to be easier than the first phase.
  • Mutually Exclusive Powerups: If you pick up a new subweapon, you lose the one you had (as well as double/triple shot, if you'd acquired them). Woe betide you if you accidentally pick up a dagger.
  • New Game+: If you thought this game was hard the first time around, you're in for a real treat once you beat the final boss. After you see the credits, you get dumped right back into the first level, except now the original enemies deal much more damage. Bats and medusas are no longer limited to a few areas; now they appear everywhere.
  • Nintendo Hard: First, Simon, besides being unable to jump to save his life, can't control which direction he jumps, and his whip has a delayed reaction for when its used, not to mention it can only be shot left or right. Second, the enemies are more often than not too fast to easily hit or put in a place where they can easily get the advantage over you, not helped by that how precisely your whip has to connect in order to hurt them —not to mention, Simon is knocked back when he takes damage, which makes it very easy for him to fall into a pit. Late in the game, all enemies become strong enough to where taking so much as four hits is enough to kill you. Also, when you die, Simon will lose his subweapon and double/triple shot, go back to the leather whip and his heart counter is reduced to 5. Oh, and no password or save featurenote —the game must be beaten in one sitting—fortunately, the game is gracious enough to give you infinite continues. Finally, the bosses, when fought without (or, depending on the players skill, even with) subweapons, can be downright grueling to beat—standout examples including Frankenstein and Igor, Death, and Dracula himself.
  • Off with His Head!: When you beat the first phase of Dracula, the final hit sends his head flying clean off!
  • One-Winged Angel: Dracula becomes a beefy devil-like creature (or, in Vampire Killer, an enormous living portrait of one) after you "kill" his humanoid form. May be the Ur Example of this trope for video games.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: The Boomerang Cross.
  • Recurring Riff: "Vampire Killer," perhaps the theme for the entire series.
  • Rewarding Vandalism: You get most of your power ups by whipping candles. And you get items and food from smashing certain blocks.
  • Sequel First: Or rather, Spinoff First; Vampire Killer was released in Europe before Castlevania was.
  • Shout-Out: One of the bonus items you can get in the NES version is an Easter Island Head.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Simon's last name is "Belmondo" in the credits of the NES version.
    • Dub Name Change: In Japan the family name is Belmondo, while in the US it's Belmont. The porting team simply forgot to change the name in the credits of the game.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Bodies of water in this game are the same as pits basically.
  • Teleport Spam: This combined with Collision Damage makes Dracula an evil final boss.
    • Telefrag: Even worse, Dracula has a nasty habit of teleporting on top of Simon, and he does it regularly enough it may even be deliberate. It doesn't kill the player instantly, but does take a quarter of his life meter off, and is just one part of what makes the first phase of the boss fight such a challenge. Fortunately, the player gets a bit of warning as Dracula is initially intangible when he ports in, but the player has to be fast to move out of the way before the Count materializes fully.
  • Timed Mission: Levels have timers. Averted in Vampire Killer.
  • Warm-Up Boss: The Giant Bat.
  • Whip It Good: The Vampire Killer, your main means of offense.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: In any official material Dracula is referred to only as The Count.

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alternative title(s): Castlevania 1986
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