Video Game: Castlevania I
aka: Castlevania 1986
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 of Vampire Killer
. Vampire Killer
features 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
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
Castlevania 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.
- 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 quattro of them in Stage 16, 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.
- Boring but Practical: The holy water is the least stylish of all the sub-weapons and has the shortest throwing range, but it can do a lot of damage and/or take out several enemies when it it hits. Upgrade it with a double or triple shot, and the boss battles (with the exception of the Giant Bat and the Count himself) become a piece of cake.
- Boss-Only Level: On the NES, Stage 12 is a short corridor containing only a couple of dragon skeletons before a Boss Battle, and Stage 18 is the famous stairs leading up to an antechamber to the Final Boss room. The MSX2 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 recurring mook in Stage 16.
- Dem Bones: Skeletons, Red Skeletons, and even Skeledragons.
- Difficulty By Region: The Famicom Disk version has a save feature for up to three files that saves your progress at the start of each block.
- Vs. Castlevania, an arcade port of the game distributed only in North America, made the game even harder by increasing the amount of damage the player takes from enemies, making the time limit stricter, and reducing the bonus points awarded at the end of each boss battle (making extra lives harder to come by). While the difficulty level and clear bonuses can be adjusted with the game's dip switches, the Vs. version is overall much harder than any of the home releases.
- The 1993 Famicom cartridge re-release took out the save feature, but added an "Easy" mode featuring weaker and slower enemies and starts the player off with ten lives and 30 hearts.
- 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 difficult 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: The twin mummies in Stage 09.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Some of the recurring monsters in the series had different names in this game, such as The Grim Reaper (Death), hunchbacks (fleamen), and eagles (altairs).
- 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.
- Every 10000 Points: Extra lives are given for your first 30,000 points and every 50,000 points afterward until reaching the score cap.note
- 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.
- 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 his maximum health.
- 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 a later revision; the Double and Triple Shot powers simply vanish once you reach Stage 15. 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!
- Hello, Insert Name Here: The Famicom Disk version asks for the player's name when creating a save file, although this doesn't affect the rest of the game in anyway until the end credits, where Simon is credited under the player's name. The NES version and Famicom cartridge release took out the name entry feature completely. Despite this, it would become a recurring aspect of the series.
- 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 MS-DOS version 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.
- 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 cleared 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.
- Shout-Out: One of the bonus items you can get is an Easter Island Head.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Simon's last name is spelled "Belmont" in the manual and "Belmondo" in the ending credits.
- 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.
- Warm-Up Boss: The Giant Bat.
- Whip It Good: The Vampire Killer, Simon's main means of offense.
- Writing Around Trademarks: In any official material Dracula is referred to only as The Count.
Vampire Killer provide examples of:
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: Sort-of. Unlike the NES version, continues are not allowed unless you have a Game Master cartridge on the second slot, in which case you're allowed to continue by pressing the F5 key on the Game Over screen.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory: Certain MSX joypads have the jump button assigned to the left action button, rather than on the right.
- Dungeon Shop: The merchants, which were not present in the NES version. Each one sells a single item for a certain amount of hearts.
- Flip Screen Scrolling: The MSX wasn't capable of horizontal scrolling like the NES version, meaning that each stage now consists of a series of stand-alone screens, giving the game a bit more of a puzzle feel.
- Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Collecting keys is an essential aspect of this version. Yellow keys open treasure chests containing valuable items, while white keys open the exits to each stage. There are also magic canes sold by certain merchants that can open up to three treasure chests in a row.
- Magical Mystery Doors: Stage 12, which was a simple corridor in the NES version.
- Mutually Exclusive Powerups: Unlike the NES version, the cross, the axe and the dagger serve as alternate main weapons that can be obtained in addition to the chain whip, instead of being sub-weapons. On the other hand, the stopwatch and the holy water can both be equipped at the same time as secondary items.
- Poison Mushroom: Picking up a black bible will raise item prices from merchants by twice the normal amount. To cancel the effect the player must pick up a white bible, which reduces prices by half during normal circumstances.
- Power Up Let Down: You'll revert back to the standard leather whip if you fail to catch the axe or cross on its return path. You'll also be stripped of all your extra weapons and item after each boss battle, forcing you to gather them again on each new block (you get to keep your hearts though).
- Precision-Guided Boomerang: Both, the Battle Axe and Battle Cross, function as boomerang-type weapons (in contrast to the NES version, where the axe is thrown at an arc angle). The axe has a shorter range than the cross, but does more damage.
- Reformulated Game: Vampire Killer was developed alongside the NES version at the same time as a parallel project. Contrast with the arcade game Haunted Castle, which was released a year later than both.
- Timed Mission: Averted. You're allowed to explore each stage at your own pace.