Video Game / Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

"Castlevania III's most treacherous enemy: The Stairs!"

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (Akumajō Densetsu or "Legend of the Devil's Castle" in Japan) is the third NES entry of the epically long Castlevania series, and a prequel to the original. This game chronicles the exploits of Trevor C. Belmont (Ralph Belmond in Japan), grandfather of the original game's Simon Belmont. In 1476, Trevor, who has "a long history of fighting the forces of evil", is called forth by the citizens of Wallachia to defeat Dracula. The game chronicles his journey across the land to the titular Castlevania, and his subsequent infiltration of the castle and battle with Dracula.

Generally considered the best NES Castlevania, and rivaled only by Super Castlevania IV or Castlevania: Rondo of Blood as the best old-school Castlevania. Following the overambitious Simon's Quest, Konami took a back-to-basics approach with this game, sticking to traditional platforming while improving the graphics and music. The result plays almost identically to the original Castlevania.

Nevertheless, there were some important innovations. The path to Dracula's castle frequently branches, and the player will wind up following one of three paths to the final levels, plus an early side-route that is entirely optional. Along the way, Trevor may also pick up one of three companions: Grant DaNasty, a wall-climbing pirate; Sypha Belnades, a sorceress with elemental powers; and Alucard, Dracula's rebellious son. In addition to deepening the gameplay, the latter two would become very important in the series' Myth Arc. Ironically, Grant is rarely seen or heard of today unless in a group-cameo with the other three.

In a technical sense, this was one of the most advanced NES games ever produced. It had a unique memory mapper as well as a special chip which offloaded some of the sound processing from the console. To this day, it remains one of the most technically difficult NES games to emulate due to these factors.

Former Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi said that Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was his favorite Castlevania game.

Dracula's Curse contains examples of:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Several, in the forms of a collapsing tower, a rising water line, and a plain ol Auto-Scrolling Level in the last stage of the game.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: It's subtle, but the second to last level is like this, of the Final Exam variety. It's an insanely hard gauntlet of many of the challenges from throughout the game on both paths, including a stream full of mermen, Harpies dropping Hunchbacks, spiked crushers, a tower that scolls upwards in jolts, and THE STAIRS.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Many fans consider Alucard the weakest partner in this game, with his ability to turn into a bat his only saving grace.
  • Badass Normal: Grant
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The game's English translation is clunky, to say the least. In particular, the opening scroll tells us that Dracula's goal was to "create a bad world filled with evil," and can't seem to decide whether Dracula was able to conquer just one city or all of Europe before anyone thought to ask Trevor for help.
  • Bowdlerise: Lesser Demon was renamed to Leviathan and Medusa was turned into a male so its bare chest wouldn't bother the censors.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Grant
  • Broad Strokes: Trevor can only be accompanied by one partner at a time, and it is impossible for him to meet both Sypha and Alucard in the same run. Despite this, future games imply that all four characters faced Dracula together as a team during this story. Which actually would've been pretty cool.
  • Broken Bridge: The first path split offers a direct route to the castle by way of the clock tower. Taking it and reaching the top causes the bridge to plunge into the lake surrounding Castlevania, forcing you to turn back and take a (thankfully truncated) version of the other route.
  • Can't Drop the Belmont
  • Check Point Starvation: In the NES version, dying against Dracula sends you back to the beginning of A-2 (instead of A-3 like in the Famicom version). While this seems bad, A-2's a very short section (the hardest part is the pendulums, which can be skipped if you have Alucard and enough hearts) and has a greater selection of subweapons (Axe and Holy Water as opposed to Knife). The only problem is the enemies can cut down your health before you even reach Dracula.
  • Clockworks Area: This game has two of them. The first is the optional Stage 2, which is required if you want to rescue Grant. The second is the final stage, being a hybrid of the Clock Tower and Castle Keep areas of Dracula's castle similarly to the first game. It was also this game that associated the Clock Tower areas with the infamous Medusa Heads, which became a staple of the series.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Alucard can turn into a bat. He also lacks strength or speed, is the largest target of all the playable characters, has no subweapons, and can't attack while on stairs.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: While Death's second form is considered a step down in difficulty from his first form, he has a unique trait no other enemy nor boss in the game has, in being completely immune to the Boomerang; the Boomerang will simply harmlessly bounce off him with a clinking noise. The other subweapons still work fine on him though, making them more ideal to take into the Death fight with you.
  • Death Mountain: The Stage 7 you get on the Alucard route. It's notoriously long.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Alucard. Grant is this to an extent, though he was turned into a monster before the events of this game.
  • Demoted to Extra: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow has an unlockable game mode where you control Alucard and descendants of Sypha and Trevor who play like their ancestors. Grant is nowhere to be seen, and nobody fills his gameplay role.
    • According to a script buried within the game data, Hammer was originally intended to be playable. Though Hammer and Grant DaNasty look similar, there is little to no indication Hammer would have played like him or is even related to him.
    Julius: You. Why are you here?
    Hammer: Why? I'm here for Soma! My man's in trouble, I tell ya!
    Julius: But it's of no concern to you.
    Hammer: Heck yeah, it is! Soma's my pal, after all. Laying his life on the line for a pal... That's what a man does.
    Julius: Wrong. An ordinary human is no match for a foe like this. Being a man has nothing to do with it.
    Hammer: Hey, bud, I served in the military! I know weapons a whole lot better than you! And I'd like to think I've got enough sense to retreat if it gets too crazy.
    Julius: Fine, then. But if you ever fear for your life, get out immediately, understood?
    Hammer: Loud and clear. You have my word.
  • Difficulty by Region: In the Famicom version, the strength of enemy attacks remain constant throughout the entire game and each enemy does varying damage, unlike the NES version where enemy damage output increases after you pass certain points in the game, and all enemies and bosses deal the same damage. This difference is especially apparent in the last few stages of the game, where every enemy and boss will deal 4 bars of damage in the NES version (and thus you die in 4 hits), while in the Famicon version very few enemies deal that much damage (with even Dracula dealing only 3 bars of damage in all his forms). Additionally, Grant is considerably more powerful in the Famicom version, as instead of a short range stabbing attack, his primary attack is throwing his knife, similar to his knife sub-weapon in the NES release, but without the need for hearts. Several other changes were made to the NES version to make it harder, such as enemies spawning in certain rooms that weren't there in the Famicom version, the bandages from Mummies being shot in a wavy trajectory instead of travelling straight, Axe Armors and Bone Pillars requiring a few more hits to kill while the former's shield gained the ability to block the Boomerang and the latter firing faster, many bosses being made more difficult (the aforementioned Mummy change applies to their boss version, all the rooms you fight the Spirit in were adjusted so you no longer have a safe spot from the Mummies and Cyclops, the Bone Dragon King requires hitting its head to harm, and the Leviathan fires 3 much larger fireballs), dying in the final section against Dracula sending you back to the beginning of the prior level section instead of at Dracula's stairway, a Boomerang inside a candle in the hallway to Dracula being replaced with a Knife, and the lasers fired by Dracula's final form being about 4 times as long while gaining the ability to be aimed anywhere, making his lasers a lot harder to avoid (which when combined with the fact he deals 4 bars of damage here unlike the Famicon version, makes him murderously difficult, especially if you don't have an Axe to hit him without the aid of the rising platforms).
    • If that wasn't enough, the Harder Than Hard Second Quest amps the difficulty up even more in the NES version, with you taking four bars of damage from every enemy right from the beginning of the game, and replacing a few of the enemies with more dangerous versions, most notoriously replacing the already infamously annoying Medusa Heads with the Skull Heads.
    • The European version is slightly easier than the American version, but still harder than the Japanese ones: enemies do less damage in early levels and the stopwatch lasts longer.
  • Drowning Pit: The second half of the Sunken City level on the Alucard route becomes this. Once you get the Bone Dragon King's health below half, it'll flee and break through the cave wall, causing water to start pouring into the city. When you catch up to the Bone Dragon King again at the very end of the level, it'll still have whatever HP you left it with, but the water will still be rising, effectively turning the second part of the fight into a Time-Limit Boss.
  • Dual Boss: As in the first game, two mummies. As part of a Sequential Boss, no less.
  • Dub Name Change: Ralph Belmond to Trevor C. Belmont.
  • Every 10,000 Points: The extend system from the original game returns. Your first extra life is given at 20,000 points, which is 10,000 points earlier than in the original. However, the game is less generous with bonus points than the original, giving the player less opportunities to milk his score.
  • Evil Laugh: Present in the theme "Epitaph". Death also lets out a few of these in his second form.
  • Fragile Speedster: Grant. He can climb up walls and along ceilings, allowing him to avoid enemies and skip a few level segments. He also moves the fastest, jumps the highest, and is the only character to actually have control of his jump in mid-air. However, he doesn't take hits well, and his default attack doesn't do much damage to enemies or bosses.
  • Gangplank Galleon: Stage 4 on the Sypha route.
  • Glass Cannon: Sypha. Her spells can dish out tremendous damage, and much faster than Trevor can, depending on the situation. However, she also takes more damage than Trevor.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Belmont Clan was banished from Wallachia long ago out of fear of their "superhuman" strength. Who better to take on ol' Drac than a badass Belmont?
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Alucard.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Trevor. He has the same abilities as Simon Belmont in the original game.
  • Jump Physics: Grant is the only character that can control his jump.
  • Kill It with Ice: One of Sypha's subweapon freeze the opponent which then allow you to defeat them in a single hit while they are in this state.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Leviathan you fight at the end of stage 7. It has by far the most HP of any boss in the game, requiring 32 whip hits to kill (while every other boss requires 12 or 16), and in the Famicon version it's one of the few enemies in the game that deals 4 bars of damage, while in the NES version it marks the point where all enemies start dealing 4 bars of damage. However it's a huge target and only moves by slow periodic jumps.
  • Mutually Exclusive Party Members: Besides the limit of only taking one at a time, you have to choose between Sypha and Alucard's routes.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The first two apply to Grant.
  • Nintendo Hard: The stairs are worse than the first game. You used to be able to hold right/left plus up/down to walk smoothly onto stairs. Here, you have to stop and hold up/down. Damn You, Muscle Memory! makes this EVIL if you played the first game. It's also harder to use powerups on the stairs, being almost random whether pressing B while holding up (to go up the stairs) will use your subweapon. Also, lurching screen vertical Auto-Scrolling Levels where enemies appear out of thin air after part of the space necessary to see them is already visible, levels where you have to go upstairs with a dozen turrets and Gargoyles, not starting on the stairs before Dracula when you die (you go back to BLK A-02) like in most other Castlevania games, at least one ridiculously stretched jump, etc. Oh, and there's two levels where you must fight 2 and 3 bosses in a row, respectively, and that's not counting Dracula, who has 3 forms. You have to beat BLK A-02 and three forms of Dracula on the same health bar and time limit. It's much harder than the first game in many ways.
  • Nostalgia Level: The entrance to Dracula's castle is very similar to the first stage from the first game, complete with an updated version of Vampire Killer, titled "Deja Vu".
  • One-Winged Angel: Dracula has two such forms in the final battle; after you defeat his first form he turns into a floating five-headed monstrosity that vomits acid on you. Then, after you defeat that, he turns into a huge gargoyle-like creature that fires lasers at you, while you have to maneuver on floating circling platforms that rise from the ground over Bottomless Pits.
  • Power Up Letdown: Alucard's fireballs do about as much damage as a throwing dagger. Granted, they can go diagonally, and getting all three in on an enemy does 50% more damage than a swing of Trevor's whip, but you need to be close to an enemy to do that and the attack is pretty slow, meaning you're sure to take a hit in the process.
  • Progressively Prettier: This is the only game where Alucard isn't a Bishōnen.
  • Put on a Bus: Grant and the DaNasty family, besides brief mentions and doppelgangers and his drastically (unneeded and unexplained) redesigned appearance in Judgment. The DaNasty family has never appeared in the proper games since Dracula's Curse. Hell, even Dawn of Sorrow has a mode where you can play Alucard and descendants of Trevor and Sypha.
    • Since Grant's motivation is that Dracula killed his family, not being mentioned ever again might be a sign that there isn't a DaNasty family anymore.
    • There is an obscure novel that took place after Dawn of Sorrow which features a girl coming from the DaNasty clan, thus Grant managed to settle down and have descendants.
  • Samus Is a Girl / Sweet Polly Oliver: Sypha.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: Oh yes. See Nintendo Hard above.
  • Sequence Breaking: Grant and Alucard provide opportunities for this.
  • Sequential Boss: You fight an evil spirit that can bring to life up to three monsters: A cyclops, a pair of mummies and a Leviathan.
  • Shared Life Meter: Both Trevor and whoever he's traveling share a life bar.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Grant, at least in-game (see Walking Shirtless Scene below...)
  • Spell My Name with an "S"
    • Grant's last name is spelled different depending on the source (DaNasty in the manual and DaNusty in the ending)note 
    • Sypha Belnades' full name is spelled "Syfa Velnumdes" in-game.note )
    • Wallachia is also misspelled "Warakiya" in the manualnote 
    • In the Famicom version, the name of the Belmont clan is spelled "Belmond" instead of the standardized spelling of "Belmondo" used in the more recent Japanese games.
  • Squishy Wizard: Sypha Belnades. She has equal, if not lower, constitution than Grant, but her spells are damn powerful!
  • Taken for Granite: Sypha before you rescue her. In the backstory for the Famicom version, she was aware of being petrified this whole time. How long she's been stuck there is anyone's guess.
  • Underground Level: Most of the Alucard routes. Half of Stage 4, all of Stage 5, all of Stage 6 (one of them, anyway, considering you could opt to play the Sunken Ruins instead), and several sections of Stage 7.
  • Wall Crawl: Grant can climb walls and ceilings, making him useful for grabbing out of reach 1-Ups or effortlessly outrunning advancing walls of doom.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Grant is usually depicted as one in artwork (both Japanese and American), even though he's clearly wearing a vest and/or undershirt in-game (more accurate artwork here).