Reviews: Castlevania II Simons Quest

An early, simple, open-world 2D platformer

Castlevania II Simons Quest was very original and experimental for its time. After the simple action-platformer Castlevania came out, Konami took the sequel in a totally different direction, creating an early example of an open-world 2D platformer.

The game's 2D nature does result in some odd ways to try to reconcile the lack of other directions with the game's exploratory nature. Sometimes staircases would lead underground, which in turn would lead to new outdoors areas. Signposts would sometimes mention "west" and "east", which obviously correspond to left and right, but, humorously, north and south are never given as directions. My 7-year-old brain took that at face value, but looking back, it's actually pretty silly.

I loved the game's backgrounds. Mountains and trees looked beautiful, as beautiful as they could in 16-color 256x224, which says a lot about Konami's art direction. Having been spoiled by the amazing In-Universe Game Clock in Agent USA which featured 12 distinct times of day, this game's simple day/night system didn't impress me as much, but it did serve more of a gameplay purpose, creating situations where you might reach a town while low on health, but then have to ride it out until daybreak to find the safety of a church - the only way to restore health - since, like all buildings, it only opens during the day.

Today, the game shows its age. Townspeople have basic dialog, there's a lot of Guide Dang It moments (a mod exists to fix them), and the combat is rather simple. Enemies don't have much variety in attacks or movement patterns compared even to the first game. The leveling up of abilities is very simple - every weapon upgrade is 2x the previous. Enemies in new areas often take double the hits of enemies in previous areas, and give out double damage. To compensate you can level up on a per area basis, gaining double defense. You get the idea. Houses in the towns are repetitive and share largely identical layouts indoors.

While the "Metroidvania" style of gameplay has caught on and more such games have been made since, I would like to see a new game more like this one. The use of separate towns to visit, a day/night cycle, and the great scenery are things I'd like to see again.