Reviews: Castlevania 64

A mix of success and failure.

Castlevania 64 commonly gets a bad rap. It's certainly a game with some glaring flaws, notably in the camera and climbing controls. However, it does have some very strong points, as well.

Gameplay-wise, it's a rather awkward transition from 2D to 3D. Whipping isn't too bad, but using sub-weapons is a bit hard to get used to. However, in general the combat is a pretty enjoyable part of the game. The game in some places goes for adventure elements over action, which is kind of cool as you're exploring a castle that really does feel haunted. You also have unique storylines for both Reinhardt and Carrie, which adds some replay value.

This is also the first Castlevania to really have any story related in game. OK, maybe that's not totally accurate, but it actually has a reasonably substantial storyline with characters you interact with more than once. It's slight, but it's interesting, and there's a strong air of mystery about it. Reinhardt and Carrie's stories sort of fuse together to give you a complete picture of what's happening at the castle.

Level design is largely hit and miss. There are some parts that are very cool and enjoyable like the Villa and Duel Tower; then there are tedious segments like the infamous Nitro puzzle. One of the biggest problems surfaces here, and that's with the platforming. Grabbing a platform and pulling yourself up doesn't work well like Tomb Raider or similar games does- the direction you have to push to mantle a ledge sometimes seems arbitrary. And sometimes the camera doesn't want to cooperate when you have a difficult jump to make. For these reasons, I recommend playing the game on an emulator. It's immensely less frustrating if you can load a save state before an easy-to-mess-up jump.

The bosses, in general, are one of the coolest parts of the game. The camera can screw you here, but it's generally worth dealing with.

Overall, Castlevania 64 isn't a bad game; it just has a lot of unpolished facets that detract heavily from the experience. If you try it, I do recommend emulation. It will save you tearing your hair out.

A confused attempt to translate the 2D games into 3D, but I still liked it

In the N64 and PS1 era, as many 2D games made the transition to 3D, this often meant rewriting the rules and designing entirely new gameplay systems. Some series made the transition very well, while others struggled.

Castlevania 64 takes elements from the previous 2D Castlevanias, such as elements of the open world of 2, along with its day/night system and inventory, the multiple playable characters of 3, while being divided into levels. It uses a monetary system. It even brings back multiple endings, a staple of the second game.

The ideas feel a bit mishmashed, however. The game is divided into 10 levels per character (each character has 3 unique levels separately), and most of the levels are straightforward for the most part, being about defeating enemies and reaching the goal, with little puzzle-solving or exploration. However, the third and fifth levels are a totally different experience. Those levels are much more open and explorable, have characters you can talk to, some puzzles to solve, and some unique sequences such as a chase through a hedge maze. For example, in the third level, a certain character is required to be met at 3 AM, and that character provides you with an item that you need. There are hints letting you know what you need to do. The fifth level is very large and full of puzzles, including the infamous one involving a powerful explosive that frustrated many players.

The rest of the game, however, is largely action-platforming, despite the existence of the two more open-exploration levels. The day/night system (with changing weather in the form of rainfall every two nights in certain levels) plays a very minor role in the game, largely only being important in the third level. The inventory system is limited, as very few items exist in the game. Ultimately, some of the more adventure-oriented ideas were underutilized.

To help the action to work in 3D, your attacks are homing. It works really well. The game plays at a more relaxed pace than the 2D Castlevanias, and the music is more atmospheric rather than catchy like the previous entries.

It's a very different experience than the 2D Castlevanias, and very polarizing, but as its own unique experience, I think it works well.