Yes, this is Castlequest, a brain bender of a game with a interesting premise, but terrible execution. Opinions on the game are mixed, but if you're looking for a different kind of puzzle game on the NES, it doesn't get more obscure than Castlequest.
The game was originally released in Japan as Castle Excellent on both the Famicom and the MSX, as a sequel to a game called The Castle. The game is actually fondly remembered over in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Not to be confused with the BBC Micro game Castle Quest (two words).
This game provides examples of:
- A Winner Is You: For beating such a hard game, you get a close-up picture of your player character holding his sword in the air thanking you for playing.
- All There in the Manual: If you got this game used, there's no way you'd know about the Sub-Command menu that allowed you to reset a room or re-lock a door if you messed up unless you got lucky messing with the second controller while playing the game. The game also came with a map of the whole castle, making things much easier...
- American Kirby Is Hardcore: Compare the cover art above with the decidedly less awesome (albeit more accurate) Japanese box art.
- Black Magician Girl: One enemy is a witch that constantly spawns an infinite amount of random enemies until she is killed. This means she can also spawn enemies in places you DON'T want, and once an enemy is spawned it stays in the room even after the witch dies. So if she happens to spawn an unkillable enemy in a place you need to get to...
- Block Puzzle: Several of these are located throughout the castle.
- Cats Are Mean: One of the enemies in the game are cats decked out in what appears to be Viking helmets and armor.
- Covers Always Lie: See that cool looking demon on the game's cover at the top of the page? He never appears anywhere in the game at all. Oh, and the princess isn't clad in a skimpy bikini in-game, either.
- Difficulty by Region: The US release starts the player off with 50 lives, while Japanese version only gives you 3.
- Improbable Use of a Weapon: For whatever reason, Rafael can only use his sword while moving. Oh, and your sword has really short range, so you'll more often than not run into enemies you're trying to kill, ending up dead yourself.
- Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: As lock as the color of the door and the color of the key are the same, you're good to go. Otherwise, you aren't going anywhere.
- Jump Physics: You'll have to master the game's wonky controls if you have any hope of beating it, so have fun getting used to jumping like you're on the moon.
- Lock and Key Puzzle: A literal example of this trope.
- Man-Eating Plant: Yup, this game has them.
- The Many Deaths of You: Let's see, getting crushed to death, drowning, being stabbed, being burned, being eaten, being impaled on spikes, being shot at with arrows... it's better not to think about it.
- Nintendo Hard: It's an early puzzle game with clunky controls and one-hit kills. You do the math.
- Nipple and Dimed: The two faeries you have to save in the game before saving the princess both have 8-bit nipples. You don't really notice them since the sprites are so small, but it's still surprising given how censor-happy Nintendo was at the time.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: You have one hit before you lose a life. The Japanese version starts you off with three.
- Porting Disaster: The MSX version is a rather decent puzzle game. The NES version starts by giving the main character a sword, and gets worse from there.
- Save Point: In the Japanese version of the NES game, you could save your progress if you used the Famicom's Data Recorder hooked up and had an empty audio cassette. Since America didn't get this peripheral, this option is not available in the English version.
- Spikes of Doom
- Super Drowning Skills: Unless you have an oxygen tank, Rafael will lose a life as soon as he touches the wet stuff.
- Unwinnable by Mistake: There are actually several ways to make it through the game, but if you aren't careful with your keys or have a certain item run out before you have a chance to use it in the proper place, you could easily find yourself in this situation.