After the giant failure of Castlevania: The Adventure, Konami still had the guts to continue its handheld Castlevania line in 1991, by going back to the drawing board and fixing nany of The Adventure’s shortcomings. A design document from the Anniversary Collection revealed that the team aimed to improve the following things:
- The player should move much faster;
- Attacking while on a rope should be possible;
- More level and enemy variation is needed;
- Sub-weapons should be present.
I’m pleased to say that the above points are all present and accounted for. In this installment, Christopher Belmont is searching for his lost son, and luckily for us, Christopher moves and controls much better than its Game Boy predecessor Trevor. Christopher has access to classic subweapons such as an overhead throwing axe, a holy cross, and holy water. What’s more, the game is suddenly a non-linear affair akin to the Mega Man games, where you can choose which of the four stages to tackle, before Dracula’s “real” castle appears. Each stage still is a castle, but with its own design: Cloud Castle, Plant Castle, Rock Castle, etc.
In a way, Belmont’s Revenge is what Turtles II: Back from the Sewers is to the original GB Turtles game, Fall of the Foot Clan: nearly every aspect of the game was improved, yet it still doesn’t make for a superb game with a lasting impression.
The stages are broken up by sections, just like in the NES game, where you open a door that also signifies a respawn point—which was very unclear in The Adventure. The development team did their best to apply more unique flair to each of the castles, with a (still very much limited) amount of unique backgrounds and monster designs. If you play with save states—and you should, as this is still very much a punishingly difficult game—and take it slow, one castle won’t take up more than twenty minutes of your time.
Boss designs are another clear improvement, with the iconic sphere appearing after defeating them, even though it moves upwards instead of functioning as a HP refill for some reason. Some levels have branching paths, but aren’t cheap dead ends like in The Adventure. Don’t expect a lot of depth from the level design though. Why Nintendo Life heralds Belmont’s Revenge’s “excellent level design” beats me. In essence, it’s still very much a simple platformer that’s easily beaten in design by 1992’s Kirby’s Dream Land.
In line with the first installment, the soundtrack is quite good for being a relatively early Game Boy entry, but again, the game still has its moments of frustration, as is typical for old Castlevania entries. I’d say this one has aged relatively well, at least compared to its mutilated older brother. At least this entry doesn’t have to be played in one sitting: the welcome four-symbol-coded password system will make sure of that.
To be honest, I’d still rather play the NES original, but can’t take that with me. And this one neither, as I played it as part of the Anniversary Collection, since getting hold of a Belmont’s Revenge cartridge will set you back at least
$60 according to Price Charting—and it’s not that good (or lengthy).
Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge is an interesting curiosity that, compared to The Adventure, perhaps is worth playing if you’re a Castlevania fan. It could almost pass as a a generic solid Game Boy platformer, but more recent games with tighter mechanics quickly outclassed this Belmont.