Castlevania: The (Terrible) Adventure
In 1989, The Nintendo’s handheld Game Boy made its debut in Japan, suddenly creating a demand for bite-sized adventures that could work on the go. Konami decided to translate their 1987 NES Castlevania franchise to the new platform, but in doing so, both the Belmonts and the vampires lost their iconic characteristics.
In short, the game is one of the worst platformers I’ve ever played on the Game Boy. I don’t even think it’s worth devoting a review to this shitty Castlevania entry—and that comes from someone who loves the series.
But since you’re reading this, I might as well quickly summarize why it’s as bad as everyone says it is. As soon as you take the control of the protagonist, Trevor Belmont—an ancestor of Simon, since the game supposedly takes place a century before the events of the NES game—it immediately becomes apparent that you’re not going to have fun playing this game: Trevor moves slower than your average garden snail, you can’t whip enemies while climbing or on ropes (and there are a lot of ropes in this game), there are no subweapons, and the game only offers four stages with plenty of opportunities for cheap deaths.
Yes, the NES game is also particularly famous for it’s grueling difficulty and “staircase of death” since getting hit by a bat means falling backwards, through the cases, into a bottomless pit. But if you play The Adventure, and immediately after that go back to the NES version, you’ll release a giant sigh of relief: at least Simon is more or less controllable. This longplay video better illustrates my main gripes:
As you can hear, the musical tunes are no doubt up to snuff, probably to disguise the otherwise hideous gameplay elements. What kind of a vampire killer can’t throw a holy cross or an axe? Trevor can’t, and he sure does need it: at certain points, the game throws all kinds of weird enemies at you: rolling eyeballs that explode on impact, pillars that puke out diagonally bouncing balls at an alarming rate, the carefully placed bat here and there, …
For a Game Boy platform game, precise controls are of paramount importance, while in The Adventure, trying to navigate Trevor over a set of floating bricks with pits in-between (in stage 1, only five minutes after booting the game!) truly is a nightmare come to life. In stage 3, the spiked wall starts coming down and then moving to the right, meaning you’ll have to hurry up, except that you simply can’t. I played this as part of the Castlevania Anniversary Collection while heavily abusing save states. I have no idea how this could be finished on an actual Game Boy in the early nineties.
I realize that a lot of GB launch games weren’t too impressive, but even compared to the first average Mario adventure, Super Mario Land, releasing Castlevania: The Adventure is something to be ashamed of, perhaps even playing it. According to Wikipedia, design choices also were questionable:
[…] The second stage becomes impossible to beat if the player goes left instead of right on the first set of ropes and goes all the way down the bridge. They will be faced with a dead-end, Belmont will respawn there when he dies, and there is no way to get back up. The only way for the player to continue is to lose all of their lives, which will put them at the beginning of the stage.
I think I now understand why the remake The Adventure: ReBirth by M2 on WiiWare in 2009, was very much needed. There is literally no reason to play the GB original except if you want to punish yourself. All the more strange that the ReBirth version wasn’t included in the Anniversary Collection set.
Luckily, the Game Boy successor called Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, came with much-needed improvements, making it a vastly superior handheld Castlevania experience.