- NA release: 26th January 1999
- JP release: 11th March 1999
- PAL release: 14th May 1999
- Developer: Konami
- Publisher: Konami
- N64 Magazine Score: 82%
In 1997, the PlayStation got Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It got great reviews and is now considered to be an amazing game – it’s even the reason for the “vania” part of the phrase “Metroidvania”. However, it didn’t sell well. Unfortunately, this era of consoles looked down poorly on 2D games. This was even worse on N64 than on PlayStation, so Castlevania on the N64 had to be in 3D.
This one isn’t a “Metroidvania” game, but seems like its taking the style of the first few Metroidvinia games and turning that into 3D. I should note that I’ve never played a Castlevania game before.
In Castlevania on the N64, you get to pick between two characters: Reinhardt, a vampire hunter with a whip, or Carrie, who has magical powers. They sense that Dracula has returned and seek to destroy him.
The graphics are nice on the N64, and Castlevania has the right atmosphere for the style of game – creepy, but adventurous. The levels are long but mostly linear, with you occasionally going off the path to hit a switch or find a key.
Combat is quite simple, you have a melee attack and ranged attack, and can also use magical items as weapons. You can lock on, but can not move (other than a jump to the side) while doing so.
Movement is a bit more of an issue. The jump is tall and floaty, and really difficult to judge – and definitely not helped by the camera. To make matters worse, any missed jump us usually instant death, and you’ll need to load your previous save or start the level from scratch.
The saving is one of the game’s big frustrations: they are quite a distance apart, meaning you have to fight through many enemies before you can start a jump again. In one instance, you fight a couple of bosses and then walk down a corridor. The floor will give way and you’ll die. Your last chance to save was before the bosses. Luckily, save states solve this, but it was still frustrating with that.
Another issue are some doors and events that only happen at certain times of the day. You can use sun and moon cards to skip forwards, but sometimes the only choice is to wait around for the right time.
That said, I was mostly enjoying the game until Castle Keep. Here, you have to move an explosive substance to a crack elsewhere in the castle. If you jump or get hit, you die. Of course, they set up a massive, winding narrow bridge you need to cross, with lizards spitting fireballs at you. It’s the hardest part of the game, but not for good reasons.
Then the game put its middle finger at me. I finished the level when it faded to black and told me I had finished the game and to start again on a higher difficulty if I want to see the rest. As I know I’m going to play a slightly different version of the game later on, I instead downloaded a safe file just before defeating Dracula (incidentally, if you don’t get there fast enough, you’ll get a bad ending).
Castlevania has some nice ideas, but a lot of frustrations. The gameplay is still enjoyable and I was expecting much worse from it’s reputation. Still, it’s an odd game because a port of Symphony of the Night would have been much, much better.
It’s just a crying shame that the obvious hard work that Konami have put into Castlevania is diluted by the game’s biggest fault; a wilfully obtuse camera that doesn’t always do what you want it to do. Perhaps it seems a little worse than it is because we’ve been spoiled by Super Mario 64, Zelda and, to a lesser extent, Banjo-Kazooie. Perhaps it’s because we want Castlevania to be so much better than it actually is.Jes Bickham, N64 Magazine #27
Remake or remaster?
It does need to be included in compilations.
Official Ways to get the game
There’s no official way to play Castlevania on N64.
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