In 1990, the third installment of the popular series Castlevania was released to fans in America. Dracula’s Curse, as it was called, abandoned the second ‘s RPG and action game play in favor of the original’s straightforward formula. With a few extra twists, the overall experience was much improved over the original Castlevania and proved to be the best out of the three NES released titles.
The plot takes place 100 years before the original Castlevania. You once again take control of one of the members of the Belmont clan, Trevor. Trevor resembles Simon (hero of the first Castlevania) in every way, from his brown garb to his use of a whip. So in this respect, the action is pretty much the same as the original. Along with the whip, Trevor has at his disposal sub-weapons, such as boomerangs, knives, holy water, a clock, and axes. Each has its own way in which it behaves and distinct advantages and disadvantages. The boomerang hits an enemy, then comes flying back to possibly hit it again. The knife can be thrown straight for long range. Holy water hits an enemy in its path several times before dissipating. The clock can stop time for a few seconds. And finally, the axe arcs up and over to attack enemies. Trevor’s whip can be powered up along the way and sub-weapons and hearts (to fuel the sub-weapons) can be found throughout Dracula’s Curse‘s stages by hitting candles.
You battle through each level facing a wide range of enemies and obstacles until you come to face to face with the stage’s boss. Boss battles at first are fairly easy, but get progressively cheaper as the game nears the end. Some of the enemies get very difficult too quickly in the early stages, causing some frustration. There is also the signature “floaty” jumping still intact in this game. However, an added feature of the game not found in the first is the inclusion of a password feature. This way, gamers can take a break and turn off their console before delving further into Dracula’s dungeons.
A great addition in Dracula’s Curse is the ability to choose from multiple paths after a boss battle. The player can choose to take slight detours or just go straight through the game. This adds great variety to an already fun game and an added incentive to play through several times. Also, along these paths you can find companions to aid in the effort against the forces of darkness. These companions are Alucard, Grant DaNasty, and Sypha Belnades.
Alucard is Dracula’s son and the same character from Symphony of the Night for PSX and Saturn years later. He has a fireball attack and the ability to change into a bat, enabling him to make way across obstacles. Sypha is a wizard and has a very weak short-range attack. However, her sub-weapons happen to be some very powerful spells. Grant is a pirate and has great speed and can climb up walls. You can only have one of these companions at a time, so if you choose to take another, your current will leave. It is easy to switch between Trevor and his current companion at anytime by pressing select. This gives several different ways to handle certain situations and obstacles, as well as bosses, on the fly.
The presentation for Dracula’s Curse was great in its day. Sprites look much improved over the previous titles. Backgrounds don’t look as muddled with the details and appear more defined, if that is possible. This also goes for the other characters and monsters, which also look a bit better. Another change is Trevor’s brown outfit, which isn’t the same brown found in the first Castlevania, so it doesn’t seem to blend in the background as much. The graphics are probably one of the best the NES has to offer.
The sound is excellent as usual in just about any Castlevania game. The music is good and very well orchestrated, as best as the old NES can handle. The tunes set the mood and some can be very catchy. Sounds are good, though they are mostly comprised of the same whips and snaps anyone could have heard in the previous games.
All in all, Castlevania 3 is a very satisfying action game for the NES. It is solid, with tried-and-true game play found in the previous installments and yet adds some interesting touches to the mix. The multiple paths and characters add some considerable depth and replayability to what could be misconstrued as just a rehash of the first title. Then there is also the great presentation and sound, at least by the 14 year old standards of its day. Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse should be played by any fan of action and is certainly the best of the Castlevania games on Nintendo’s old system.