Simon Belmont has just gotten married to his bride Selena, but Dracula takes her away and Simon has to go and save her. This time, in the arcades. Haunted Castle was the first Castlevania-game to appear in the arcades and was not ported until 18 years later to the PS2 in japan only. It also took them 10 years to get the original arcade-machine to Europe in 1998 and to be fair: it should not have come overseas.
Going back to the linear-style, Haunted Castle is a platformer where you must fight and jump throughout the game’s levels and kill bosses at the end. You once again have your whip to attack and defend yourself with and you can even acquire a mace or a sword to boost up strength, but they don’t help much and are rare to find. The sub-weapons are more useful in comparison, having the stopwatch freezes time, the cross shoots holy light, bombs, boomerang and torches burn creatures. They do help, but since hearts (that once again function as ammo) aren’t easy to come by, they have limited use.
Unfortunately, this is not the only gripe I have with this game. Enemies are terribly overpowered and can take a bunch of damage from Simon, making it easy to see the game-over screen plenty of times. They have an annoying pattern with frequent attacks and can often fill the screen, making it almost impossible to not take a hit. They don’t get stunned either, so you might even take damage when you try to deal with the threat. Making fighting even worse is the poor hit-detection, so you can easily be attacked and knocked back by hazards and enemies. Having a wallet full of coins doesn’t help you much either; each coin counts as a life, but each time you bite the dust, you will only be taken to one of the game’s stingy checkpoints, maybe even right to a boss. After 3 lives, no matter how many coins you spend, you will be taken to the beginning of the game.
The unfair difficulty and enemy-layout is a terrible shame because the game has some neat ideas, such as a lit torch holder falling onto dry grass, making the ground catch fire and having you jump on platforms that are above it, and bosses that have some neat patterns and designs, like the chained up Frankenstein-monster, who can only use his chains to attack or falling pieces of ceiling. But these are small parts and due to enemies being relentless, hit-detection being off, terrible money-sucking functions and the game being an overall mess, I had a miserable time. There is no reason to come back to this and despite the game being only 6 stages long, it can be a drag due to how unfair it is.
Gameplay Score: 2/10
Looks can obviously be deceiving
The presentation is really good, with environments being colorful and filled with small touches, such as paintings bleeding in the background. There are areas that can look quite dated, with poor pixel-quality and fogs being static, but it is for the most part well done. The enemies don’t always have good animations to them, but are at the very least nicely detailed. Simon has changed his hair-color and has good animation, but his walking-cycle is off. It almost seems like he is in pain or can’t walk properly. It is meant for him to be hiding or readying his weapon, but it looks goofy. The music is a tad high-pitched at times, but has fantastic tracks with many taken from previous Castlevania-games and also some new ones, all filed with the gothic and heart-pumping tunes the Castlevania-series is known for. The screams from enemies, swings of weapons and wolfs howling each time you put in a coin is also pleasant. If nothing else, this makes it a pleasing time to look at and listen to.
Presentation Score: 7/10
This was a terrible time. Arcade-machines are known for sucking in money from people, but at least you could have some fun with them and feel a progression. With this one, I never felt that, making it the worst experience I have had in the Arcades so far and the worst Castlevania-game I have ever played. There are plenty of great Konami-arcade games, from TMNT2 to Sunset Riders, as well as better Castlevania-games to choose from. I really have no idea whom I would recommend this mess to unless you need every Castlevania-related thing.