So if anybody remembers the last Halloween, I did have some nostalgia for the first Castlevania-game for the Game Boy, despite the fact that I could not in good conscience recommend it. It was a game that was slow, restricted, unfairly difficult, and only 4 stages long, with the only quality being shown through its soundtrack and visuals. However, a sequel still came in the form of Castlevania 2: Belmont’s Revenge. Dropping “The Adventure” part of the title and even going further by calling itself Castlevania 2. I am not sure if this means it wants to replace Simon’s Quest, but it might as well do so.
So much in a small package
This is the most personal story we have gotten in the series so far, but that might not say much. Christopher Belmont’s son, Soleiyu, has been kidnapped by Dracula and it is up to you as a good father to save him. There is a decent twist towards the end, but the story only serves to give you a reason to kill Dracula, besides that he is Dracula. However, there is much more to praise this game for. Unlike his previous entry, Christopher is much better equipped and skilled this time around. His movement is at a good speed, his stiff jumps are more manageable due to better level-designs, and knockbacks are barely there, making him easy to get your grips on. He can even climb ropes and shimmy them down faster than an anvil. Like before, he has his whip at his disposal and can upgrade it by collecting orbs. The first time you pick it up, it will make it stronger and have more reach, and the second time will make it shoot fireballs. The whip won’t be downgraded either if you are hit by an enemy, except for one that thankfully doesn’t feel cheaply placed throughout the levels.
Since you can only attack left and right with your whip, sub-weapons are back to help with attacking creatures above and beneath you. You can acquire axes to throw in an arc or holy water, which will be thrown to the ground and cause fire that burns enemies. Ammo for these sub-weapons is again acquired in the form of hearts and while there are only two sub weapons to choose from, our hero already has the whip, along with the possibility for a fireball upgrade. This makes the sub-weapons mostly useful for attacking vertically rather than horizontally, and since you can only pick up one, you must choose wisely. Besides these, there are coins for points that can lead to extra lives, health-regenerating turkeys, and 1-ups that are hidden throughout the levels.
Enemies come in a huge variety and you must be ready with your reflexes. From hawks swooping down, to spiders creating web to climb on, all are dangerous obstacles that must be tackled with caution. Making these creatures even more dangerous are the level-designs that provides a perfect challenge. You will be able to choose the order with to tackle the first 4 stages, before entering the 2 last stages taking place inside Dracula’s Castle. All 6 areas have something unique to them, making them memorable and fun. For example, Rock Castle has candles that actually functions as light sources instead of just item-givers and spikes to jump on for some tricky platforming, while Cloud Castle has chains to climb up and down while they are moving, and enemies to whip. All take the few abilities Christopher has and they are all a lovely challenge. The first 4 stages essentially work as tough training-stages that will demand you paying attention, ending with 2 more that tests all you have learned to the max.
Ending each stage, is a boss-fight with one extra being included at the very end. All boss-battles are creative and fun, such as one heavy-armored creature that will have high agility when you destroy his armor, and one dragon that will disappear and reappear through holes in an auto scrolling stage. The minor issue here, is that the first 4 fights are rather easy and the last 3 can be a harsh difficulty-spike, with some being among the most brutal fights in the series so far. They are all great and enjoyable, but I wish the same difficulty-curve given to the stages, was present in these fights as well.
By having only 6 stages and 7 boss fights, it is a short, but sweet game. The stages are long, but never overstay their welcome and there is a password-feature should you bite the dust, which is a good possibility. From start to finish, I had a blast playing through Belmont’s Revenge and it is a fantastic example of how such a limited protagonist, can still be a part of something wonderful if the level-designs takes advantage of his/her abilities. I just wish the boss fights were better in their difficulty-curve, but seeing as they are still creative and enjoyable fights, this is a minor issue that only makes the game not reach its full potential.
Gameplay Score: 9/10
Don’t necessarily need colors to be creative and gothic
Since you will be exploring more than just Dracula’s castle, each area is much more intriguing and unique, making it feel like exploring an imaginative dark-fantasy world. The Crystal Castle has clear and more slick looking constructions, almost reminiscent of Greek palaces, and Cloud Castle has more of a steampunk vibe. Dracula’s Castle also holds up well, but I believe more could have been done with it than making it into a huge church with clockworks.
The mythical monsters fit each area beautifully and are all pleasant to look at. From the detailed eyeballs, to a ginormous boss that is a huge mishape of bones, all are sights to behold. It is incredible how well it looks for a Game Boy title, with multilayered screens and actually making flickers used to simulate glowing waters in crystallized locations or fog. On the music-part, I will become a broken record towards the end of this series-review, but the soundtrack is once again amazing and has some of the most underappreciated pieces in the entire series. All are varied and energized, with plenty of notes and uses the chip-tunes the system has to create a grand soundtrack. Rhythmic, metallic, and at times even creepy, it definitely needs to be discovered by more cover-artists.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Simon’s Quest was an interesting take on the series and Castlevania The Adventure at least tried to create something slightly different for the Game Boy, but both can be forgotten. This is the proper Castlevania 2 and the main-entry to check out for the old brick. It is creative, challenging, and a blast to experience. Now if only we could get a re-release soon. I mean The Adventure got that, so why not redeem themselves by letting something fantastic come back for a broader audience? Preferably the color-version, but either one works!