I’ve already made it very clear on my blog that I love the Castlevania series of games. Konami has made more than a handful of masterpieces in the series over the years (Castlevania 1 & 3 for the NES, Symphony of the Night for the PS1, Aria of Sorrow for GB Advance) and even some of the more maligned or somewhat ignored titles like Castlevania 2 for the NES or Castlevania Bloodlines for the Genesis, are games I adore. It should come as no surprise that the 4th installment of the Castlevania series for the Super Nintendo, Super Castlevania IV, is…..well, super!
Super Castlevania IV was released in late 1991, only a few months after the North American launch of the SNES. It was an early highlight for the system and showed off some of the new Mode 7 graphics (rotating backgrounds) that only the SNES could do at the time plus an amazing original soundtrack, a Castlevania staple. But beyond all the bells and whistles, Super Castlevania IV is simply one of the most enjoyable entries in the cannon.
Super Castlevania IV is a much more straight forward Castlevania than the third entry on the NES. You don’t have the option to play as multiple characters and you don’t have branching paths to choose from. It is a simple side scrolling action platformer on the surface and it may even appear to be “basic” compared to the non-linear gameplay of Castlevania’s 2 & 3. Super Castlevania IV actually has more in common with the original NES outing but that’s not a bad thing as long as the new upgraded version is better in every way.
Once again, you control Simon Belmont, or at least an ancestor of the Simon Belmont, from the original Castlevania. It’s been 100 years since the Belmonts had to dispatch Dracula the last time, but he’s making his presence felt again in Transylvania. You must fight Dracula’s minions of the undead in and out of his castle before facing the final, familiar Big Bad. You spend the first half of the game attempting to fight your way into Dracula’s castle and the second half of the game inside the castle working your way closer to Dracula himself. This castle environment has many of the typical series tropes such as ghouls and undead dogs, bats, Medusa heads, clock tower gears, skeletons and the like. I actually prefer the first half of the game, however, as the gameplay feels newer and more unique. Its all relative though, since nothing about Castlevania IV is all that new or unique if you’ve played any of the NES titles.
With that said, there are some notable gameplay mechanics in Super Castlevania IV that offer a greater level of control over Simon and his whip. Once you’re in the air, you can make minor adjustments to where Simon will land which takes a lot of the frustration out of the original game. You also now have the ability to aim your whip in 8 different directions, hitting enemies all around you. Another new gameplay mechanic is the use of your whip to swing across chasms, which can be tricky for the first few times you attempt it but ultimately pretty easy to master after a few tries.
Super Castlevania IV is far from the most difficult Castlevania game and the use of the password system for continuing is a nice touch. Despite the new jumping and whipping mechanics which are all meant to make the game less frustrating, you’ll still let a few curse words fly during mistimed jumps as with any Castlevania. The boss battles tend to be on the easy side of the spectrum, which is surprising considering how difficult they usually are in these games, Dracula in Castlevania 2 as the major exception. I really have very few gripes against Castelvania IV as a whole. It’s a gorgeous looking adventure with spectacular music and controls. I only experienced a little slowdown during stage 4’s Mode 7 screens otherwise the system really keeps up with the game and all the moving parts. Super Castlevania IV is a wonderful game and easily one of the all time best not just in the Castlevania franchise but on the SNES.
Currently in my collection: game, manual