Super Castlevania IV (SNES) Review

The Short


Pros

– It’s like Castlevania, only SUPER!

– We’re back to Simon again in this…remake? Prequel? What is this game chronologically, anyway?

– Graphics are pretty dang snazzy

– Also, the music is awesome

– Has like five trillion levels

– Simon has learned how to look up, down, and diagonal. Meaning he can whip in all those directions for the first (and only time) in the series

– Some cool SNES effects like room spinning, chain wipping on stuff, and some giant bosses

– Throwbacks to earlier Castlevania are pretty great

Cons

– Your sprite and whip are so big it covers like 1/2 the screen

– Also, it’s absurdly powerful when fully upgraded, and can hit in any direction, removing any challenge

– What I’m saying is this game is absurdly easy

– Lacks the feel of tight, meticulous design that permeated Castlevania and Castlevania 3. 

– Sub-weapons are useless because the whip just rocks everything.

– Less of an actual series upgrade and more of a side-step into a new development

Simondiana Jones

The Long

What is your opinion on whipping? Or perhaps whipping things good?

If you said “I’m down with whippin’ stuff!” then Super Castlevania IV has got that covered and in spades. If you aren’t down with whipping a whole arsenal of baddies, then why the crap are you reading a review of a Castlevania game anyway?

So the Super Nintendo came out and Konami decided it was time to port their big fat vampire killing series over to the new hotness. However, after Castlevania III: There Will Be Drac mixed up stuff with multiple characters, what could they do to spice up the gameplay for the new kids?

How about having Simon whip in every direction known to man? And, like Castlevania III, have a whole first portion of the game take place outside the castle? And then add like fifteen quadzillion levels?

Super Castlevania IV was Konami’s attempt to take what was basically an untouched system of gameplay (we aren’t counting Simon’s Quest here) and spruce it up for a new console. And, while it certainly is…spruced, does that actually make it better? Well…sort of. And sort of not. And with that ambiguous statement, here’s the actual review.

More like Man-dusa.

I’m like 99% sure that Super Castlevania is intended (chronologically) as a retelling of Castlevania 1, but I’m too lazy to look it up so you’re just gonna have to take my word for it. The intro is the same (Simon strutting out in front of the castle and whipping angrily), many of the levels are homages to the original game, and you’re Simon…so yeah. Pretty sure. But the story doesn’t matter.

What matters is whipping, and whipping beasties, and boy does Super Castlevania have that and in spades. The game’s loaded with a truckload of levels, with bosses capping off each level end to provide a fun challenge. You start by going into the castle (sort of?) but it’s like a courtyard…then underground…then above ground…then inside…and yeah, it goes forever. While some may argue that old school platformers are short, nobody’s gonna be saying that about Super Castlevania. It’s a loooong game, with absolute loads of content and cool places to visit. And while this does mean the enemy designs kind of fall apart (a grass scribble monster that looks like a MissingNo from Pokemon? Really?), having this may levels, enemies, and bosses, is pretty incredible. They totally crammed all that data into the 8 MB or 16 MB or however big SNES carts are.

Again, not doing research.

This game’s got next-gen water effects going on.

But the most important thing about a Castlevania game is Draculas and whipping them, and this is where the biggest major change happens. Well, minus Simon’s bigger sprite. Seriously, while taking about “big changes,” did he go on steroids or something? He was a little bitty dude in Castlevania and Simon’s Quest, and now he’s an absolute monster. He takes up a ton of screen space! But that’s nothing compared to the whip.

Simon, it seems, has learned how to look up. Rather than being satisfied with just lobbing axes blindly in that “unviewable spot” in an arch ahead of him, now he can whip up, diagonal, or even down when jumping. Dude’s graduated from whip college with a Doctorate in Vampire Ass-Whipping, and he’s ready to show his skills to the emerging job market of Whippers Inc. I think there was supposed to be a joke in that sentence, but looking back now I’m really not seeing it. Whatever.

When the whip is fully upgraded, the sucker takes up roughly 1/3 off the screen with every swipe. Compare that to the rather pitiful, delayed action from previous games, and you’ll see how this is a massive game changer. Sub-items, which were once necessities because of the whip limitation (a ranged weapon like the knife for distance, the bottle to hit low enemies or enemies on lower platforms, the all-necessary axe to hit enemies above you) are now totally useless. This also renders Hearts, which are back as currency for item uses, also totally pointless. Some other dude goes over this in greater detail, so I won’t harp on it, but considering sub-weapons making up for your suckyness of having a totally lame whip is kind of a Castlevania staple, getting rid of it so you can just whip everywhere feels a bit like a misstep.

Like, seriously, you can use Mode 7 for good or for evil. Making a huge, nauseating rotating room in your platformer falls under the latter, good sirs.

The overpowered-ness of the whip also makes Super Castlevania IV: Simon’s Whatever a total freaking cakewalk. Enemies haven’t really been retooled to match Simon’s new skillset, and they sort of just do that “spawn in easy to kill places and exist to just easily die” thing that made Simon’s Quest so boring. The main difference is it’s satisfying as hell to whip the everloving bones out of a skellington (and thanks to the power of the SNES everything explodes in awesome violent fury), and the game does get challenging as it goes along. Just expect the first 4-5 levels to be kind of absurdly easy, and don’t expect the same level of challenge and precision level design you got from Castlevania 1.

Going back to the crazy new whip, this also adds a few new ideas that mix stuff up. Simon can whip diagonally onto hooks and such to make longer jumps, as well as some tricky room-spinning bits. This is cool but unfortunately underplayed; I’d love to have seen some more advanced jumps or platforming that uses the new whip options. The jumping still is a set angle that can’t be altered, meaning you have to buy an engagement ring for every jump in terms of commitment level, so it’s this weird mix of clunky platforming with new-fangled options and an super-buff weapon. It feels a bit weird, but hey…you can whip birds out of the sky. That’s cool.

And don’t get me started on the frogs. Those damn frogs. The hardest enemy in the game is little frogs hardly the size of your foot. Seriously. They never stop chasing you. 

Simon you fat lard, you’re taking the bridge down!

The game looks phenomenal. While it wasn’t the earth-shattering graphical masterpiece the first and third games were on the SNES, it still uses a ton of SNES processing power and has some cool 3D tricks amongst the 2D levels that spice it up. It’s consistently good, which is more than one can say for most games, and the background especially are gorgeous.

The music is also absolutely kickin’, though again it doesn’t quite match the level of the previous games in the series. The intro song packs one hell of a punch, though, and the remixes of classic songs are awesome.

Dis song is da bomb.

My only real grip with Super Castlevania IV is its attempt to innovate ended up kind of ruining what made the games great. The clunky whipping was always paired with sublime enemy placement, a combo that made the games really hard but also satisfying and an engaging challenge. Super Castlevania IV feels almost like God Mode of Castlevania 1; with this new screen filling, multi-directional whip you’re just wrecking shop to any and everything that stands in your way. And while the game does get tricky later on, it never, ever reaches even the levels of the first game in terms of raw challenge. You’re just too badass to get taken down.

It feels like they added that mechanic in at the last minute, like they’d designed the whole game around a forward-whipping only whip with the sub-weapons used (as before) to counter specific enemy types, and then at the last second were like, “Aw balls, we didn’t add anything new except eighty jillion levels. What if we make him just whip all over the place? That’s innovation, right?” and then didn’t bother to rebalance the game for this new mechanic.

As a Castlevania game, it’s still an absolute blast, and contains most of the small elements that make a Castlevania game great. I still wholly recommend it (it’s practically essential for an SNES collector’s library), but as a fan of the series it feels a bit like a black sheep.

Regardless, it’s still a blast, and you can whip like all over dawg. Who don’t want dat?

Four out of five stars.

“And I couldn’t have done it without the power to whip at an angle not directly in front of me!”

Author: Nathan Major

Spirit Shark: Hammerhead. Retro game collector, true ginger, and SNES fanatic. Goal in life is to become Karnov from the NES game Karnov.

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