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Castlevania: The Adventure – Game Boy

Castlevania: The Adventure – Game Boy

Castlevania: The AdventurePlatform:  Game Boy

Developer:  Konami

Publisher:  Konami

Release Date (NA):  December 15th, 1989

Genre:  Action / Adventure, Platformer

Nerd Rating:  5 out of 10




Castlevania: The Adventure is the series’ first installment on a handheld, and though it gets an “A for effort,” it falls a little short of delivering a proper Castlevania experience.  First of all I must admit that I did not play this on an original Game Boy.  After spending several hours with the cartridge awkwardly hanging out of one of my 3 GBAs, I then stuck it into the Game Boy Player add-on for the GameCube, and after a few more hours of being hopelessly stuck at the end of the second stage, I yet again increased the awkwardness by attaching the cart to a GameShark Pro (made for the Game Boy Color, no less) and then inserting the whole lot into the Game Boy Player.  Once I discovered there were few helpful codes on the Game Boy’s Game Genie, I decided to give the GameShark for the GBC a try and it worked!  So, one important lesson we’ve all learned here is that one does not need separate GameSharks for both the original Game Boy and GBC.  Apologies for the tangent; it is a discovery worth noting.

Castlevania: The AdventureOn to the game!  The storyline in Adventure may not be as rich as others, but it does tie into the franchise’s main continuity.  Those familiar with Castlevania (early games at least, I haven’t yet made my way into more modern ones) will probably remember the recurring theme of someone or other having to quell the threat of Dracula every 100 years.  Is this where it originated?  I don’t know, but it is an early example at the very least.  Occurring a century prior to  the events of the original Castlevaniaan ancestor of Simon known as Christopher Belmont is out to destroy Dracula with the famed Vampire Killer.

Castlevania: The AdventureThe gameplay has undergone a major simplification from what many would consider the norm.  There are no sub-weapons, and any whip upgrades vanish once the player receives damage.  Initially armed with a simple leather whip, the first upgrade turns the whip into a morning star with increased strength and a slight extension.  The third and final form of the whip is referred to as the “flame whip” and in addition to functioning as the morning star also spits out a fireball that travels across the screen.  If you can hang on to this iteration of the Vampire Killer, many portions of the game become much simpler, especially the bosses or “primary evils.”  Even with the absence of sub-weapons, hearts can still be found throughout the game, this time used to refill the player’s health meter.  In addition, stairways have also vanished.  Replacing them, ropes now allow vertical movement and remove early problems associated with stairs.  Though not perfect (Christopher can’t attack while clinging to a rope), the ropes do offer up more intuitive gameplay and can be jumped onto and off of quickly and easily.  One aspect I found to be particularly clever was that of “hidden rooms” accessed by continuing to climb a rope past, and eventually through, the “ceiling.”

Castlevania: The Adventure

Castlevania: The AdventureDue in part to the limitations of the original Game Boy, Castlevania: The Adventure is a short game consisting of only 4 stages.  Christopher begins the game with a mere 3 lives and even with reasonably spaced checkpoints within each level, this may be the hardest Castlevania I’ve played so far.  Quarters are cramped, Christopher moves numbingly slow, and jumping has not yet made its “leap” into “mid-air control.”  Enemies are quite common throughout, and nearly all of them make extensive use of projectiles.  If equipped with the flame whip most foes can be engaged and dispatched from a distance while safely avoiding their attacks, but this is a tough luxury to hold onto even if somewhat common and easy to procure.

Castlevania: The Adventure

Castlevania: The AdventureApart from the blob-like mud-men and bats, fans of the franchise will have a difficult time recognizing the adversaries of The Adventure.  This could be taken as a good or a bad thing; on the one hand a sense of uniformity is lost but on the other, the game is making the best possible use of the technology at hand without over-extending itself and attempting to render creatures and entities with too much detail.  Apparently, different monsters populated Dracula’s castle a century ago and I’m ok with that.  The bosses might not be as memorable or as iconic as some would hope, though it’s hard to imagine how the Game Boy would even begin to process much of what can be found on the NES Castlevania releases.

Castlevania: The AdventureCastlevania: The Adventure has 3 major drawbacks that keep it from rising to the level of other great titles on the Game Boy such as Kirby’s Dream Land and Super Mario Land.  First, it is insanely difficult, particularly the latter half of the game.  It shifts from “doable” to “impossible” from stage 2 to stage 3 and even seasoned gamers will have a hard time finishing this one.  Second, Christopher Belmont is by far the slowest Belmont to ever go up against Dracula.  Movements are sluggish, whipping Castlevania: The Adventureis sluggish, and jumping is sluggish.  When faced with the agility of the various monsters and dodging their copious outpouring of fireballs, boomerangs, and the like, Christopher hardly stands a chance.  Often times avoidance is out of the question and the strategy becomes a matter of managing one’s damage through the availability of hearts.  Stage 3 in particular, with its moving ceiling, floor, and then wall of spikes requires adept maneuvering and at many points a second lost or gained can be the difference between life and death.  With such an imperfect control scheme it seems outrageous to make such demands of the player.  As is typical, the player has the opportunity to play through an even harder version of the game once all 4 stages are completed.  Lastly, Adventure is a bit more prone to flickering and slowdown than similar games.  It doesn’t take too many moving sprites to kick this into high gear.  More frequent than it ought to be, it can at least be overcome with a tad of patience.

As stated at the beginning, I did not take the time to view Adventure on the classic black and green screen of the original Game Boy.  With so much newer technology to play this 24 year old game on, all of which has existed for at least 10 years, I didn’t feel like this was unreasonable.  The imposition of color from later Game Boys (including the GBC, GBA, and Game Boy Player which acts as a GBA) looks great in this game.  Greens, blues, and reds of different intensity populate the screen and while the result is undoubtedly dated, it does bring a certain charm to the game without interfering with gameplay in the way that the blurred graphics of the original Game Boy can.

Castlevania: The AdventureAlthough not as noticeable on the small GBA screen (and probably even less noticeable on the Game Boy), the backgrounds are full of rich detail when played through the Game Boy Player and displayed on a conventional television.  Most creatures are rendered well enough though some are so heavily detailed as to become indistinct.  The bosses are less-than-inspiring, especially the colony of mole/rat creatures, but Dracula himself looks about as good as one could expect and his second form (giant bat) is one of the game’s visual highlights.  Of particular note are the backgrounds themselves.  Decorated with a variety of textures and architectural features, these archways, columns, and statues aren’t always present but always stand out when they are.

Castlevania: The AdventureThe debut of Castlevania on a handheld is a hit or miss experience, and I may even be inflating the score a little due to my admiration for the franchise.  Fun for a while, the gameplay does morph into a bit of a chore to dredge through and players may have trouble finding enough incentive, and patience, to do what’s necessary to finish it.  I hesitate to recommend Castlevania: The Adventure to anyone not already an avid fan, though anyone looking to conquer ultra-hard games from an earlier era may want to give this one a shot to test their skills.

Konami would release a sequel 2 years later known as Belmont’s Revengeexpanding and refining gameplay substantially.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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