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Top 10 Castlevania Games You May Never Have Played

Top 10 Castlevania Games You May Never Have Played

1.  Vampire Killer – MSX2

Be sure to check out my review of Vampire Killer if you want to know more!

Vampire KillerIf my list has been at all effective so far, this should be a rather anti-climactic moment.  Vampire Killer represents another oddity in the series, as well as an example of Konami’s willingness to publish a Castlevania for virtually any piece of gaming hardware in existence.  The MSX2 (and the MSX and MSX2+) was an early attempt by Microsoft to standardize computer equipment in the early to mid 80’s.  Although these machines were available worldwide, they never saw much success outside of Japan.  I’ve once again broken my rule about imports since this particular game was never available in North America, however it did see releases in Japan, Europe, and South America.  Vampire Killer is yet another retelling of the first Castlevania, and actually the 2nd game ever produced for the series.

Vampire KillerWhy make the 2nd game of a series an update of the 1st?  The concept behind Vampire Killer has been lost to time, but it is a spirited re-imagining worth seeing for the hardcore fan.  Graphics are essentially the same; same enemies, bosses, and backgrounds, but the gameplay is far from what’s seen on the first NES installment.  Instead of generally linear levels, Vampire Killer is divided into areas – essentially a group of a few rooms that the player can freely move between before passing to the next area.  The job is to find the special key that opens the door to the next area, and the level design is surprisingly complex.  My guess on why it never made it to the States?  Konami probably figured it would be too difficult.  We saw a lot of dumbed down, watered down games come to the American market those days, the most famous example being Super Mario Bros. 2.  They might be right; it’s nearly impossible to move through the first set of 3 or 4 rooms with more than half of one’s life bar intact.

MSX 2

One of many makes and models of the MSX 2.

Age, location, quantity, and popularity are all working against not only Vampire Killer, but the MSX2 you’ll need to play it.  Pretty much anything is attainable with enough patience and enough cash, but I think even die-hard, life-long Castlevania fans will have a tough time reconciling the expense of adding this to their collection.  Though I must say, if I was in a position where this was the only one missing from my collection, I might start taking those $80 shipping charges for buying an MSX2 from Japan a little more seriously…

How can you play it today?

Konami Game Master 2

An early cheat device for games published by Konami, including Vampire Killer. Before the game starts, one can alter the starting stage and number of lives.

The simple answer here is emulation.  Luckily there exist (or at one point existed) a few enthusiastic adherents to the trio of MSX consoles, and the internet can now provide you with the means to see the second Castlevania game ever.  ROMs for Vampire Killer are easy to find, and emulators for the MSX platforms exist though they haven’t gotten the attention that other old systems have and remain somewhat buggy and imperfect.  The one known as fMSX seems to get the most attention and seems to be the most up-to-date though you may find support somewhat lacking.  It took quite a bit of messing around on my own to ever get the Konami Game Master add-ons to work.  One of the bright spots of fMSX is that you won’t have to worry whether any other games you may decide to procure are actually MSX, MSX2, or MSX2+ compatible as the program includes automatic support for all 3 platforms.

Vampire KillerIf you’re as dissatisfied with this approach as I was, option 2 is to buy the real thing.  I’m all about dedicated hardware, but the MSX2 crosses even my line.  Extremely pricey for their age, often in questionable condition, exorbitant shipping charges (they’re all in Japan, and if they aren’t, the price is even higher), and difficult to find games for, it’s tough to rationalize the purchase of such an item.  And if you do track down one, and if it does work, and if you do have some money left over, you’ve still got to find Vampire Killer, which is probably the most physically scarce of all commercially produced Castlevania games, and I’m almost positive that fans of the series probably snatched up what they could long ago even if they never end up with an MSX2.

However, I will willingly accept any donations of either of these items!

Cube’s Recommendation:  EMULATE IT.

Written by The Cubist

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