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Top 10 Castlevania Games You May Never Have Played

Top 10 Castlevania Games You May Never Have Played

2.  Haunted Castle – Arcade

Be sure to check out my Haunted Castle review if you want to learn more!

Haunted CastleThe previous and 5th entries on the list are true obscurities that live on only through emulation.  Haunted Castle re-imagines the first game of the series and throws a wedding in for good measure.  In this version of events, Dracula abducts Simon’s wife shortly after their wedding and it’s Simon’s job to get her back.  Believe it or not, this was technically the 4th Castlevania game ever made, and spent the better part of its life as an arcade-only installment.  Haunted Castle would later see a release on the PS2 in Japan only as part of a special collection, but since it existed in arcades around the world in the late 80’s, I feel it’s a fair inclusion.

Haunted Castle

Simon is HUGE!

Numerous faults were cited with Haunted Castle, but perhaps the most humorous are the attacks on Simon’s size.  His sprite is enormous.  Not just tall, but wide as well.  Visually there’s a decent amount of detail, but most of the time he simply looks out of place and makes himself an easy target for enemies.  My thoughts immediately went to Conan the Barbarian the first time I played.  Otherwise, the graphics are quite impressive for a game from 1988, outshining both the original Castlevania and Simon’s Quest and it’s a shame that North American audiences will never get a chance to experience it.

How can you play it today?

Playing Haunted Castle as originally intended will be a bit of a challenge, even for the determined.  If you have the money, space, and probably most importantly the right connections, just maybe you could track down an old arcade machine.  Being that this is a completely ridiculous option for 99.99% of us, emulation is pretty much our only option.

Haunted Castle

Aren’t you dying to play this now? Seriously – the poster sold me on tracking this down.

Though you may not find the appropriate ROMs in every archive dedicated to such, they are out there in bountiful supply.  So far I’ve encountered 3 versions: Version M, Version K, and a Japanese version.  Obviously the Japanese version has the English text replaced with Japanese characters, but as for the difference between M and K, “M” seems to be the more difficult of the 2 via subtle changes and increased damage.  A quick glance shows M to be the more widely circulated of the 2, but both are easy to find.  ROM in hand, you’ll then need an arcade emulator such as MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) and from there you’ll have the pleasure of an imperfect experience (I can’t stand using the keyboard as a controller) with a game that I’d desperately love to see more of.  Update: And indeed I have seem more of it!  Instructions soon on how to use a PS4 controller with a PC.  Update #2: To make for a more pleasurable experience, you can use the PS4’s Dualshock 4 on your PC!  Check out this article for details.

Haunted Castle

Oretachi Geasen Zoku Sono 15: Akumajou Dracula (Castlevania Haunted Castle)

This is about it for the old late 80’s release, but Konami’s re-release of Haunted Castle on the PS2 in Japan opens up a few more possibilities.  The obvious answer is to buy the Japanese copy of the game.  Yes, it is disc-based media but fortunately it’s not commanding an unreasonable price just yet.  More than the average used PS2 game?  Sure, but still hanging around $30.  The drawback is that virtually all copies will come from Japan, jacking up shipping costs and delivery times.

Should you choose to go this route (or the next one too, really), it’s important to get the name of the game right.  Searching for “haunted castle ps2” won’t get you very far.  The informal title of Akumajou Dracula is a good start, but the problem is that nearly every Castlevania game is prefaced with Akumajo(u) Dracula X.  To really narrow it down, you’ll need to use the official title denoting what series of arcade releases it’s from: Oretachi Geasen Zoku Sono 15: Akumajou Dracula.  As of this writing, Amazon has a brand new copy for right at $70.  Update:  I purchased a used copy, all the way from Japan, for about $30.  That was about 2 months ago, though the seller has assured me that another copy is on the way.

After you’ve decided to buy the game, found it, ordered it, and actually gotten it in your hands, you’ve got one last hurdle to cross that I unfortunately can’t speak to with any certainty: compatibility.  After reading various generalized accounts of inter-region compatibility regarding the PS2, 2 “facts” are reported with some frequency while a third pops up from time to time.

  1. Japanese / imported PS2 games will not work on a North American version of the console.
  2. Having the PS2 GameShark attached to the console seems to bypass the region check / lockout feature.  I haven’t yet personally tried this, though it seems plausible based on the features of other game enhancers.  Update:  The GameShark alone is not sufficient to bypass the PS2’s region coding.
  3. Foreign PS2 games will work on the PS3.  I only saw this mentioned a couple of times, though it sounds simple enough that I can’t imagine why anyone would “make it up” or otherwise be unclear on the issue.  In one instance, it was said that it would only work on the giant, 250GB PS3s with the 4 USB ports.  Again, no clue as to the veracity of the claim, but definitely something I intend to experiment with in the near future.  Update:  I will try this if the damn thing is ever delivered.
Haunted Castle

Fake? I can’t seem to track down where this “cover” comes from.

The final option should be painfully obvious at this point – burn the game!  We still have the same issues to work with: focusing our search with the right title, and making sure it’ll play on our North American PS2s.  The main hurdle plaguing this endeavor is availability.  Apparently disc images for Haunted Castle aren’t in demand, and I had quite a bit of trouble finding a legitimate file to burn to CD.  The situation is bleak.  I ran through over 20 pages on Google following download links, and only one of them worked.  I even kept going after I found the one just to assess the matter.  Dead link after dead link persisted, and for whatever reason, it looks like nearly all of the sites hosting the file(s) at one point or another are either Spanish or Portuguese and advertising cover art that never existed.  After at least 100 tries, I have but 1 single file to show.

I did later use the Japanese title for a web search and came across 1 file again and again.  It seems to be an entire collection of older arcade games in the vein of Haunted Castle, though the final extracted disc image is huge.  Clearly one will need a blank DVD-R to test the possibility.

Haunted Castle

I managed to beat Medusa on my own via a complicated method of emulating the arcade game on the Dreamcast.

Brute force Google searches for short-lived links to grey-area downloads may be the first recourse, but the internet holds a few more secrets for those who know.  USENET, or “newsgroups” as they used to be called, maintain a rich file trading culture.  Browsing Usenet used to be as simple clicking a “newsgroups” button on AOL’s user interface or maybe a special tab on one’s email client, but times have changed for reasons I won’t get into.  To learn the specifics of getting files from Usenet, see my article on How to Burn Atari Jaguar CD Games.  Luckily, Usenet is full of Haunted Castle downloads under its Japanese name.  Unluckily, 1 of 2 things happened with each of the dozen or so files I found: Norton flagged it as a Trojan once extracted, or Binreader informed me that the archive was damaged beyond repair.  No idea what’s happening there, conspiracy maybe?

Haunted CastleBefore Usenet and after Google, I gave torrents a try.  Only one torrent appears to be seeded at this time, under the English Haunted Castle moniker, and after nearly 20 hours of watching this download crawl excruciatingly slow (it includes all sorts of stuff like a soundtrack and mini-DVD) it finally stopped at a heartbreaking 94.4%.  Oh well.  Update:  This massive bundle of music files, a separate DVD, the game itself, and more has finished downloading at last.  Another torrent similar to the complete collection found on the web is out there too, though it seems that it hasn’t been seeded for some time.

Now that I have a few files to play around with, I plan to do some comprehensive testing.  Between experimenting with both CDs and DVDs where applicable and using both the GameShark and PS3 to load these “imported” titles, there’s a lot of ground to cover.  I’ll document my discoveries in a separate article and place a link here when I know more.

Update:  I burned one of the relatively small image files I found to CD.  Using a tool called Swap Magic, I was able to boot the burned CD in the PS2 roughly 80% of the time.  Once running it seemed to be in order, but my current PS2 can be temperamental and I need to test it on a more reliable machine.  However, the disc image does seem to work.  If you’re interested, email me (TheCubist@NerdBacon.com) and I’ll get it to you and discuss the details.

Haunted Caslte

I’m sure I’ll have the Real McCoy in my hands soon enough.

The bottom line?  You may be better off buying this from Japan if it’s something you’re serious about.  I’ve found but a single viable file during my exhaustive search.  It’s important to note that even if you are able to locate a usable disc image, it presents the same obstacle that buying the game does.  It’s still a Japanese exclusive no matter what the title says and you’ll need a way for this to work on your PS2, or either spring for a Japanese console.  For many people, Haunted Castle may just have to stay unplayed, though it is different enough to warrant a respectable effort.

Cube’s Recommendation:  EMULATE IT.

Written by The Cubist

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3 Comments

  1. Your “fake cover” I believe was at one time the supposed poster art for the now canceled Castlevania movie!?

     
  2. Get a Japanese PS2 copy of Haunted Castle off Ebay for about $80.Then Get Swap Magic 3.8 (If your lucky you can find a copy on Amazon for under $20).Then Modify your PS2 (see youtube) so you can keep disc door open wile itson. After that its piece of cake to play this game in North American console. (I’m working on beating this game now yet I’ve owned it for years!)

     
  3. Pingback: 8 Castlevania Games You May Never Have Played - Nerd Bacon Reviews

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