Consoleation Time Machine: Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
20 years have flown by since Konami launched Super Castlevania IV for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I have fond memories of the game. The visuals were impressive, the music was great, the challenge was fair, and it would be the catalyst that would make me a fan of the series for many years to come.
Back in late 1991, games for the SNES were still pretty scarce. Sure, we played Super Mario World, F-Zero, ActRaiser, Final Fantasy II (errr…FFIV, but who’s counting?), and others… but my friends and I were anticipating any new games that we could get our hands on. Gaming magazines had been hyping Super Castlevania IV, and I remember buying it as quickly as I could. I knew a little about Castlevania, but my exposure to the games on the NES had been limited at that time. I watched a friend play through Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest a year prior, but had little hands-on time with the games myself.
I wasn’t prepared for just how good a game that Super Castlevania IV would be.
For starters, the graphics and sound were top-notch. Some of the Mode 7 tricks were more than impressive for the time and I really liked the gothic setting and atmosphere. Areas like the treasure room and the library stood out to me, and the clock tower looked better than ever. The soundtrack was good enough that I’d actually taped it to listen to on the go, thanks to running my sound through my stereo. Now-familiar themes like Bloody Tears and Vampire Killer had arrangements that sounded fanastic thanks to the Sony sound chip and DSP that fueled the Super Nintendo’s sound output.
I also thought that the difficulty was just right. There were challenging parts of the game for sure, but I was able to play through it and was satisfied with the challenge. The experience reminded me a bit of Ninja Gaiden II versus its predecessor. Ninja Gaiden is notoriously hard, especially during the last act. Even to this day, I have not beaten it. Ninja Gaiden II, on the other hand, had a more forgiving difficulty and I was able to finish it. For me, a game is more enjoyable when it’s challenging without being cheap. Getting to experience a game at your own pace and with the feeling that the game actually wants you to succeed is important. Super Castlevania IV– like Ninja Gaiden II– felt fair. It was a ride worth taking, and a memorable one.
Super Castlevania IV provided some unforgettable moments for me. Block 4-2, with the rotating room, was imaginative. Having the room spin around you as you cling to a post from your whip was one of those “Wow” moments. 4-3 then showed the power of Mode 7 technology with the rotating room. Block 6-1 challenged my fear of heights as I leapt from one moving chandelier to another. The onslaught of bosses with Slogra, Gaibon, and Death was a nasty gauntlet to run. Then, of course, the final battle with Dracula stood between me and destiny. These are only the big highlights for me; I could play through the game today and comment on each and every event that stood out to me, and I’d still be excited.
Perhaps the biggest thing that I take away from Super Castlevania IV is that it hooked me on a series that I really didn’t have any interest in before. After playing through Super Castlevania IV, I would eventually go on to games like Castlevania: Bloodlines on the SEGA Genesis in 1994 and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation in 1997. I became a fan, and it was this one game that pulled me in.