Top 100 Retro Games: Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania IV
Super Nintendo

Super Castlevania IV is a game that was not only one of the original games to come out for the Super Nintendo, but has also really held up well. It shows off the new technology of the system and also adapts a previous game series to a new system, which is something that would not always be done in such an admirable manner by many, but sometime this one as well, series.

Super Castlevania IV came out in the early days of the Super Nintendo. The official release date, according to Wikipedia, is actually Halloween of 1991. I did not get the game right away, although I would sometime during 1992. My best friend at the time got the game for Christmas. As we discussed in our episode about the holiday season of 1991, I went to his house at lunchtime that day and watched him play the game for a while. It looked and sounded really cool, as did another game he got that I did not: F Zero.

I played through the game later that year after watching my friend beat it himself. Castlevania IV was a game that I would start up a number of times over the years. The first few levels were real video game comfort food for me at a certain point in my life. I replayed the entire game in the late nineties, and then again a few years later. During grad school, I did yet another replay of it during a summer where I tried to play through as many Castlevania games as I could.

So, the plot of Super Castlevania IV goes something like this: Every 100 years Dracula rises from the grave and a Belmont, this time Simon, has to return to face him. It is a bit vague whether this game is a remake of the original Castlevania, or a sequel to Castlevania II, temporally. Eh, I do not know if it really mattered.

The January 1992 issue of Nintendo Power had Castlevania IV on its cover. There is a generic picture of Simon whipping…wait, is that a chain he is whipping? Is that supposed to be the chain whip from Castlevania II? Turns out, I think it is! According to the internet that is the actual form of the whip he uses in most games. I had never really thought about it that way, but I guess it is true. Huh. You learn something new every day.

By the way, some other games covered in this issue: Mega Man IV, Tecmo Super Bowl, Super Off Road, a really underrated game, and a game gets a preview that they call Zelda IV with “A Link To The Past” in parentheses.

Nintendo Power does its normally impressive level of coverage for the game. A few pages are spent covering new aspects of the game, and then detailed guides for the first few stages. This is completed by an overview of the rest of the game, with previews of various bosses throughout it. If I recall correctly, I think I found a hidden room because of it being mentioned in this guide.

This commercial surfaced awhile ago and it is pretty wild. I assume this is a promotional video sent to, say, Toys R Us to hype up the game. The THROUGH A ROOM narration is hilarious, but there are some other interesting things about this video. The graphics are significantly different and look a lot more like Castlevania III. The stages that are very similar to the final product are often colored differently too. This is an odd piece of epherma for sure, but I’m glad it surfaced.

Oh yeah there is also a sort of normal commercial too.

Super Castlevania IV’s cover is really cool. Simon is stuck in the middle of a group of enemies and trying to whip his way out. His hair is wild and long. This cover reminds me of a bit of Mega Man game covers. It is really cool and would look great on a poster.

Like most Castlevania games, the soundtrack to this game is amazing.

Super Castlevania has been available on a number of variations on the Virtual Console. The game is also available on the SNES Classic, which is how I played through it this time around.

It is really a bummer that the aura behind Simon and what a badass he seems to be in the first few games had been wrecked by his portrayal in Captain N The Game Master. Swapping to Trevor worked out quite well and allowed for a nice reboot of Simon here, whether this game is a sequel or a remake.

One disappointment here is the lack of other characters. I had grown quite fond of Sypha in Castlevania III and also thought Grant and Alucard, overcoming his own idiotic portrayal on Captain N, were really cool. It would have been nice to see their heirs, somehow, but other games later in the series handle this in a number of ways.

Super Castlevania does a lot of stuff that really shows off the new powers of the Super Nintendo. It has the same kinds of screen turns as Super Ghouls N Ghosts. I am uncertain if you could do the whip tricks that Simon does here back on the NES. In fact, notice on that beta voice with the hilariously intense narration we played earlier that Simon only whips forward.

I love how there is stuff in the backgrounds of levels as well. In Block One, horses just hang out in the yard behind Simon. Staircases are also a lot smoother in this game. In previous Castlevania games, it was easy to fall off the stairs.

It gets implemented in Dracula X and Rondo of Blood, but I do wish this game allowed for picking up previous items if you accidentally pick up a new one you do not want. That is so useful and, totally not its fault, could be helpful here. Once I have a boomerang, leave me alone, Konami!

Wall meat is, oddly enough, available via candles in this game. Huh. As far as I know, this does not happen in any other Castlevania game. Instinctively, I still always look for wall meat though in the….walls. It is just how this is supposed to work!

As we saw earlier, this game has a great soundtrack. Castlevania game soundtracks just keep getting better and better all through Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night, and into Castlevania Chronicles near the end of our current “retro” cut off time period of purposes of this podcast. The series is remarkably consistent in how good the music is in each game.

As Jeremy Parrish points out in his recent video about the game, there is a great sense of anxiety throughout the soundtrack of this game. Some tracks even have an operatic feel to them, ala Golbez’s theme in Final Fantasy IV, or the vampire’s theme in Suikoden II.

Something some of the early Super Nintendo games have in common is how they manage to more effectively implement some things that late NES games in their respective series did not do quite as gracefully. The need to climb against the clock is very sluggish and annoying in Dracula’s Curse. However, in Super Castlevania, it is a challenging, but straightforward, level that can be completed in a few tries.

Generally, hit detection is way better in this game than in most games in this series. This falls apart again in Dracula X, which has some of the worst hit detection I have ever witnessed in a video game.

The tilt hop jumps…uh, you know what I mean…in 4-1 and 6-2 are really difficult to time right. At least in Super Castlevania there are not enemies all around you like in the Alucard path in Dracula’s Curse.


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