Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

After his first battle with Count Dracula, Simon Belmont has received a terrible curse, and must gather his parts to battle him again in order to rid himself of the curse. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, was of course the first Castlevania sequel, albeit with significant gameplay changes from its predecessors, including the addition of some mild RPG elements and less linear gameplay that would ultimately influence the Playstation installment Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. This all aside, Castlevania II was a fairly enjoyable title for its time.

The sequel’s gameplay is, like its predecessor, two-dimensional and side-scrolling, with Simon chiefly using his whip to attack enemies. He can also use various items like holy water (which is necessary to reveal hidden passages) and Dracula’s body parts. Enemies he kills, moreover, may drop hearts that increase his heart supply (necessary to purchase items and weapon upgrades), and experience points, with occasional level ups increasing his health and slightly decreasing damage taken from enemies. Furthermore, Simon has three lives that deplete whenever he dies (which will happen quite frequently), and upon reaching the Game Over screen, the player can either retrieve a password to continue later (although he’ll start in the game’s first town), or continue at the point of his death, albeit with all hearts and experience lost. The slightly clumsy controls can easily cause unintended damage, but it’s still an enjoyable battle system overall.

The interface is fairly simple, with menus hardly being a hassle and controls mostly being easy to handle, although there are some flaws such as a general lack of direction on how to advance the game, lack of descriptions for items, and lack of maps, although given the technical limitations of the NES, these flaws in a sense are somewhat forgivable, yet irritating nonetheless to those unfamiliar with the game in its time.

Castlevania II differentiates itself well enough from its predecessor with elements such as experience levels and far less linear gameplay, although it does retain series elements such as the protagonist, Simon Belmont, some of his abilities, the goal to kill Dracula (which would recur quite often throughout the series), and so forth.

The second Castlevania continues the story of Simon Belmont begun in the first installment, which unfortunately suffers from the typical brevity of most 8-bit RPGs in its time, with simple conversations in towns and no real cutscenes or development. Of course, Castlevanias have never placed great emphasis on their storylines, so this flaw is also in a sense forgivable.

Music, however, has always been a highlight of the Castlevania franchise, and the second installment continues this tradition, with a nice diversity of rocky, gothic themes that are never out of place. Furthermore, while the sound effects might not be wholly realistic, one cannot expect realism from an 8-bit title, and in the end, Castlevania II’s aural presentation was well more than adequate for its time.

The visuals were also more than adequate, with decent diversity in scenery despite some palette swaps at times, and anatomically correct character and monster sprites. All in all, the second Castlevania’s visuals leave little, if any, room for improvement.

Finally, Castlevania II is a fairly short game, taking somewhere from three to six hours to complete, with different endings depending upon the player’s completion time, allowing for some replayability. Overall, Simon’s Quest is a fairly solid sequel with enjoyable gameplay and decent presentation, although it does have shortcomings such as an unengaging story. Still, many of its strongest elements would certainly come into play when the franchise transitioned primarily to RPGs with Symphony of the Night, and thus, the first Castlevania sequel remains a definitive part of the series’ history.

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