Super Castlevania 4 is a 2D Action Platformer that has us on a quest to hunt down the newly resurrected prince of darkness yet again. We play as Simon Belmont, vampire hunter extraordinaire wielding the series’ iconic whip. He introduces far greater control over the whip as we can now strike in eight directions and dangle it to use as an improv flail. In addition, he can also use it to swing across certain areas, Indiana Jones style. Gone are the days where you bunny hop across the stage to try to strike down a bat.
Starting off we find ourselves in empty ruins with no enemies in sight. As we keep making our way further in, eventually we find and enter Dracula’s territory where we are immediately greeted with an awesome soundtrack. Not to mention the skeletons that want nothing more than to murder us. It is a flashy intro and one that does a good job at getting us hyped for what awaits us inside. Keeping in Castlevania tradition, striking down candles will usually have hearts pop out. While in most games hearts are to refill your health in here they are used as ammo for your secondary weapons.
They range from holy water, crosses and knives to bring down your undead foes. On some occasions an upgrade for your whip will fly out of a candle, that will be equipped until you meet your demise. The only way to regain your health short of defeating bosses is to strike random walls in search of the fabled cooked chickens hidden in levels. Common enemies are typically not much of a threat by themselves but combined with endless pits and Simon’s dramatic leap backwards whenever he takes damage, you are much more likely to die due to environments instead of running out of health.
And what environments they are. Each stage has their own unique feel and feature plenty of cool graphical tricks such as the entire background spinning. Quite a few of them have different paths to reach the end of the level, adding a bit of replayability. A neat little feature is that the loading screen when you transition between levels shows a map that allows you to see how far you have gotten and how close you are to being able to whip Dracula right back into his grave.
Speaking of Dracula, all of the bosses will be many times your own size and are typically faster than they look. Worse still is that some of them don’t drop the health regenerating orb and has the level continue after defeating them so fighting recklessly is not the best of ideas. If you die you’ll be put at the start of that section without upgrades or your secondary weapon while lacking any lives and dying will set you back to the start of the entire level. They are not typically too long so you should be back to where you were slain after a few minutes.
At the end of the day, the greater control of movement/combat makes Super Castlevania 4 considerably more fast-paced and intense than its predecessors. It takes the core of what made the original Castlevania so much fun and enhances it with the power of the Super Nintendo. Tons of enemies to fight, impressive environments and a rocking soundtrack that was not possible in the prior generation of consoles. Everything about this title feels very refined and to boot, beating it unlocks a hard mode to encourage another playthrough. There is no need to know anything about the series before playing this game so if you are into Action Platformers this is without a doubt one of the best.