Released not too far off from the first game, Vampire Killer is not just a port of Castlevania to the Japanese MSX2 computer. Instead, Vampire Killer is a different interpretation by taking on a non-linear approach. Vampire Killer is also a great game to look at, as the MSX2 had more powerful graphics capabilities.
Starring Simon Belmont on his one of many quests to defeat Dracula, Vampire Killer is an “okay” to the long-running series. There are more than a few major shortcomings that make Vampire Killer mostly known by Castlevania purists.
And it was only released in Japan and Europe.
But first… the good stuff about Vampire Killer
Booting up Vampire Killer (Author’s note: or emulating it in my case…) the first thing players will notice are the graphics. There is a great mix of colors and textures. For example, the trees look like trees and the castle’s architecture is well-detailed. It’s a nice lookin’ Castlevania game.
There is also a focus on exploration and, shockingly enough, melee combat. There are seven stages in the game, and each of them are non-linear. Simon can wield swords, shields, and maces to help combat zombies and other monsters. Since there are several weapons that need to be found, it gives the player a chance to see the game from a different point of view. In a strange way, Vampire Killer has more in common with Metroid than the first game.
Now…the bad stuff of Vampire Killer
Exploring seems pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, Vampire Killer’s exploration schtick is that: a gimmick. Once the player knows where everything is, it’s no longer fun. Plus, the levels aren’t that big to really be explorable. Also, since the MSX does not have the scrolling features of the NES, Vampire Killer moves at a sluggish pace.
This has the game varying in difficulty, as Simon does not have any real momentum to combat his enemies. Also, Dracula is almost a joke of a final boss fight with how painstakingly slow he moves.
Also, the music is downright awful. The chintzy rendition of “Vampire Killer” is not terrible, but it is skin-crawling. And considering how the MSX produced classic tunes from the early Metal Gear games, it’s not like the computer couldn’t not create some decent music.
By all means, Vampire Killer is not a bad game. It does, however, suffer from incredibly awkward controls and a difficulty curve that resembles a person’s nervous system. Also, it’s biggest difference is only skin-deep. However, much like Simon’s Quest, Vampire Killer is almost like a precursor to the Metroidvania phase of Castlevania.