Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is the series’ triumphant return to form. Instead of the adventure/RPG format, it’s back to platforming. Konami added a few twists and features to make this particular vampire-slaying adventure feel fresh. The majority of Dracula’s Curse is fantastic, carrying on the series’ trademark style and difficulty.
Although, the difficulty gets way too carried away in Dracula’s Curse. It gets to the point where the game comes off as an arduous, mind-numbing chore rather than a challenging video game. If you’re willing to accept the difficulty, then Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is easily one of the best in the series and one of the NES’ best action platformers.
Castlevania III pulls a George Lucas and is a prequel to the series
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse stars Simon’s predecessor Trevor Belmont and his quest to stop the evil Count Dracula. The intro to the game starts out with scrolling text, detailing the evil Dracula brings to Transylvania. It’s a great way to start, and there’s even a brief cutscene of Trevor getting ready to fight evil.
The presentation of Dracula’s Curse is first-rate. Konami pushed the limits of the NES hardware, making the third game the most diverse, in terms of graphics. The colors really stand out, but keeping in line with the spooky atmosphere.
For most of the game, Trevor must travel to the castle where Dracula is living, by going through graveyards, clock towers, forests and pirate ships. Besides the variety of interesting settings, Dracula’s Curse introduces a branching path system. Players are given a choice to go a certain way in the game.
Players are also given the option of recruiting secondary characters. Grant is a pirate who can walk on walls. Sypha, a mage who can wield magic and is also the first female playable Castlevania character. Finally, there is Alucard, Dracula’s own son. Alucard can turn into a bat and fly over enemies.
These elements, combined with tight and masterful gameplay, top notch level design, boss fights with classic monsters and a near-perfect soundtrack, it’s not hard to see why many gamers consider Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse to be the best of the NES trilogy. However, it has one major flaw.
The difficulty spike is a stake right to the heart of the player
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse has a difficulty curve resembling a 90-degree angle. The regular levels are difficult but still fair.
Once Trevor and the Isle of Misfit Vampire Hunters reach Dracula’s castle, it feels like the player just ran into a brick wall. Head first. Repeatedly. Floors will crumble beneath you and enemies are out in full force. If the player has not recruited Alucard than the game is just about over at this point. The boss fight against Dracula is borderline impossible, cheap and unfair. Not to mention, he has three grotesque forms this time around. The player has to not be touched once by his two previous forms to even stand the slightest chance against him. It’s common to cheat and use the infamous HELPME code.
It’s an enormously unnecessary quick bend in difficulty that brings Dracula’s Curse down from legitimate greatness. It’s still a solid game, almost a total package. However, any gamer should be prepared for one of the most frustrating final thirds of any game in the NES library.