Year of Release: 1988
Date Reviewed: 3-1-98 ("Old Era")
I'm not very certain as to the success of the first Castlevania. However, it must have done reasonably well, because it was continued upon in a time when, unlike today, sequels were not granted at the drop of a hat. That aside, I believe that it was with this game that the Castlevania series was brought to largescale attention. This game took a different approach to Simon Belmont and the interface of a Castlevania game. It earned mass acclaim, the cover of Nintendo Power, and elevated the series to the level of recognition it presently enjoys.
The plot of Simon's Quest is fairly simple. It seems that, in the first game, Dracula did not allow Simon Belmont to get away unscathed. Rather, he placed a hex on Simon whereby monsters everywhere would try to kill him. Belmont, needless to say, is not pleased with this new development, and sets out in the land of Transylvania to unify the components of the countercurse: parts of his vampire adversary's body that are safeguarded in mansions throughout the dank territory.
With sequels (particularly sequels to games as good as Castlevania), it is difficult not to compare the game in question to its predecessor. That is probably why Konami chose to so greatly diversify Simon's Quest from the original Castlevania -- to avoid comparison between the two. Hoowever, the question that arises in such a case is this: Did the game work, or was it a mistake to diverge from the established paradigm? In the case of Castlevania II, the answer to that question is two-fold. Simon's Quest works in some ways, and fails in others.
First, the successes. The greatest successes of Simon's Quest are the RPG elements implanted everywhere throughout the game. The most noticeable of these elements would have to be the towns, which are set up like multi-story hotels with the room doors on the outside. These towns are fully inhabited by a citizenry of men and women, all of whom have different things to say to you. Personally, I find it relieveing in games when not every creature you run into wants you dead. Also, there is the dual-purpose of the "Heart Points." Those who have played the first Castlevania will recall that enemies often left little hearts behind when killed, and that these hearts were required to use special weapons. That remains true. However, in this game, hearts also serve as the form of currency, and so are needed to buy the various weapons and items that will be necessary to complete the quest. You WILL need all of the items at some point, so don't fool yourself into thinking that you can finish the game without them as I did.
Another RPG element found in this game is the differentiation between day and night. Simon's Quest has a built-in clock, and, every twelve hours (on each six o'clock) the scene changes from day to night, announced by one of Simon's two proclamations: "The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night", or "What a horrible night to have a curse!" The description of the night as "horrible" is an apt one, for every enemy encountered is twice as strong at night as it is during the day.
While the nature of the game is altered from its predecessors, the interface is not. There are still a few special weapons that can be used (holy water, etc.), and a plethora of different whips. The functions of these weapons changes very little from the first game, but they can no longer be found just lying around. Rather, they must be purchased from the many merchants of Transylvania (who can be identified by their regalious cloaks.)
Shifting to the drawbacks, one will find that they are fairly obvious, and available in profusion. First of all, the paths of Transylvania fork quite a lot, leading to different towns, but the perspective remains in two dimensions. That, in combination with the fact that all of Transylvania's forests look essentially similar, makes getting lost an all to frequent occurence. The player can simply miss the downward path he was supposed to take, and not realize how far off course he is until he runs into a dead end, or is told by one of the citizens that he is not in the town for which he was looking. Also, the puzzles in this game are very poor examples of what an adventure game's puzzles should be. They are not logic puzzles that the player has to solve in order to proceed, or gain entrance to one of the mansions. Rather, they are randomly placed hidden (but essential) secrets that don't require any real intelligence. Successful completion of these puzzles is usually just a matter of guessing -- guessing where and for how long to kneel, guessing where there is a platform where none can be seen, and guessing where the floor will erode with the use of holy water. There is no higher-order thought to them, just an infuriating regiment of random guessing.
Much like the first Castlevania, Simon's Quest features graphics that are enough in excess of average to be described as "good", and an excellent soundtrack. The graphics are interesting and suit the nature of the game, and the music is well-paced and reiterates the setting to the player. See the "Castlevania" review on this site for further details. There is nothing more I can think to say.
In fine, Simon's Quest is an innovative addition to the proud Castlevania series. It is not merely a carbon copy of its predecessor. Rather, it is an innovative attempt to bring a new element into an established game. In some ways, it is flawed. However, in many ways, it is a towering success, and a textbook example of how to innovate within a series.
My Score: 7.5
Welcome to Anytown, Transylvania.
The frightening result of cross-breeding the werewolf and the smurf...
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