There are some games that just stick with you. Not necessarily for their gameplay, story, or anything measurable about the game itself. Some games stick with you because of the experience surrounding them. It could be a traumatic event in your life that they helped you get through, they could remind you of someone from your past, or they could bring with them a wave of nostalgia for a bygone era and pleasant memories from your past.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is one of those games for me. It also happened to have a lot going for it.
I can remember clearly the day I picked up this game. I was with my father going to an eye appointment. I would have been around eight at the time, and since we lived in the middle of nowhere I didn’t get this game right when it was released. Having played Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest through to completion with my dad, I had been looking forward to the game for a while. The ads I saw in magazines , though I can’t remember which ones, absolutely sold me on this installment of the franchise. The promise of being able to shift between 4 characters, and the morphing representation of this in the ad absolutely gripped me.
My dad is an artist you see, and I grew up with a lot of Frank Frazetta themed art, and similar pieces all around me. Anything with monsters, ghouls, vampires, or remotely medieval is right up my alley.
So, after leaving my eye appointment, my father took me to Toys R Us. It wasn’t often we got to go to a place that would sell any video games, let alone a huge toy store, so this was a treat. I was so excited, but I couldn’t see anything in the store due to the eye drops that super dilated my eyes. All I could see was a giant wall of pink when I walked in, the Barbie aisle, so I knew I was close. The video game aisle was right next to it, and once we were there we stood for what felt like forever.
I scanned the shelves looking for the game, but really couldn’t see squat. My dad helped of course, so we eventually found it and took it home to crack into it.
I loved the game from the first second. It was a large graphical upgrade from the previous title, and the new mechanics were brilliant for the time, especially being able to climb the walls as the nimble pirate Grant Danasty. It was a gimmick, but a good one. In fact, all the gimmicks were great in the game, including the amazing first appearance of Alucard, and the very mysterious Sypha Belnades. While Alucard and Grant were my personal favourite new characters, my dad always loved playing as Sypha. I was never wild on her character as a kid, but playing the game now she holds more meaning, and makes me think of my dad and sharing time with this game.
The game added some really great new things to the franchise. Branching paths, being able to switch characters between Trevor and the character whose path you chose, Grant’s midair directional changes and wall climbing, Sypha’s lack of physical power but kick ass sorcery, Alucard’s fireballs and bat shape-shifting, and an ending dependent on which of the new characters you bring along with you on the quest. It was gorgeous, for its time, sounded and played great, and has remained my most favourite Castlevania title to this day.
If you have not played this game yet, it is worth it. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a way to play it either, as it is available in the Castevania Anniversary Collection or included in the NES Classic Edition. I think I may bring my lil NES Classic over to my parents’ house next time and remember my childhood a bit.