What a horrible night to have a curse!
That’s right, tonight I’m starting Castlevania 2. I’m playing with the “Re-translation + Map” patch posted above, and it’s my first time putting more than a few minutes into the game. I’m also drinking a Crookeder Tooth Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale from Phillips Brewery, as it’s the strongest pumpkin beer I have currently and I think I’ll need it for this one. Let’s get going!
The patched version I’m playing starts with an opening sequence telling the story. Seven years have passed since Simon Belmont defeated Dracula, however he’s been cursed by the battle. The only way to cure himself is to gather the pieces of Dracula’s body and burn them in a special urn hidden within the remains of Dracula’s castle.
Right away, the game plunks you in a town, and you know you’re in for some old-school NES hard. I mean, there’s pits of insta-death in EVERY TOWN. These are supposed to be safe places, but noooope. Likewise, most towns have empty houses in them. But they’re not actually empty, instead you have to find the hidden passages, which are only revealed by throwing Holy Water on them. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
The map is a great addition to this patch. It allows you to get a feel for which direction you need to go to get to your next destination. The clues that the townsfolk give you are actually pretty decent: in this translation they’re still cryptic, but not to the point of complete and total confusion, like the original. After grinding for a ton of hearts (unlike most Castlevania games, hearts = money this time), and buying everything I can, I’m off to find the first Manor to get a piece of Dracula.
Speaking of clues, not only do you get clues by talking to townspeople, but you can also find them hidden in walls, roast chicken style. These clues actually stay with you the entire game, and are vital to figure out how to access some of the manors. But man, on man, can these manors be annoying. There are an absolute metric ton of hidden pits: you’ll be walking along and then BAM, Simon falls through the floor. 9 times out of 10, you’re only back a few seconds, but sometimes you have to backtrack 2-5 minutes after falling through. The only way to avoid these is to spam the Holy Water: if it smashes on the ground, you’re good. If it falls through, there’s your pit. Get used to the glass smashing SFX.
Speaking of music, it’s great. This game introduced series favourite Bloody Tears, and the rest of the music is of high quality. The problem is that unlike the first game in the series, the music tracks loop after 20-40 seconds. So you’re going to get sick of the few tracks in the game pretty quick, despite their high quality.
I completed two manors tonight, collecting Dracula’s Rib, and Heart. I’m enjoying myself, but there’s no denying it’s the weakest Castlevania of the originals by a large margin. There’s a ton of great ideas in the game: the open world, the clues you collect, having to find and clear dungeons, etc… But there’s a lot of design choices that bog it down: the hidden passages, hidden pits, grinding for hearts, having to wait for daybreak to buy stuff. And I’m playing a patched version with Quality of Life features such as a map, and a save function! This is a game that would benefit immensely from a full remake, done in a retro style, but with lots of the rough edges smoothed out.