Let me start out with something shocking, this was my first Castlevania. I love the idea of the series and aesthetically it is some video game perfection. Most people who play Castlevania nowadays are usually recommended to start with Rondo of Blood or Symphony of the Night and I can understand why. For most, NES games are too old to enjoy. For NEStalgia fans, we don’t allow age to discriminate the games we play. So I jumped into Castlevania for the NES with the expectation that I was going to play something classic, but that it might not have aged well.
What a surprise to see that not only has this game aged just fine, but that it’s also now one of my favorite NES games. The difficulty is just right (okay, maybe a tad hard), the combat holds up (Super Castlevania IV would add the diagonal whip directions this one needs), and the variation in level design keeps things interesting.
The one thing I really think Castlevania for NES needed was puzzles. So much of this game is combat focused with some platforming, but we are talking about Dracula’s castle here. How are there not puzzles? Where are the trick doors? Sure, there are the cool rewards for posing in certain places but it doesn’t compare to level progression puzzles.
Honestly, that’s such a small nitpick for this game that I wouldn’t let it talk me out of making this essential. I’m blown away by how much I liked this game. It’s almost certainly not the best Castlevania, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing. Everyone should devote some time to playing through Castlevania. You might be surprised how much of the difficulty vanishes when you continue to chip away at the game.