What a horrible weekend to have a curse. The moon has reached its peak in the sky and as I look up, it’s like I can feel its weight bearing down on me. So many games, so little time. This curse has me diving into the past every weekend to face the perils and terrors of all things pixelated. Like Simon Belmont, the legendary slayer of Count Dracula, I wander the land a slave to my duty, but I won’t let it wrap me in chains. I won’t let it devour me. This curse will be broken. Simon’s Quest will not be my downfall!
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest follows the NES trend where the sequel is quite different from the original. Sure, Super Mario Bros. 2 is really Doki Doki Panic with a re-skin, but who really knew that back in the late ’80s? Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was also vastly different from the original with side-scrolling combat and RPG elements. Castlevania II took the route of introducing RPG elements, as well as giving players a world they could explore, as opposed to the linear level progression found in the first game.
Simon’s Quest continues the story of vampire hunter, Simon Belmont, who must stop the curse placed upon him by Dracula after their last battle. How must he do this? By finding Dracula’s eye, nail, rib, ring, and heart to resurrect the monster and kill him all over again, of course! Castlevania II is one of those games that is incredibly ambitious in what it tries to achieve; you can level up, collect hearts and buy upgrades, and explore a fairly large world all wrapped up in glorious visuals and a rocking soundtrack. It’s a fantastic game in a lot of regards, as long as you look past one glaring problem: Castlevania II hates you. It doesn’t want you to succeed. It wants to take all you love about games and crush it into dust right before your eyes. The following are the top ways in which Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest enjoys making you suffer.
- Day and Night Cycles – Okay, this one isn’t particularly evil, but let me just set the scene for you. You’ve been arduously trekking through the forest for what feels like days. You’ve fought off every werewolf and zombie you came across, and fatigue is setting in. The life bar is low, you’re almost to town to rest, up and ding! What a horrible night to have a curse, indeed. The sun sets. The townsfolk shut there doors. And you’re left smacking ghouls in the face all night long until the sun rises. The day and night cycle is a pretty fun addition to the series, giving you more challenge with more rewards, but seriously, how about a knock button? Waiting for the town to open back up is such a pain!
- Fake walls and fake floors everywhere! – I think someone needs to have a talk with whatever architect was hired in Transylvania. I’m sure it can’t be safe that there are so many walls and floors that simply evaporate at the slightest sign of holy water. I mean, there’s nothing left! Castlevania II is filled to the brim with walls and floors that you must bypass in order to progress through the game. The problem is there’s no real sign, the townsfolk aren’t the most helpful (we’ll get to that), and as the player, you’re left to run around town like a madman hurling gallons of holy water on everything. You’ll find what you’re looking for. Eventually.
- LIAR! – That’s right, this game straight up lies to you. Without blinking. Like you don’t matter at all to it. You need to go left — the lovely folks in town will kindly tell you to go right. Just like the game they’re in, they hate you. I guess you can’t really blame them. Dracula is dead. The curse isn’t effecting them. Yet here comes big, bad, Simon cracking his whip in every town, accidentally smacking children in the face, and completely obliterating their homes with holy water in order to find a piece of a heart. I guess I understand their pain, but it still makes for an incredibly frustrating experience. NES games are already known for their lack of direction, but this game turns lack of direction into misdirection. The craziest part about it all is that it is not the fault of the localization. The original, Japanese version is just as packed full of nonsense as the English. Yeah, the developers really wanted to lie to the players. Why? Because they hate you.
- Hit Deborah Cliff with your head to make a hole – Um, excuse me? This one sentence wraps Castlevania II up perfectly. It doesn’t make sense. The game is near-impossible to complete, not because of its difficulty, but because the translation and design of the game make it necessary to do incredibly specific actions to proceed. Without help from an outside source, you’re basically screwed. Besides the false walls, the lying townsfolk, and the day and night cycle, you even have to kneel in specific locations with specific items. If you’re an inch off, you won’t proceed. That’s what this quote eventually will lead to. A scene where Simon kneels at Deborah Cliff with a specific crystal equipped to summon a tornado. “Hit Deborah Cliff with your head to make a hole”? I’m sorry, I thought I was in Transylvania. When did I end up in Twin Peaks?
Have you played through Castlevania II and lived to tell the tale? Please let me know about your experience below. If you finished the game without any outside help, maybe I will send you a cookie. With the passing of Simon’s Quest, so too my Retro Weekend quest is coming to an end. The curse is beginning to lift. I think I’ll finally be able to progress through a game again without being lied to. That should be fun. See you in seven days.