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Haunted Castle is funny, and you're probably asking, "funny hah hah" or "funny peculiar"? Truthfully I think it goes both ways. I would like to first articulate the "funny peculiar" part as Haunted Castle sticks out from the rest of the games in the series like a particularly sore thumb.
It is of course an arcade game, an attempt at bringing the gameplay of the beloved NES title to the mean streets of the coin-op cabinet at your local pizzeria. You may have noticed it is also called "Haunted Castle" instead of "Castlevania", unlike the JP title Akumajō Dracula where it shares the same name with the Famicom Disk System game (along with later the Super Famicom and Sharp X68000 games, thanks lads I'm sure that's not confusing over there). I could actually wager a decent guess as to why they did this change. You see, the director was a massive fan of the Atari 2600 classic Haunted House, they just had to get their reference in. Remember the bat and the ghost? They in fact guest star in Haunted Castle, that's actually the same characters from Haunted House. I shit you not, my logic is infallible.
The game also bizarrely begins with an obvious Ghosts n' Goblins-esque intro with Simon peacefully walking along with his bride-to-be, only for an explosion to go off in the distance with Dracula flying in out of nowhere to whisk her away to god knows where (Ohio maybe) as Simon gives off a "curse you Dracula!" pose. Official documents state this was supposed to be a retelling of the first game, but I like to imagine that Dracula is constantly trying to inconvenience Simon at every turn. In the next Adventure Simon will be peacefully enjoying a meal at his favorite steakhouse only for it to be revealed that his steak was well done, then Dracula explodes from the background revealing his new ownership of the place and proceeds to put on the most annoying song in the jukebox.
This is where I stop farting about and actually comment on things that legitimately annoy me that have nothing to do with the gameplay, and that's the fact that Simon does not do his famous strut in this game. Instead he looks like he's clutching his tummy and needs to take a massive shit. It turns out there's no bride at all, Simon is just breaking into Dracula's castle to use his bathroom and ruin his plumbing. I am continuing the charade that this is all a childish rivalry between Mr. Belmondo and Mr. Dracula. There is also a second thing that annoys me, and that's that the best upgraded weapon in the game is a sword. That's right, Simon has sold out. He throws out his trademark whip for the most dull weapon to ever hit dullsville. The reason all of these peculiar things happen is most likely because Haunted Castle was originally not supposed to be related to Castlevania at all, and everything kind of got shoehorned in during the middle of development. It was also painfully early in the series' life, so maybe they figured they could just do anything since it was the new hotness and would probably make massive bank.
However! If you wish to make massive bank at the coin-op, maybe you should allow infinite continues! For the original release of these games, one credit was one life. That's all you got, and you could only continue with an additional credit three times, and after that? Do I hear wedding bells? Oh my, another explosion has taken place and Dracula took another one of your wives! Dearest me. Apparently Konami couldn't quite wrap their heads around how to properly gouge people of their money, because I doubt new players are going to bother with this kind of brutality, especially when the North American release features an insanely high damage boost to the enemies. In the original JP release of Haunted Castle, a bone thrown from an enemy skeleton results in a bit of damage. In the American release? One of those bones is now powerful enough to level the broadside of a Nimitz-class Supercarrier. There is also no pot roast in this game, and your health is not refilled between stages. You are given very little room for error.
To say Haunted Castle is a hard game would be the biggest understatement since they invented the word "understatement". It is a game designed to make you pull your hair out with how often your Boston Big™ hitbox will be nailed by everything in sight as you get to watch a bat pull some spectacular aerial maneuvers to somehow not get hit by your whip and nibble your face off in retaliation. To be frank as Frankenstein, I also think the game just looks ugly. Many sprites feel haphazardly drawn, which gives credence to the game being quickly rejiggered into a Dracula of some kind instead of whatever it was originally going to be. The rock golem that's the boss of stage 4 literally doesn't do anything after you kill it. The game just freezes as the victory jingle goes off and you're given no satisfaction for your patience, no explosions, no decapitation, no nothing. Stage 6 is literally just walking to the left and hoping you can get by all the bats flying at you without the collapsing bridge behind you catching up. It's meant to be a setpiece, but it's just painfully boring and feels like a creative setup to make the final stage quickly, and make it less obvious that this was rushed out to bank off the success of Akumajō Dracula's name.
Now you may be thinking, "where's the funny hah hah"? Well, there's these boulders in stage 2, they make an incredibly cartoonish Scooby-Doo "bonk" sound when they hit the ground.
I feel like I've done nothing but drone on here, but I guess that's what happens when it's both a Castlevania title and a bad game. Now imagine if it were also a fighting game on top of that, wow I wouldn't shut up. Oh god, I just realized something and had a vision please keep it away, oh god, oh jeez, oh god, oh fuck, oh jeez.
They dared to change, just like Simon dared to rid himself of Dracula's affliction in the face of ridicule by his fellow townsfolk.
At the approach of midnight, I began my journey home, my boots trudging through the mud as I pumped my fists to the Dance of Monsters. The chill of the wind rustles through the trees as I keep myself at the ready, for any moment the skeleton or wolfman could walk out from the brush begging for death's sweet release by the hand of my mighty whip passed down to me by my ancestors. Upon entry to town the sunrise brings about temporary peace, wherein I decide to visit the local grocery and throw my bottled water at it's floor to reveal the garlic salesman hiding underneath the floorboards from minions of the Count who has decreed that garlic was illegal.
Perhaps I'm obsessed with the idea of pretending to be Simon, perhaps he really is just the world's biggest badass being able to beat Dracula by himself and then again later while he's dying of a curse placed on him by the same guy. You think I wouldn't want to role play as him?
A color palette of putrid dilapidation, reminiscent of Hammer horror films, a land that continues to be ravaged by monsters chaotically stalking about despite the Count's destruction. Simon himself now as pale as a ghost due to the curse that has been sapping away at him for the past seven years, a depressing tone for what should've been a peaceful reconstruction after our past victory. The last town in the game Ghulash is completely monochrome in color with only one person residing in it, showcasing the devastation that has expanded from Dracula's castle. The townsfolk talk in riddles and lies, done in either genuine good faith or as an act of sabotage to keep Simon from completing his quest for fear of Dracula's early return. The ringing of tears flowing from a ballroom mask echo across the land, a most legendary composition.
They say if you wish to follow up perfection, then you better hit strong, differently, or both.
As I have once said before, a game that becomes more enjoyable the more you replay is but a sign of perfection. For the original Castlevania it became more enjoyable as I grew quicker at conquering it from sheer skill, and for Simon's Quest it became more enjoyable as I grew more wary of it's tricks. Instead of a test of strength, it is a test of shrewdness and clever understanding. Whereas the original opted to try and beat you into the grave, Simon's Quest looks to baffle you with illusions and misdirection. Typos appaering, translations such as the Fist of the North Star reference getting turned into a weird shout out to the Galactic Empire's infamous space station, and signs of a rushed development seem to only help it, perhaps it is perfectly imperfect. A perfect sibling to what was a perfect game.
Maybe I am obsessed, maybe Dracula exists and he put a curse on me to forever defend Simon's Quest from the never ending ridicule that comes it's way thanks to videos that were made for humor back in the times of the ancients. Simon's last adventure now cursed to being used as the butt of a joke, and constantly used as a punching bag by armchair game designers. Those who hate are numerous, and me and my fellow Simon supporters are small in number, but we are steadfast and strong in our beliefs. We stand together in the face of hostility and look onward at the army in front of us, I unsheathe my whip, brandishing it in hand and turn to my allies with but two quiet words, "For Simon", I rush into the ensuing battle leading the charge into our forever war.
Our battle is never over, but despite our curse we forever fight to the bitter end just as a Belmont would.
Sonic 2's back half is absolutely unforgivable, I hate those fuckin' fiddler crabs in Metropolis Zone with their Volkswagen Beetle-sized hitboxes and that dumbass final boss gauntlet that sucks the wind out of you- wait what the fuck is this shit, get this crap out of here.
elbow drops it through the announce table