From the moment I put my hand on the controller and made Simon Belmont walk from place to place in Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, I was hooked; and I would be with almost every other game in the series that came before and after it. I’ve played and completed just about every Castlevania in the series, but one of the games that I’ve always failed to conquer was the 1988 arcade adaption of the series, Haunted Castle.
I’ve never seen an actual arcade cabinet of this game in my travels, so I’ve never had a chance to play with the real thing. The only way to play this game was via MAME or by tracking down an import only PS2 copy of the game that’s not easy to find either. Just recently though, the game was made available for PS4 owners as it was released digitally as a “Arcade Archives” digital release. Despite knowing that this game really doesn’t live up to the standards of the Castlevania series; I decided to grab it. That was a mistake.
As soon as you start the game, your greeted to a quick scene of Simon and his brand new wife walking out of a church they just got married at. Apparently, Dracula missed his opportunity to object to Simon’s wife marrying into the lousy Belmont family, so he’s just going to kidnap Simon’s wife instead. Simon realizes that he didn’t sign a a prenuptial agreement and if his wife hangs with Drac too much, she’ll probably divorce him. Thus losing the Vampire Killer whip to her; so off he goes to the local haunted castle to get her back.
When the actual game begins, you’re seemingly introduced to everything that makes Castlevania so great: Kick ass music, Gothic looking backgrounds and a bad ass vampire hunter armed with a whip. Unfortunately, Simon moves like a lumbering oaf and he takes more damage then Sypha does in Castlevania 3 when hit…and you will get hit a lot because almost every section of the level is out to kill Simon. If the monsters don’t get you, the falling statues, crosses and cemetery fire will. This makes staying alive for a decent amount of time almost impossible without going through the level with utmost caution. Thankfully, the Arcade Archives version of this game allow a single save state that allowed me to adapt to all the dangers very quickly and really helps you learn the quarks about what can kill you in this game.
The game immediately falls apart after the first stage and becomes astonishingly easier to deal with. Enemies still have some cheap tricks they can use to damage you, but its overused so much that you quickly learn to overcome the attack patterns. The developers seemingly ran out of ideas for surprises and designs for the rest of the game and instead present you with the most generic levels you’ll see in the entire game series. The bosses featured in the game are huge, but complete push overs and can be defeated easier then some of the regular minions in the levels. This game really must have been rushed out for release! Even Dracula is a cinch to to defeat. Maybe Simon’s wife wore on him?
Konami tried to mix things up with this version of the game, by giving Simon access to a Mace and a Sword, but it really doesn’t add much to the game play. Simon’s sub weapons are available as well, such as the ax and the cross; but they still lack the uniqueness and impact that their console brothers have. I don’t know why Konami decided to ditch the Castlevania name for this title; maybe because they knew it didn’t have any right to be called that. Haunted Castle’s faults outweighs any reason to try it even with the Castlevania legacy behind it. Skip this one.