Welcome to another iteration of Retro Review! This time on the cutting board, we have the franchise-evolving SNES title, Super Castlevania IV! SCIV was an interesting title for fans of the franchise, bringing what made Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse unique into one, finite package on the next-gen successor of the NES – Unbeknownst to fans, however, was that this would be the last time we would see a numbered entry in the Castlevania franchise…
So, does Super Castlevania IV hold up to today’s standards? Would Super Castlevania still be a success in the modern world? Let’s take a look!
With the success of Castlevania, the failure of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and the retrieved success of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, all seemed to point towards Super Castlevania IV to end up as a flop, simply as a retread of Simon’s Quest’s bizarre experimentation and wandering…Boy, could the general consensus be more wrong…Super Castlevania IV lead out of the gate strong, following the final adventure of the iconic Castlevania protagonist, Simon Belmont, leading to his final battle against the dark lord Dracula.
At this point, Simon had defeated Dracula a total of four times in his lifetime, and was beginning to show his age a little – This, however, was absolutely no issue within SCIV, as the Vampire Hunter was all the more agile, despite popular theorising that the game would take a slower, more calculated directive in a similar vein to the first Castlevania game; this leads nicely onto Super Castlevania IV’s first large innovation when compared to it’s predecessors – Whip Skills.
It sounds trivial in this day and age, but the simple ability of being able to whip in eight directions (Up, Up-Right, Right, Down-Right, Down, Down-Left, Left & Up-Left) was a huge new improvement that previously only had two directions for attacking: Left and Right.
This opened up a lot of the level design in Super Castlevania IV, allowing for it to deviate away from standard, blocky levels and into fleshed out, creative levels, like the infamous Waterfall zone, which tasked players to stay on a moving raft and down aqueducts to survive, taking on hordes of flying enemies with ease due to the expanded direction. If this level had been in the original 3 games, it would be known forever more as one of the worst, cruelest levels in videogame history due to the extremely limited attack controls.
Whip Skills didn’t just let you whip like an octopus on a thousand E-Numbers, however; it expanded traversal too, allowing Simon to latch onto hinges with his whip, and swing Tarzan-style across spike pits, traps and enemies, which lead to some interesting moments when paired with the infamous Medusa Heads…
To deal with this sort of franticness, however, the Whip had a third skill…The ability to go limp. Yep. I’m serious. That’s a skill. Using the limp Whip was interesting to say the least – Sure you lost a little bit of damage from each hit, but it allowed you to directly control where your whip went, bypassing the 8-direction strikes in a bizarre way.
Another big factor of Super Castlevania IV was the art design – The spritework within this game is some of the series’ best, with environments and enemies looking detailed, layered and deep, enemies looking horrifying, identifiable and animated stylishly, SCIV does look an absolute treat, especially on modern day TVs with a HDMI Upscaler.
One thing that Castlevania has always been known for, however, is it’s legendary soundtrack – Super Castlevania IV is no different, having brought some of the series’ best pieces of music to the table, that to this day are referenced and loved by many, with Bloody Tears, Clockwork Mansion, Vampire Killer, Beginning, and Dance of the Holyman being just a few of my personal favourites – It’s so good infact, that to this day I’m searching for a physical edition of the soundtrack, should one exist; take a listen!
All in all, Super Castlevania IV is one of those rare games where, despite a franchise having ran on for three games already, still has room to innovate, redefine, and evolve, with Super Castlevania IV being one of the few games to spur on a further 10-or-so years of Castlevania goodness….
…It’s just a shame we can’t get another in the modern day.