Game Review: Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Castlevania III Title Screen

  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Konami
  • Released: November 1990
  • Game Type: Adventure
  • Players: 1
  • Product Number: NES-VN-USA
  • Rarity: C- (Borderline Common)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 9

    Box Scan
    Castlevania III Screen 1 Castlevania III Screen 2

    This was the third and final installment of the popular Castlevania series for the NES, and unquestionably the best of the NES trilogy. For the third title, Konami dropped the RPG elements of Simon's Quest and went back to the arcade-like formula of the first Castlevania, with just straight-up platforming action. But they also went all out and added some new features and options to the already-established gameplay. As a result the last NES Castlevania ranks as one of the best games in the series. This title is also notable for the debut of a famous character that would pop up in future Castlevania titles.

    This prequel takes place 100 years before the first two Castlevania games and casts you as Simon Belmont's grandfather, Trevor Belmont. The evil Count Dracula is raising an army of monsters to terrorize the Transylvania countryside and plunge the world into darkness. The village of Warikaya is the first stop on Dracula's tour of evil, and its people cry out for a hero. Trevor decides to heed the call to arms so he embarks on a mission to reach the Count's castle and defeat Dracula in a fight to the finish.

    As mentioned above, the game plays just like the original Castlevania. There are 17 total levels to fight through, and you have a time limit to get through each one. The stages include a destroyed village, a clock tower, a ghost ship, a sunken temple and more, all the way to the showdown in Dracula's castle. In each stage you'll have to battle your way through numerous monsters such as skeletons, zombies, and others, as well as defeat a boss monster at the end of the level to proceed. Your basic weapon is the trademark mystic whip, which can be upgraded twice, and you also get the traditional Castlevania special weapons, including axes, daggers, holy water and so on. Once again you can whip candles to get weapons and hearts to use the special items. But this game sports several new features. At certain points in the game your path splits into two directions, giving you two possible routes to continue your mission. Each path takes you through a different set of stages on your way to the Castle, meaning you don't have to play through every level to get to the end, and makes it so you don't have to play this cart the same way twice.

    Another nice feature is the addition of spirit helpers. When you start the game Trevor is alone in his quest, but along the way he can meet up with one of three spirits which become his partner throughout the game, each one with different strengths and abilities. There's Grant DaNasty, the pirate captain who fights with daggers and can climb walls; Sypha Belnades, the wizard who wields a staff and can cast several powerful spells; and Alucard, Dracula's rebellious son who can transform into a bat and fly through the air. Trevor can shapeshift into his helper and back at any time by presing SELECT, but remember they share the same life bar, so be careful about taking hits. Also Trevor can only have one partner at a time, so you need to wisely decide who to take with you and who gets left behind.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics in this game are very good. The stages are all different, adding some variety to the game. The backgrounds look great, with some nice details such as the spinning gears in the Clock Tower or the mist in the forest, though some spots still look blocky. All the characters look great and have good animation, especially the bosses, who look and move just like they're supposed to. Audiowise Konami once again came through with excellent music for a Castlevania game. The various background tunes are great to listen too and they fit their respective stages well. The sound effects are also top notch, from the 'swish' of Trevor's whip to the breaking of the holy water jar to the scream the boss monsters make when you destroy them.

    The controls vary slightly with the different characters but work just fine for the most part. Button A jumps, Button B shoots your weapon, and holding Up and pressing B still launches a special weapon. However some of the jmuping problems from the other games still pop up here; Trevor, Alucard and Sypha can't control their jumps in mid-air, and you still can't jump on or off stairs. Grant is a different story; he moves pretty fast and can actually change direction in mid-air. His wall climbing abilities take a little practice to use. Alucard is also easy to move around in his bat form.

    Challenge & Playability:
    The game's challenge level is a little on the high side like the first game but isn't as frustrating. The first few stages are easy enough but then the difficulty starts rising fast. Unfortunatley you once again have to deal with instant-death traps, jumps that need near-perfect timing, and enemies that can dance around your whip and knock you off narrow platforms into the abyss. A few of the levels, like the one where you have to wait for bricks to fall for several minutes so you can climb up, are not very fun. The last few stages are really tough, since the game throws everything at you and you can only take four hits before you die. Not to mention you have Dracula has three forms and you have to defeat all three to win the game.

    Fortunately the game's fun factor more than makes up for the difficutly and control issues. Simply put, Dracula's Curse is just a blast to play. Whipping zombies and battling big bosses never gets old, and the spirit helpers add a bit of strategy to the standard formula. While you may die many times, this game will have you coming back for more, and with enough practice this game can be beaten. The easy-to-use password system and unlimited continues are a big help, making it so you don't have to start over. This cart also boasts a high replayability factor; the different paths and helpers mean you won't be able to see everything in one playthrough, so you'll have to challenge this game several times to see it all. The game also has four different endings, depending on which helper you have with you (or if you decided to go it alone).

    Anyway you look at it Castlevania III is a gaming masterpiece that tops the other two CV titles hands down. Most everything about this game is top-notch, from the graphics to the music to the gameplay, and the replayability factor only adds to an already-excellent cart. Also it's intersting to see the game that introduces is to Alucard, who would go on to star in several other Castlevania titles. This game would have scored a perfect 10 if the control issues would have been worked out, but it's just a minor setback on an otherwise awesome game. Castlevania III is without a doubt one of the best NES games ever and helps the series end its run on the NES in a big way.

    - Review posted on November 11, 2006