CastleVania II: Simon’s Quest is the same side scrolling, monster killing fun, but this time its easier, longer and its not just a castle that you’re trekking through, its the countryside full of mansions, danger and towns. You reprise your role as Simon Belmont, the vampire hunter from the original game and you’ve been tasked with collecting Dracula’s five organs and burning them in a fire pit.
The game is as beautiful as the first, but a lot of the areas are only palette swapped. The five mansions are unique, but the backgrounds are just different colors. The enemies too are different colored signifying their strength. As you progress through the game, you’ll need to collect the hearts of defeated enemies in order to buy things like whip upgrades that will do more damage. I’m not sure how some of the undead enemies can have hearts, but when in CastleVania everything has a heart. Even hands coming out of the ground have hearts. That would make for one wicked turnip. The bigger the heart, the more hearts you’ll get to spend. What sort of sadistic world has hearts as a currency?
Since this is a much broader CastleVania, you can’t just traverse it in a day, so there is a day and night cycle. This night cycle is where enemies become twice as difficult, but on the plus side they’ll reward you with double the hearts. Its good for grinding and getting what you need, but then the problem is that the town full of citizens locks its doors, because at night is when the zombies come out. Unless everyone in town is really a zombie! Maybe Simon is the only one alive in this undead world. That would explain all the horrifying creatures.
There are a lot of enemies in the game. Everything from typical skeletons and bats to eyes that follow you and giant jumping gargoyles. The mummies make a return, but not as bosses, instead they’re big and relegated to the badlands. There are two headed, fireball spitting beasts and even leeches in swamps that you’re forced to tread.
It all leads up to you burning Dracula’s organs, which inevitably conjures a phantom that hardly looks like the unholy creature from the previous game. After five extensive mansions, the castle ruins are laughably pathetic. No enemies, just a single area all leading to the pit. In a way, the game was long enough, far longer than any of the others in the NES era. Since its such a long game, it makes use of a password system.
To keep you playing longer, CastleVania 2 is a meaty, well thought out game full of secrets and cryptic clues. One of the major ways to find secrets and traps is holy water. Throwing these will either break certain blocks or fly through certain dummy floors. When Simon falls off a cliff, he goes straight down, there’s no sort of control. Falling on spikes will kill you. Other secrets are far more mysterious; things like praying at a cliff or a lake side with something specific equipped. I guarantee that no one would have been able to guess.
These towns even have their own secrets, and merchants to sell you extra things that will help you progress. Each town even has a church to replenish your health. There are several citizens that will speak in gibberish to give you clues. Maybe its done deliberately to be as mysterious as possible or maybe they’re translation issues. Other than them, you can find books hidden away in walls of each mansion.
You can find one of Dracula’s organs in each mansion, but to obtain them, you’ll need to have an oak stake handy to break through the protective orb that houses it. Of course you’ll need to purchase a stake from a merchant in the mansion. After you collect the item, you’ll need to work your way back through the mansion and out the entrance. You’d think that these mansions would have a boss guarding the valuable items, but there are only two bosses outside of Dracula himself. The grim reaper makes an appearance along with some single eyed bloody mask.
Outside of mansions and towns, you’ll be trudging through graveyards, forests, caves, caverns, badlands and swamps. Now that I’m listing them, it doesn’t seem like much, but there are a lot of areas. There are many branching paths. Either keep going forward or take a staircase down to some subterranean tunnel. The path you shouldn’t take is usually indicated with blockades or far more difficult enemies. Its like any other game that requires you to grind.
Wile its an easier game overall due to the new whip buying mechanic, its by no means a pushover. You have a big health bar, but some enemies can knock your health down by three or four blocks at a time. You’ll also be forced to wade through swamps that damage you, unless you use a laurel to stay alive. Water is an instant death, because no one can swim in armor I guess. Spikes are no longer the instant death that they were in the previous game. Instead they damage.
This second game in the series controls a lot like the first. Left and right to move, down to crouch, B to whip, A to jump and Up + B to use a special item. Oh but you don’t find these special items by whipping candles like you did in the first. You need to buy them like everything else. Then you’ll need to equip them with the select menu. You can only have one active item selected at once. Things like daggers, holy water, flames, garlic to make merchants appear, diamonds that bounce around and so on. There are even passive items like Dracula’s rib that works as a shield to reflect rare projectiles in the game and crystals that let you see things like invisible platforms.
To keep you in such a long game, there are a lot of great songs. Some original music and a few renditions from the previous game. They’re all upbeat and supercharged like the first game. Everything that you need to keep rocking out and plodding forward in a land of nightmares.
Its still a great game, even if people prefer the more direct CastleVania 1 and 2. This is a huge game that you’re bound to get lost in, but its a great place to be.