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RELEASE DATE (NA): December 15, 1989 GENRE: Platformer
// review by Jeff


Castlevania has a very rich background, from its stiff but spooky origins on the NES all the way to its weird descent and retooling in the more recent Lords of Shadow series. The series, mostly centered around the Belmont clan's never-ending feud with Lord Dracula, has received numerous comic adaptations, symphonic concerts, and even a Netflix series. Of course, the games had to be worth something to earn all the praise it has received, and they are: Castlevania is an extremely solid series in video game history. Ask anyone their favourite Castlevania title is, and you'll get a range of responses from Super Castlevania IV to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to "What's a Castlevania?" But no one is claiming Castlevania: The Adventure on Game Boy to be the cream of the crop, and with good reason: it's a metaphorical landfill stuffed with steaming diapers and discarded melting cough drops.

The manual, aside from being impressively short for its time, gives very little as far as story goes. Nowhere does it even mention the NAME of your character. Luckily, a little research (very little) reveals you are playing as Christopher Belmont, a one-off character from the year 1576 (despite the fact that an American magazine advertisement for the game clearly states that it's Simon Belmont) and next in line to wield the Vampire Killer. What's his job? To go and defeat Dracula. Yeah, that's pretty much it. That was pretty much it for many Castlevanias before the storylines became a bit more complex. And long before any Belmont resembled a Gerard Butler-lookalike. The game itself makes no mention of plot whatsoever, but the manual is far more entertaining: "With the taste for sweet revenge on the tip of his fangs, the blood thirsty prince of darkness hungers for a succulent delicacy — and your throat is definitely on his menu." Yes, I'll have a Caesar salad and the roast throat, please?

The story's heading is "SHEER TERROR IS AT HAND". Whoever prepared this manual must have played the game.

First thing you'll notice is how AMAZINGLY FREAKIN' slow Christopher moves. What, did he skip his regular walking boots and go for the ones with honey and molasses stuck to the bottom? Every level is a slog because of this, which I suppose prolongs the game and prevents excessive blur, but sweet mother of milk, move faster! Dracula's going after your succulent throat, man! When you want to get moving from an obstacle, an enemy, or just to get through the forsaken game, you won't because Li'l Chris has a leg cramp every step of the way. Christopher may move with the speed of a slug on valium, but when there's more than one enemy on the screen as well, the game decides to move EVEN SLOWER, putting Cap'n Charlie Horse into coma mode. The Game Boy is weak, but it's not running on prehistoric technology. Was this just too much Castlevania to handle on the go?

But his swagger is not the only cause for alarm. For some reason, Chrissy's whip is a little sluggish, and I found myself suffering knockback (usually off a platform) just because of the slight delay on the attack itself. At least it can be upgraded twice by snagging crystals; one crystal adds a little puffy ball at the end of your whip, while the second gives it the power to shoot fireballs. Getting hurt once demotes the whip one level, so if you really like fire power, keep your distance from EVERYTHING whenever possible, or you'll lose it just by getting hit by random stuff.

This game only has four levels. That number sounds low, and that's because it's a low number. It's a little more understandable for a Game Boy game released way back in 1989 (that's right: it's old), but for a Castlevania game, that's still pretty meager. How does Konami compensate? By making all the levels REALLY REALLY LONG. And I said "long", not "interesting". A single stage could last you over 10 minutes, provided you are a Castlevania master and never falter. But you will. Oh, how you will. Losing all your lives in a stage will give you a Game Over, naturally, though you get infinite continues. But being able to restart a level does not offset the lack of motivation after having to deal with the hell and stresses of an excruciatingly lengthy trek filled with anything and everything that wants you brutally murdered.

Yes, the levels are HARD. They require pixel-perfect jumps; one false move and you'll be repeating much of the same stage or, worse yet, the entire level, which, considering their length, is enough to make you want to shut off the console and go lay under a tree to relax. I'd argue that the third stage will make or break casual gamers. Most of the third level involves getting far away from a wall of spikes, either coming from below or from the right. You'll be constantly irritated by all the ropes you have to slowly climb as the spikes close in on you, as well as the many turdly maggots that require quick slaying, or else they'll just be a roadblock and cause your demise. My heart was in acute tachycardia the ENTIRE time, and I survived to the end once... only to be slain by some buff harpy.

Also, there are too many rolling eyeballs everywhere. Whose face is desperately in need of an ocular transplant now?

Meet the latest member of the bloodline: Slug Belmont.

But there's still a little spark. It sort of feels like Castlevania at times. When you flick that whip, you're briefly reminded that you're a Belmont, and you should act like one. Then you notice that there are no stairs in the entire game, and the heart sinks like a Timex in a toilet. I know it sounds petty — and it probably is — but the soul of Castlevanias past lies in its pain-in-the-neck staircases that can never be climbed when most necessary. Instead, there are just too many ridiculous frayed ropes everywhere to ascend. I think Christopher Belmont is the ONLY member of his family's genealogy that has ever been required to climb a rope. It's silly, I get it, but ropes are so out of place. I suppose the true series formula hadn't been solidified by th—no, wait, yes, it had been. Castlevania on NES had tons of stairs and nothing but. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest also had a ton of stairways going every which-a-way. Naturally, the development team thought of ROPES. What, are awful stairways too difficult to program? Just put them in and leave them broken; all the other games do.

You'll also come to miss the special weapons, the pacifying feeling of candle-whipping, the mystery meat hidden in the walls, and the flurry of bats that want to gnaw at your flesh. Okay, the last one is there and is thoroughly annoying. Castlevania: The Adventure hardly feels like a Castlevania game, eking away from what the series was known for and becoming a The Adventure part is questionable, too.

You earn an extra life after 10,000 points, then again after every subsequent 20,000 point milestone. Who's going to even get this far? Considering enemies plop a grand total of 20 points into your bank, I could build a 60-foot wall around my closet faster than I could earn an extra life. ...Not exactly sure why I would, mind you. Probably to protect the pants supply.

Precious... pants...

It's a bloody shame the game plays like a stale corn dog because it doesn't seem half-bad in presentation, save for the slowdown that bogs the experience. It's on the finest-looking early Game Boy games, putting the trim Super Mario Land to shame. It's not aesthetically displeasing, though I think the overall design of the enemies and bosses are uninspired at best. Oh, sorry, the game calls the bosses "Primary Evils". Huh. And the music... well, it's fine if you like decent non-offensive music with just a slight cringe factor in their instrumentation. Some of them sound like tunes from the NES Castlevania games, if they were put in a blender for a second or two on "purée"...

Believe it or not, this game has a remake. Oh yes, someone at Konami HQ (known for consistently great decisions, I might add... where's my sarcasm emoji...) decided that, when the WiiWare platform was created, a Castlevania game should breach the front. And why not remake the worst game of them all? Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth is a vastly superior game worth seeking out over this congealed vomit slice.

If you're a fan of the Castlevania games of olde, don't play this because it isn't one of those. If you're a fan of action games on the go, don't play this because there isn't enough action. If you're a fan of a series of jumps, whips, and rope-climbing stints that will cause most of your organs to simultaneously shut down, then... maybe this is the game for you. If my words don't ring clearly enough, Castlevania: The Adventure can be snagged on the 3DS Virtual Console for those daring enough to drop five bucks on a subpar romp in Transylvania. The save state ability will be your "saving" grace.

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