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. A few years ago though, the game was made available for PS4 owners as it was released as an “Arcade Archives” digital release. Despite knowing that this game 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, you’re greeted to a quick scene of Simon and his brand new wife walking out of a church they just got married at. Dracula, seeing an opportunity to ruin Simon’s day, decides to kidnap Simon’s wife. As you could imagine, Simon is none too pleased and heads to Dracula’s castle to get his beloved wife back.
When the game begins, you are introduced to everything that makes Castlevania so great: Fantastic music, Gothic-looking backgrounds and a heroic 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 unless you go through the level with utmost caution. Thankfully, the Arcade Archives version of this game allows a single save state that allowed me to adapt to all the dangers very quickly and 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 more relaxed as you progress. Enemies still have some cheap tricks they can use to damage you, but it is 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 presented you with the most generic levels you’ll see in the entire game series. The bosses featured in the game are huge, but complete pushovers and can be defeated easier than some of the regular minions in the levels. This game really must have been rushed out for release! Even Dracula is a cinch to defeat.
Konami tried to mix things up with this version of the game, by giving Simon access to a Mace and a Sword, but it doesn’t add much to the gameplay. 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 outweigh any reason to try it even with the Castlevania legacy behind it. Skip this one.