Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse (1990)
Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse was the last title to appear on the NES, and is undoubtedly the best of the original trilogy (some would say the best Castlevania out there.) The multiple pathways, the alternate characters, the incredible music and graphics - all of this add up to one of the glory moments for Nintendo's old machine.
The plot takes place 100 years before the original Castlevania (or so the manual states - the official Japanese timeline says differently.) The Poltergeist King has blessed Trevor Belmont with his whip and several weapons, of which he has to defend his home town of Warakiya from the advancing hordes of Dracula. Wherein the series' gameplay was changed to more of an adventure/RPG with Simon's Quest, Castlevania 3 is more action-oriented like the original. The play mechanics the same, right down to the status bar.
However, once you beat the first boss, you begin to see the differences. Rather than proceeding to the next level, you get a choice - do you immediately head into the forest to continue with your journey, or take a detour into the clocktower? There are several branch points after many of the levels, each leading you on a different course towards the end of the game.
On the course of your travels, you'll meet one of three spirit companions. Grant DaNasty is a fierce pirate who is very fast and can climb on walls, but has very poor attack skills. The wizard Sypha Belnades is also fairly weak, but has a variety of extremely powerful spells that replace the regular subweapons. Alucard (star of his own game later down the road), Dracula's son, has a fireball attack and can change into a bat to fly over obstacles. You can only have one companion at a time, and Trevor and your compatriot share the same life meter. Switching between the Belmont and your selected spirit guide is as easy as hitting the Select button. Not only does this adds incredible amounts of dimensions to the gameplay - both in conquering levels and beating bosses - but it adds an incredible amount of replayability to an already respectably sized game.
The graphics are slightly better than either of the previous two games, allowing constant vertical scrolling areas and some neat graphics. Some of the backgrounds still look a bit jumbled All of the bosses generally look pretty cool, although some of them are overused (you can face the Cyclops up to three times in one game, probably due to cartridge space restraints.) The music is all wonderful, as in pretty much all Castlevania games. There are some really good drums, especially in the first level.
Much like the original Castlevania, however, it is rather difficult, although balanced a bit better. Some segments are just poorly thought out (like a section in an underground level where you must wait for bricks to fall for several minutes so you can climb them) and the enemies become too powerful a bit too quickly. The additional of the spirit helpers, the password system, and the infamous HELP ME code (to get 10 lives) ease the pain a bit. In spite of this, Castlevania 3 still manages to be an extraordinary title for the NES.
Dracula's Curse Artwork
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Castlevania Games - Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse