Originally created 02/21/99

Video game review: Castlevania brings back Dracula-fighting family

For centuries -- well, actually since about 1986 -- the Belmont clan has battled Dracula and his Dark Side minions.

Fortunately, those battles have taken place in Konami's widely acclaimed Castlevania series.

Now the Belmonts are at it again -- this time on the Nintendo 64 system, in Castlevania.

No numbers (Castlevania XXIV), no funny names (Castlevania: Die, Drac, Die!). Just Castlevania.

For fans of the series, it's a wonderland of 3-D excitement. If you've never played Castlevania, be prepared for a delightful surprise.

This time, using the N64's mighty CPU, Castlevania enters the 3-D era with a vengeance. Playing as either Reinhardt Schneider, heir to the Belmont clan, or 12-year-old Carrie Fernandez, a girl gifted with magical talents, players must battle an endless collection of monsters on their quest to finish off Count Dracula, who has once again risen from his grave to terrorize the land.

Schneider wields the most interesting weapon, a crackling whip that can kill most of the lesser monsters, including the seemingly endless series of lethal skeletons that rise from graves everywhere you go. A lock-on feature helps, especially when dealing with large numbers of foes.

Bosses, including a delightful giant skeleton, put up a better fight, but there are better weapons available to deal with them.

The game introduces a number of interesting features, including time sensitivity. You move through night and day scenes and, as night falls, the enemies become more numerous -- and meaner.

Also intriguing is the danger of being bitten by a vampire. If you fail to treat the wound with the proper antidote, it's "children of the night" time for you!

Castlevania is a beautiful, with eerie, shadowed areas lending a vampire-ish atmosphere.

The graphics encourage you to explore, and exploration is important, because there are things to find everywhere. It even pays to take a whack at everything because many objects can be smashed to produce things you need.

Control is excellent, with your character following your instructions to the letter. Sound also is good, especially the effects.

The game's biggest drawback is the lack of lives. There's just one, and if your character dies, you have to go back to the start of the level you're in, whether you've just started it or are two steps from the end.

With vast levels involved, that just isn't fair. Konami needs to rethink that bit of unpleasant programming.

But that aside, Castlevania carries on the series tradition with style and panache.

Castlevania is rated T, for ages 13 and older.

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