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Level 1
Castlevania (Level 1)
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on June 25, 2010   |   Episode 10 (Show Archive)  

   

Welcome to Level 1. Every week we are going to look at a random game's very first level. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what system it's for, we're here to dissect the game's first level and see what it tells us about the rest of the game. I promise you an eye-opening experience in each episode! It's time to grab the whip and cloak, because this week we're taking a look at Castlevania! This is Konami's best-known franchise, so what could such an influential game teach us? Find out when we dig into the first level of this incredible game. We may be on a mission to kill Dracula, but every adventure starts with Level 1!

Castlevania (Konami)
[ Release: 1987 - Console: Nintendo Entertainment System ]
Castlevania (NES)
Castlevania (NES)
With the possible exception of Contra, Castlevania is Konami's most enduring game franchise. Even after 23 years we are still getting an annual dose of Dracula and his minions. This year Konami plans on offering both a 3D game and a traditional 2D adventure, both aimed at different segments of the Castlevania fandom. If you're into taking down monsters and the living dead, then you will find no better video game franchise.

Fans of modern day Castlevania games will find themselves confused by the pacing of the original game. While most current installments feature an open world to explore (a la the Metroid series), the first game was a very linear platformer driven by levels and boss battles. It's a lot like most games of the franchise, which is to say that it's incredibly simplistic. But there's no reason to talk about it in the past tense, let's press start and check out Castlevania Level 1!

Level 1-1: Castle Entrance/The Foyer: You can tell just by looking at this castle that this is not going to be an easy ride. It's covered in shadows, surrounded by overgrown habitation and there's booming lightning highlighting every inch of the creepy structure. This is my chance to turn around. I made it to the ominous
Castlevania - Castle Entrance/The Foyer
Castlevania - Castle Entrance/The Foyer
gates and saw the lightning, I can just leave this job for somebody else ... maybe a relative or friend or something. I mean, I can see the vampires, zombies and hellhounds roaming the grounds, I would need to be a fool to voluntarily choose to enter this house of horrors.

Apparently I'm a fool, because I tightly clutch my whip and throw caution to the wind. I enter the Castlevania grounds ready for the worst. I'm met with statues, decaying trees and the
Castlevania - Castle Entrance/The Foyer
Castlevania - Castle Entrance/The Foyer
sound of wind. At least, I hope that's the wind. Up ahead of me is the entrance to the castle, this is the last chance for me to turn around and do the sensible thing. I wonder if I will be thought of as heroic or stupid when my friends and family hear about my passing in Castlevania ... if they hear about it at all.

I open the door and am met with a large room with floating stairs. I can also see a zombie pacing back and forth; no doubt ready to eat my brain. Thankfully I know how
Castlevania - Castle Entrance/The Foyer
Castlevania - Castle Entrance/The Foyer
to use a whip. I'm even more thankful that these zombies (as well as everything else in this castle) can be easily killed using that whip. That's a mighty helpful coincidence; I'll have to keep that in mind. But, in the mean time, I'm having too much fun whipping the candles and collecting hearts and secondary weapons.

Maybe it's my nerves getting the best of me, but I don't even question why the room remains the same brightness despite me hacking and slashing the candles. I'm also choosing
Castlevania - Underground Mote
Castlevania - Underground Mote
to ignore the idea that whipping a candle gives me an axe. It's probably better I just focus me attention on the bevy of baddies making their way to my location. I walk from left to right until I find a door and make a break for the second part of Level 1.

Level 1-2: Underground Mote: Running from the hordes of zombies, I seek shelter in the basement. But this is no ordinary basement; this is the way to an underground mote. Could there actually
Castlevania - Underground Mote
Castlevania - Underground Mote
be a water way underneath this castle? For a minute I wonder where it could lead, but I'm brought back to reality when a giant piranha tries to eat my face. It's clear that there will be no swimming in this adventure; this running river is to be avoided at all times.

Even without falling in the water, the evils of Castlevania have taken their toll on my body. I'm cut up and bruised; a severely beaten man needing a short respite. I take a short break at the end of the river, sitting down to rest my poor feet and regain my breath. As I
Castlevania - Underground Mote
Castlevania - Underground Mote
sit down I notice that the bricks behind me are loose. I try pulling them out, but that doesn't seem to work. I give one big crack of the whip and discover a mysterious treasure. I open it up and it's ... a recently cooked turkey dinner?

Look, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the food and rest (it seems to be improving my health bar), but I'm not going to let this slide. I get why I'm here, I need to take out Dracula and nobody else is willing to do it. I get why this place is so creepy, it has been infested
Castlevania - Underground Mote
Castlevania - Underground Mote
by the living dead. But I don't understand why somebody would hide freshly-made food behind bricks. Who was that even for? The zombies eat brains, the vampires want blood and that piranha didn't seem too picky about what part of my body they nibbled on. Is Dracula expecting another human besides me? And if he wanted me to have it, why hide it someplace I normally wouldn't look? Does he really expect me to go through this whole castle trying to break every wall? What a dick!

Boss - Giant Bat: My gut hits the floor as I enter the next room. There standing in front of me is a giant bat. He has red eyes and doesn't seem particularly excited that I'm invading his space. But I don't
Castlevania - Boss - Giant Bat
Castlevania - Boss - Giant Bat
care; I'm here to do a job. He flies around the room. Yawn, it's nothing I haven't seen a million times before. Listen, buddy, I'm a vampire hunter here, there isn't a bat trick around that I haven't seen. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on Simon Belmont.

As expected, I power my way through this ridiculously easy boss and collect the loot. I'm feeling a little cocky about how easy it was to fight through Level 1and slay a giant bat. I hold my whip up in the air to show Dracula what he has coming. I scream out my indictments against the king of the castle. I call him names and tell him how pathetic it is that he needs a bunch of goons to do his dirty
Castlevania - Level 2
Castlevania - Level 2
work. After I'm done celebrating I open the door to the next level and immediately regret my decision.

What Have We Learned Today? Today we learned an important rule about killing Dracula. When the king of darkness threatens to destroy the world as you know it, all you need is one whip-toting guy named Simon Belmont? Who needs an entire army of willing vampire hunters, you have one guy who may or may not know what he's doing. You're better off not doing anything at all. If I were the guy in charge, I would have insisted that Simon at least bring a couple of guys for back-up. Hell, a medic could help keep you from dying a lonely death on the fifth floor of
Castlevania Artwork
This 1987 Castlevania is one of the few games in the franchise to actually have a first level!
Castlevania. I don't remember anything in the manual about coming alone, so Simon is a fool for not bringing a friend (or twelve) along for help.

What Did We Miss? As Simon walks through the door leading to Level 2, he's met with the strong smell of something burning. It turns out that the entire second level is engulfed in flames, though none of them are close enough to hurt our whip-cracking hero. You'll spend the next level holding your breath through heat-soaked ruins guarded by knights and Medusa heads. And that's just the beginning of your fight against Dracula. Can you survive the castle by yourself? You'll have to find out when you play Castlevania for yourself!

What Michael from the 2010 Census Says: "Hello, my name is Michael and I'm with the 2010 U.S. Census. I'm sorry to bother you so late, but I have your address on my list as a house that has not been counted. I'm hoping that you have enough time to help me finish up this questionnaire so that I can get out of your hair. Do you have a few minutes? I promise, it won't take long. Oh good, let's start with the first question. Were you or anybody else living here on April 1st, 2010. And your name is Dracula? Can I get your last name? Okay, and how about a middle initial. And now your age, how old were you on April 1st? Oh, my, that can't be right. That would make you ... hey ... what are you doing with those fangs ... GET OFF MY NECK ... AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!"
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