Akumajo Dracula

The very first Castlevania is a slice of pure, unadulterated video gaming circa 1986: guide a lone character through trap-laden environments and lash out at everything in your way.
It’s the usual fare, but something special is going on here. Somehow the game hit all the right notes, ending up as one of the finest action / platform games of all time.
The game throws you up against the Prince of Darkness himself: Dracula. Ruler of the night, scourge of mankind… A beast who has claimed thousands of innocent lives by feeding on their blood and leeching on their very souls.
But at least he has manners – a trait seldom seen in these vulgar and slothful times. Truth be told he is a gentleman and an excellent host: the parties he holds in his ‘Demon Castle’ have become the hip place to be and be seen on those dank and dull Transylvanian weekends.
Problem is these always end up turning into crazed and debauched five-day orgies, where the guests regularly commit themselves to levels of excess that would even make Caligula blush. It was only a matter of time until the rozzas turned up – but instead of The Filth it’s the legendary vampire hunter Simon Belmont who is crashing at the gates, and he definitely doesn’t have an invite.
The setting is superb, but the core of Akumajō Dracula‘s appeal lies in its meticulous architecture and nigh-on perfect gameplay. The character responds flawlessly, and each level is brimful of tricks and traps.
It remains to joy to play even today, full of depth and intricacy. Not just that, like Gradius (1985) when you finish the game you’re up against a tougher, tweaked ‘second loop’.
Then a third, a fourth… The game really picks up further on, adding more and more enemies and bonuses along the way. Push this thing: it will take you as far as you can go.

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