Just look at that damn box art. I don\’t care if you\’re a kid in search of his first SNES game, or an adult scouting for retro classics you might have missed; one look at the Super Castlevania IV box art is all it takes to realize this must be one kick ass game.
It is one kick ass game.
Super Castlevania IV is, as far as I\’m aware, the most surreal entry in the series even today. A river that changes the direction of its flow on a whim? A room that rotates as you hang from a hook with your whip? A tower that you climb – or I should say walk on the side of vertical \”falling\” platforms while it spins madly? Gigantic, hanging chandeliers that you use to jump across vast chasms? A massive, hanging library with cursed, living books, paintings and statues? A collection of gold and jewels so vast they form an entire keep and become a sentient, monstrous bat? A freaking bridge that gradually turns into a flock of bats as you cross it? CHECK, all of it. This is perhaps one of the main reasons I hold this game so far above others in the franchise: how utterly bat-freaking crazy it all is, even as it manages to maintain its somber atmosphere.
Another reason would be the amazing music. To this day, I don\’t think a single other Castlevania game has better music than Super Castlevania IV – not Rondo of Blood, not Symphony of the Night, and not Order of Ecclesia. Even with the limited (but awesome) Nintendo S-SNP sound chip, the music evokes the dread of Monster Horror movies, the stoic demeanor of an unshakable hero, the madness of a difficult Etude for Organ set, the creative improvisation of an Eastern Drum solo and a Jazz Bassline, and the impending clash of massive fates with its calming but dynamic synthesizer chords. Hell, the game isn\’t even shy about mixing and matching these many elements as it pleases, even using some of them as codas to mark your progress in this hellish journey.
As far as how the game actually plays, there still aren\’t any bad things to say. Being a real sequel to the NES games, Super Castlevania IV introduced several improvements to the design, including the ability to whip in any of the 8 digital directions and use a shoulder button to throw your special items. These were such massive improvements over the design of NES Castlevania that Konami felt ashamed of being so far ahead of the rest of the industry and decided to drop them from their next entry in the series, Castlevania Dracula X (originally Castlevania: Rondo of Blood on the TurboGrafx-16, it was remade on the SNES soon afterward). It would take the release of Symphony of the Night for Konami to develop the series\’ mechanics further, although in an entirely different way.
Then of course is Castlevania 64, which I loved and everyone else hated. You miserable piles of secrets.