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Retro Game Club - December 19’ : Super Castlevania IV

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Played through to level 4 again this evening. Level 3 is so frustrating and annoying.

 

The design of this game is brutal. Disappearing blocks, being knocked back by enemies, it’s all designed to get you to fall to your death.


at least I took a picture of the password this time

 

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World 8 down. Man that was hard... but it's not overly long, and a lot of it's pattern recognition - dying trying to figure out when it's safe to move forward, until eventually you can move forward. I did note down a bunch of little things to help me preserve life in the early moments - those big spiders go down in one whip, for instance, and when you're caught in the crossfire of those demon head statues and a floating eyeball, you can bait the eyeball towards you and scroll the screen so that the statues aren't firing!

 

A little later on there's a bit where you're on a pillar and the pillar across from you has more fireball-spitting demon head things, but you can crouch-sneak back and forth just on the edge so that it's in whipping range (whilst being mindful of the other hazards!) With the transition into the next area, I died a lot trying to find out if you had to jump onto or under falling spike platforms, but later on in 8-1 you do get a bit of a breather (and some wall chicken!)

 

The initial descent at the start of 8-2 isn't too bad but the gauntlet of ceiling spikes and disappearing platforms just before the boss seems brutal - I don't know if there's actually some kind of pattern to the spikes but I think you're just supposed to book it and hope for the best! (The boss was pretty straightforward in comparison...)

 

Spoiler

QAZI'S CURRENT PROGRESS - PASSWORD

BLANK BLANK BLANK AXE
HOLY WATER HOLY WATER BLANK BLANK
BLANK HOLY WATER BLANK HOLY WATER
HEART HOLY WATER BLANK BLANK

 

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I distinctly remember the first time I played this game, a surprise 'grey' import back in the day.

 

It was a interesting afternoon, fumbling with the controls, working out what all the symbols meant, marvelling at the amazing music but not really deciding it whether it was a great game owing to how crushingly dull the early levels were. It was My First Castlevania.

 

Thankfully near the end of the session we'd managed to get quite a few levels in enough to be impressed with some of the Mode 7 theatrics and levels which finally started to feel fun, and over the course of the following weeks I wanted to get back to my mates house ASAP to see how much better the game got. I think I only managed a few more goes before it was traded for something else.

 

I did go back to it some time near the end of the decade / millennium to finally properly compete it.. and remember feeling hugely underwhelmed by it as a whole and saved mainly because of its atmosphere.

 

I've had no real urge to revisit it but maybe it deserves another shot seeing as it's been something like two decades since my last serious playthrough and in all likelihood have forgotten about its best bits. I thought I was completely done with Super Castlevania IV and yet here I am typing about it in here.

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This was my first proper Castlevania game that I played on my mates SNES, probably about 92/93. I can clearly picture my mates bedroom where we sat and played this on his huge (at the time) wooden CRT TV. I don't remember getting very far into the game as a kid, probably about stage 4 or 5. I definitely remember not realising that you had to hang onto the hook while the room rotated. I don't remember it being one of my favourite titles as a kid, but as time's gone by my fondness for it has grown. I nearly always play at least the first few stages every time I get the SNES out. More recently I completed it using an emulator with save states and to finally see those last stages and hear the music in context (the soundtrack cd was one of my earliest ebay purchases) was great. I can totally understand people's issues with the difficulty spikes and instant death situations, but if you can look past those (or cheat your way past them) I honestly think that the rest of the game is one of the best of its kind and the quality of the soundtrack cannot be underestimated. 

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15 hours ago, Rex Grossman said:

As an aside, did anyone make better third party games in the early days of the Super Famicom/SNES than Konami?

 

As well as the outstanding Super Castlevania IV there was Axelay, Contra, Parodius,  Turtles in Time, Cybernator, Contra Spirits, Goemon…

 

I'm not sure, but I get the feeling that you really like Contra. ;)

 

Anyway, Cybernator doesn't really count, as it was developed by Masaya and published by Konami. So if you're going by games published, you could make a good case for Enix, which published Actraiser, Soul Blazer, and Dragon Quest V during the SNES's first two years. (If you stretch the time period to mid-1993, you could even count Ogre Battle and Torneko no Daiboken as well.)

 

But, yeah, no one could match Konami during that golden era. You can add Buster Busts Loose to your list, and they published Cybernator and arguably the best version of Prince of Persia.

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7 hours ago, DeDeDe said:

I'm not sure, but I get the feeling that you really like Contra. ;)

 

I would struggle to deny this.

 

 

Quote

Anyway, Cybernator doesn't really count, as it was developed by Masaya and published by Konami. So if you're going by games published, you could make a good case for Enix, which published Actraiser, Soul Blazer, and Dragon Quest V during the SNES's first two years. (If you stretch the time period to mid-1993, you could even count Ogre Battle and Torneko no Daiboken as well.)

 

But, yeah, no one could match Konami during that golden era. You can add Buster Busts Loose to your list, and they published Cybernator and arguably the best version of Prince of Persia.

 

Fair point on Cybernator. I would indeed add Buster Busts Loose though. Loved that although not played it since the 90s.

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Just done World 9. It has some great (shiny!) visual design and a really catchy track - plus all of the ghosts moving in the background and the gold chests springing open are fun. There are a few hairy disappearing platform moments but nothing too bad, a falling block sequence which isn't too hard to figure out, some coffin enemies (which I didn't quite get and tried to sprint past) and a boss which isn't too bad once you know the gimmicks - avoid the bits that fly off it, and expect smaller foes after a certain amount of damage. The only really tricky bits are my inability to find wall chicken (I found one, I think, and it was only a small one) or a decent subweapon (see below.)

 

Oh, another note about the boss - if you only have your whip it's hard to avoid the bits that fly off it and cause damage, but I did find an axe in the world (near the start of the third section of 9-1, below the main path) and because I was hoarding my hearts I reduced a lot of unnecessary damage by staying at a distance and lobbing axes at the boss (kind of) safely!

 

Spoiler

QAZI'S CURRENT PROGRESS - PASSWORD

BLANK BLANK BLANK HEART
HOLY WATER HEART BLANK BLANK
BLANK HEART BLANK HEART
AXE HOLY WATER  BLANK BLANK

 

PS. that track :D 

 

 

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I’m finding level 4 every bit as frustrating as level 3.

 

instant deaths from falling or being knocked into pits, and platforming you have to get pixel perfect even with that crappy jump mechanic

 

im not enjoying it so far, even the rotation still in 4-2 and 4-3 is not redeeming it

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I'm cheating my way through with save states to see if there's something I've been missing all these years. I'd actually made it further than I thought on a real SNES before (at least up to the floating books) but I immediately recognised this stage 6 room as the point where I generally got to the point of 'I'm definitely not having fun here'.

 

 

Naturally it doesn't look like anything much when played by someone who knows the game inside out though. Maybe it's not even really difficult so much as irritating.

 

I still feel like it's a game that has a lot of cool technical stuff but from a gameplay and level design point of view Rondo of Blood is so far ahead of it as a 'Classicvania' that it's not funny.

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I didn’t mind that room as you can whip the floating things in the room to make them go away for a bit... but I agree it can be annoying at first. Worlds 7 and 8 (and 4) have caused more trouble for me!

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The password system is ruining this game.

 

if you have passwords, to get the longevity (and value) from a game, the levels have  to be difficult. Castlevania 4 gets it’s difficulty from unfair methods and grinding down your health with sub bosses.

 

im having to grit my teeth and somehow get through level 4. When I do, you never have to play it again. You only have to complete levels once.

 

a very odd design.

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@ulala I don’t get what you’re saying. We can argue about how difficult and unfair Super Castlevania IV is, but what's odd about the password system and the linear design of the game? Passwords are there simply to mark your progress, in lieu of battery save.

 

Are you saying that the game would be better without passwords? Or that SCIV would work better as a Metroidvania?

 

Edit: Ah. I think I get it now. Now that you point it out, you posit an interesting argument about game difficulty in 8-bit and 16-bit games. Arcade games needed to be difficult to get as much money as they could from players. With console games, developers had to make games hard in order to make people think they got their money’s worth. Password systems made things worse, as they freed developers from balancing the game as a whole, and encouraged them to think only in terms of stages.

 

It’s a compelling argument which merits a longer discussion, I think. However, I’m not sure the developers were conscious about it in this case. Arguably, the various Castlevania games developed previously had set a precedent, and I think everyone expected SCIV to have the same sort of difficulty level.

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I think if it didn’t have a password system you’d probably still have the “continue” option which lets you restart from the current level for as long as you’re willing to leave the SNES turned on. It's more convenient for old men with less spare time *ahem*

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World A complete. That had a lot of BS to it, and it was another one where I was messing up on only two or three sections... but then when I got to the boss it was more straightforward than any of the stuff I had done before in the world. :hmm:  Like certain stages in other Castlevanias, there are a bunch of cogs you have to jump on in this world and they move you back or forth as they turn, but it's easy to misjudge where it can be safe to land, so you often throw away lives just trying to get a jump right. Later on there are some Medusas that are more of a nuisance than anything, and there's also a very fiddly jump (see image below) where you're on a moving cog with some insta-death spikes above you (so you have to stay crouched, but there's a drop after the spikes end and before the next platform, so you've got to quickly get up and jump across without killing yourself on the spikes or the drop. After that there are some hooks on chains that you ride around (and a bastard of a skeleton that can punt you into a death drop whilst you're hanging), and then you're onto the next sequence...

 

T05ORfq.jpg

 

This starts off without too much trouble; you can attack the first medusas and knights safely, and bait the falling cogs before retreating to safety. However, you then get to one of the worst bits in this world - grappling a hook that's going up a chain, hanging onto it and having foes throw crap at you. (I say "foes" - I think it's just one axe-hurling knight - but even that's too much when you're completely defenceless.)  After progressing past some knights and medusas there's then another one of these "hanging on a moving hook" sequences, but luckily there are platforms you can temporarily jump off onto in order to safely take out the enemies before getting back on a hook. However, everything after that is straightforward and the boss is no major threat.

 

Eventually I was managing the rest of the world fairly well and only losing all of my lives either messing up the cog jump timing or misjudging my swing on the moving chain sequence. It's all do-able but it takes a lot of retries...

 

Spoiler

QAZI'S CURRENT PROGRESS - PASSWORD

BLANK BLANK BLANK AXE
HOLY WATER BLANK BLANK BLANK
BLANK BLANK BLANK HEART
HEART HEART  BLANK BLANK

 

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So, erm... I finished the game last Friday. It wasn't my intention to do so this quickly, but, spurred by @Qazimod’s progress, I started my own play-through about a week ago, and after three sessions, Dracula was dead, and Simon Belmont was looking across from the cliff as the castle crumbled. (You'd think Dracula would place his castle in a less conspicuous place...)

 

My impressions (spoilered for length):

 

 


To be fair, this is not my first time playing the game. Although I'd forgotten quite a bit (probably because I beat the game together with my brother; I certainly don't remember the triple boss encounter culminating with Death), a lot of it came back to me in due course, especially the frustrating latter stages. There are a number of Castlevania fans who complain that Super Castlevania IV's difficulty level is not as challenging as other games in the series. That is to say, there are hard and frustrating bits in IV, but the developers don't build too much on top, and there is always meat somewhere when you need it. I imagine this was done on purpose: Super Castlevania IV was developed not only as a reboot of the series of sorts, but also as a way to show players what Castlevania was capable of with the power of the SNES behind it.

I've seen the phrase "Castlevania tourism" mentioned/written in relation to this game previously, and I'd tend to agree, to some degree. Simon Belmont is too big and over-powered with the second chain whip upgrade (it covers basically the entire screen, vertically), which makes traversal through Transylvania and into the castle easier than you'd expect. Playing through through the game this time, I am reminded a lot of the movie Commando. That already has a very videogame-y plot, but in Super Castlevania IV it really feels like the rampage of a bad-ass, overpowered main character who romps through the villain's compound until nothing is left. When Richter Belmont mentions in SOTN that he gave in to the bloodlust he felt after defeating Dracula, Super IV makes a good case of how that can come to be.

Soundtrack aside, the game doesn't seem to have a lot of fans, but it's interesting to see how popular it has become among speed runners. The developers probably weren't thinking about speedrunning when they made the game, but it definitely feels like it was made with replayability in mind. There are a few alternate routes here and there, and with Simon's eight-way whip and the cross/shuriken, the game offers a lot of ways to proceed through the stages. YouTube has hundreds of playthroughs, but I found this one to be one of the more fun ones to watch:

 

 

 

Overall, for me this was a fun trip through memory lane. After listening to the soundtrack constantly through the years, I'd always meant to go back to it, and I'm glad to discover that it hasn't aged too much. The only thing that was disappointing to me were the graphics. Legend of the Mystical Ninja looks like a proper 16-bit game, but Super IV is a little too dull in many places.

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23 hours ago, DeDeDe said:

@ulala I don’t get what you’re saying. We can argue about how difficult and unfair Super Castlevania IV is, but what's odd about the password system and the linear design of the game? Passwords are there simply to mark your progress, in lieu of battery save.

 

Are you saying that the game would be better without passwords? Or that SCIV would work better as a Metroidvania?

 

Edit: Ah. I think I get it now. Now that you point it out, you posit an interesting argument about game difficulty in 8-bit and 16-bit games. Arcade games needed to be difficult to get as much money as they could from players. With console games, developers had to make games hard in order to make people think they got their money’s worth. Password systems made things worse, as they freed developers from balancing the game as a whole, and encouraged them to think only in terms of stages.

 

It’s a compelling argument which merits a longer discussion, I think. However, I’m not sure the developers were conscious about it in this case. Arguably, the various Castlevania games developed previously had set a precedent, and I think everyone expected SCIV to have the same sort of difficulty level.

 

I was going to reply, but found you have edited your response.

 

Yes, this is exactly the point i was trying to make. Choosing to include a password system effectively makes the game 10 individual mini-games, that are artificially hard as nails through instant deaths or energy zapping sub bosses.

 

This is not helped by having you start at the first level of the stage when you use a continue. If i quickly lose a life at the start of 4-1, i may as well reset and start again as i will need that life later on.

 

It would be a better game if there we no passwords but a slightly more forgiving difficulty curve.

 

 

 

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12 hours ago, DeDeDe said:

So, erm... I finished the game last Friday. It wasn't my intention to do so this quickly, but, spurred by @Qazimod’s progress, I started my own play-through about a week ago, and after three sessions, Dracula was dead, and Simon Belmont was looking across from the cliff as the castle crumbled. (You'd think Dracula would place his castle in a less conspicuous place...)

 

My impressions (spoilered for length):

 

  Reveal hidden contents


To be fair, this is not my first time playing the game. Although I'd forgotten quite a bit (probably because I beat the game together with my brother; I certainly don't remember the triple boss encounter culminating with Death), a lot of it came back to me in due course, especially the frustrating latter stages. There are a number of Castlevania fans who complain that Super Castlevania IV's difficulty level is not as challenging as other games in the series. That is to say, there are hard and frustrating bits in IV, but the developers don't build too much on top, and there is always meat somewhere when you need it. I imagine this was done on purpose: Super Castlevania IV was developed not only as a reboot of the series of sorts, but also as a way to show players what Castlevania was capable of with the power of the SNES behind it.

I've seen the phrase "Castlevania tourism" mentioned/written in relation to this game previously, and I'd tend to agree, to some degree. Simon Belmont is too big and over-powered with the second chain whip upgrade (it covers basically the entire screen, vertically), which makes traversal through Transylvania and into the castle easier than you'd expect. Playing through through the game this time, I am reminded a lot of the movie Commando. That already has a very videogame-y plot, but in Super Castlevania IV it really feels like the rampage of a bad-ass, overpowered main character who romps through the villain's compound until nothing is left. When Richter Belmont mentions in SOTN that he gave in to the bloodlust he felt after defeating Dracula, Super IV makes a good case of how that can come to be.

Soundtrack aside, the game doesn't seem to have a lot of fans, but it's interesting to see how popular it has become among speed runners. The developers probably weren't thinking about speedrunning when they made the game, but it definitely feels like it was made with replayability in mind. There are a few alternate routes here and there, and with Simon's eight-way whip and the cross/shuriken, the game offers a lot of ways to proceed through the stages. YouTube has hundreds of playthroughs, but I found this one to be one of the more fun ones to watch:

 

 

 

Overall, for me this was a fun trip through memory lane. After listening to the soundtrack constantly through the years, I'd always meant to go back to it, and I'm glad to discover that it hasn't aged too much. The only thing that was disappointing to me were the graphics. Legend of the Mystical Ninja looks like a proper 16-bit game, but Super IV is a little too dull in many places.

 

Nice! I still have to look at stage B later...

 

This isn't my first time playing but it is probably my first attempt at playing "honestly" and not using save states; only relying on in-game assistance such as passwords and the continue option. For a long while I've been a fan of the "newer" traditional games - this, Bloodlines and Drac X - but playing it this month has reminded me of how much cheap nonsense there is that can quickly kill the player. :D Even so, there are satisfying moments among the cheap and lazy bits...

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Dug out my PAL copy of this and oh my, it was grim. Cleaned it up and it's slightly better looking now.

 

IMG_2207.thumb.JPG.d28485541e54c9a264c8cb7c3c08897b.JPG

 

Playing this on an SFC so I think I'm safe from PAL issues. Last played many years ago and never 'seriously'. 

 

Today I played through to level 3 and it hasn't been as hard as I was expecting and actually has been lots of fun. Looking forward to jumping back in later, but I said that about RE0.

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I remember getting this back when it launched and being pretty underwhelmed. I liked the music iirc but probably didn’t make it off the first proper level before going back to Super Tennis. 

 

Always wanted to revisit, and have gone back as part of this month’s RGC. I’m probs in a similar place as @Camel and i’m enjoying it a lot. The music on L2 was great!

 

i do (and did at the time) find the “hold the whip button down to waggle” mechanic utterly ridiculous like.  

 

Deffo using save states on the CV Collection on Switch to ease progress. 

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Had another crack at L3 last night, but dying by falling off the bottom of the screen on the vertically scrolling stages is just doing my head in. Not sure why I'm struggling with it so much - if it was a push-scroller, I'd accept it completely, but when the scrolling is player driven it just seems perverse.

 

It's also frustrating because other than dying by falling, I've not lost a life in all the time I've put into this - the enemies are no great shakes, and I quite enjoy the sense of serene progress I get from plodding my meatlump through the game, whipping all and sundry. If the game were universally bollock hard, like Ghouls & Ghosts, then I'd be more willing to accept the cheap fall deaths.

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14 hours ago, Rsdio said:

Speaking of stairs, the absolute best thing about this game is moonwalking up them.


does it make up for not being able to jump on them?

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Made it to B-3 so far and noted the password for that, because I'm not doing B-1 and B-2 again! B-1 starts off quite normally, with some stairs, foes, disappearing platforms and the classic "jump-whip the candles in front of you as the bridge disintegrates behind you" moment... Then you have B-2, where you have to ascend a series of platforms and bridges whilst a sawblade below slowly rises and threatens to kill you in one hit if it touches you. :(  It's here that the slightly rigid controls of Super IV can bite you in the arse again. Even once you've made it past this initial bit, you then have to jump between rising platforms and hope none of them rise towards ceiling spikes - some classic trial and error nonsense. Eventually I was just repeating general character positions in my head so that I knew where the safe bits were when doing the rising platforms bit (it was something like "middle, middle, stairs, left, stairs, far left") Oh, and if your character's feet decide they aren't connected to one of the floating staircases at the start of this area you can sometimes fall to a platform below with no way of getting back up, so you may as well throw yourself to your death. Nice.

 

B-3 is the endgame boss-rush - one thing I do remember from my ancient save-state playthroughs! I doubt I'll get anywhere with it, but to be honest I'm amazed I made it through all of the other stuff!

 

EDIT: I've done B-3 as well! The first boss is a bit of a DPS race - kill it before it kills you - but if you can whip away its projectiles it helps a lot, and it's worth taking advantage of the platforms on either side. Also, I think in the first phase if you stay close to it's back wing there's a lot less it can do to you. In its second form I stayed to the side and it got locked into a pattern on moving into the middle, firing, moving back to the top corner, moving back to the middle... so I could just whip it as it moved back and forth!

 

After this it's the Grim Reaper, but he's not too bad - a few of the projectiles can get you but you can destroy them with your whip... and when he does the thing where he sucks you toward him and throws out whirling scythes(?), you can just about jump over these whilst fighting the gravitational pull or whatever. Also if you're feeling ballsy you can turn and whip him whilst you're doing this gravity-pull-scythe moment! Once all this is done it's B4 and Dracula...

 

Spoiler

QAZI'S CURRENT PROGRESS - PASSWORD

BLANK BLANK BLANK HOLY WATER
HOLY WATER HOLY WATER BLANK BLANK
BLANK HOLY WATER BLANK BLANK 
BLANK HEART AXE BLANK

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Spoiler

9Is1vdl.jpg

 

Game complete. I ended up using the "secret" boss fountain at the end but I'm not sure how a mere mortal can get through that without it! That said, a lot of the attacks are easily avoided - jump and down-whip the fireballs, attack the bullet that whirls around for a pork chop, evade the fire and whip it when it comes down to your level, and then - at the end of the battle - you "just" have to avoid being under the lightning when it strikes.

 

I've been able to complete this game before but I think I used save states in the past (we never owned a SNES when I was younger so emulation was my first experience) - this could be my first time completing it only with the passwords and secrets that the game gives you, so I'm pretty happy with that. For ages it used to be my favourite in the series, but then after I found about about things like Bloodlines and Dracula X I wasn't so sure! There are a lot of satisfying moments but there's also a lot of old fashioned clunkiness to get around. It's definitely a game from the era when videogames were designed for kids with nothing else to do, because you really need to set aside some time to work out some of the more sadistic sequences in the game!

 

Anyway, that was fun - thanks to those who nominated it. :D 

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