Worst Stages in Castlevania History by The Successor
e're about to take a tour of the worst stages/areas in Castlevania history. Some of you may be thinking, "What gives you the right, Successor, to declare what the most awful stages in this series' rather long heritage are."
To that I answer - my web mastering prowess.
But enough talk. Have at you!
Abandoned Mine - Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
This stage blows.
It sucks so badly, I've oftentimes shut the game off entirely because of it.
What is with those falling blocks!? That is probably the most asinine feature I've ever seen in a Castlevania game, and I thank The Lord it was never used again.
The plummeting blocks cause us to sit around, usually doing nothing other than either getting pounded on the head, or moving every now and then, keeping up a rather monotonous pattern of dodging one or two blocks as they build a tower for us to scale. Mercifully, we can use Alucard to fly past some of them if he's with us.
If it wasn't bad enough that this block nonsense was used at all, it's used way too much, for way too long.
If you're traveling without his company, this is a pure, living nightmare. This segment nearly destroys the game's pacing, hence why I feel the urge to turn it off.
This is even worse if - heaven forbid - you die, which isn't terribly hard to do around this place. Believe me; this is not something you're going to want to go through one, two, or three times in a row, especially since it lasts practically forever.
This stage is too long for its own good. Having to sit through what seems like an eternity of falling bricks, a pointless mini-boss, and frustrating level structure really wares a person down.
Mini-Boss. The Bat.
Why did they even put that thing there? Not only had we already battled it in an earlier stage, it wasn't like it was so cool that it needed to be seen again. No new tricks, no new anything - just a rematch with that Bat from the… 'Murky Marsh of Morbid Morons'… for some reason that escapes me, other than to deceitfully bloat the game with perceived length and challenge.
The music worsens matters.
"Anxiety" is boring, annoying, and redundant, and when the stage is this long, you really start noticing how bad it truly is. If there is any saving grace, I will say that it fits the attributes of this level perfectly.
The Abandoned Mine is a failure all the way around.
The boss fight consists of 2 guardians that can be confronted in other stages; depending on what path you take through the game, and then the Leviathan Gargoyle at the end.
It's sort of a way of the dev team saying, "We're kind of lazy, but we want to make this tough, so throw bosses they've already faced, or could have faced, at them, but have the player fight them one after the other."
The option to choose your own path is a godsend for the simple reason that it allows us to avoid this crappy mine.
The Underground Mines - Castlevania: Dracula X
Another stinker. And lo, it happens to be a mine.
When I think about it, I have yet to encounter a cool mine within Castlevania. If the teams forsook that motif altogether, I don't think I'd mind.
The track "Cemetery" from Rondo of Blood is pretty good. It isn't necessarily a highpoint of the OST, but I can listen to it just fine, with or without playing the game. A lot of people say that the SNES interpretation of the Rondo soundtrack is amazing.
I don't entirely agree.
It isn't bad, but is far from stellar, and usually not worth special note. "Cemetery" really loses something in its translation to the SNES. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what, but the instrumentation falls short.
Dracula X is frequently (and justly) lambasted for having the player cart around a key that does nothing useful except open doors that lead to the game's good ending. If you die while carrying said key, you're screwed. It will eternally leave you. There are no second tries unless you feel like resetting and entering a code to where you left off, or starting the game over from scratch.
This area is intent on being particularly rough, so you'd better hope you don't die if you're holding the key!
If you're attempting the good ending, one of the stages you have to traverse with this key is the Mine. If this wasn't bad enough, the little trinket takes the place of your sub-weapon, leaving you with the whip as your only effective means of defense.
Remember how I said the falling bricks were probably the most asinine feature in Castlevania? This is a very close second, and enough reason (but not the only reason) for this stage to appear on this godforsaken list.
It must be noted that the Mine can be especially merciless at parts, so if you die while carrying this key, well... I hope you have enough patience to whip out the piece of paper with the proper code, or start the game all over again.
Underground Waterway - Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
One of Circle's primary drawbacks is that aesthetically, it is incredibly under whelming when put against its KCET cousins, like Symphony of the Night, Harmony of Dissonance, or Aria of Sorrow.
The Underground Waterway is probably the most passionless area in the game, and when partnered with an uninspired version of "Nightmare" that plays as the BGM, one must wonder what the development team was thinking when they put it all together.
It seems as though they were focused solely on providing traumatic difficulty, and were indifferent about offering any interesting semblance to the area. The prevailing problem of this sewer is the stupid puzzles that are interspersed throughout.
There are switches that cause pieces of the floor to move and form either a bridge or a staircase. The player must hit them in the correct order so that progress can be made toward the boss.
Every time a switch is hit, the game freezes while the floor is assuming its position. It will take about 7 or so seconds before the player can move again. I can't even really explain how annoying this is, taking into light how many times you will be hitting switches, especially if you're not sure of the proper combination.
If it did not take so long for these contraptions to settle, things would not have been as bad.
It's not fun to figure out, and it's not clever. Furthermore, this segment comes right after an area where we're pushing blocks around like idiots to solve idiotic puzzles. If one seeks to discover an innovative video game brainteaser that raises eyebrows, crate pushing and flip switching are certainly not the ways to go.
The enemies make things even worse.
Most of them can literally kill your character in 2 or 3 hits.
It's ridiculous. Not only do we have to flip stupid switches to solve a dumb puzzle in a dull area, we have to contend with powerhouse, cheap enemies while doing so. Granted, if you have the Neptune and Venus DSS Cards in your tote bag, and make use of them, things will go much easier with the enemies. But if you don't, expect to do a lot of dying.
It's pure, short sighted game design, because the DSS cards are far too difficult and tedious to acquire, so most players will not have the needed combination to withstand the onslaught of these foes. And even if they do, they may not even know what the arrangement does, because of the "????????????" description in the inventory menu.
There is no middle ground -- either you're well prepared to deal with them, or you're staggeringly disadvantaged. If this were Circle of the Moon: Master Quest, I'd have no problem with the enemies, but the fact is, it's not.
Infinite Corridor - Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
I have a problem with IGA's games of late. The team seems hell bent on implementing some really peculiar, other dimensional areas near games' finales, and they usually turn out terrible. This is the worst example.
Out of the entirety of the Castlevania series, Curse of Darkness boasts the worst level design. The game is comprised of identical boxes and corridors pasted together, with enemies roaming throughout, and different wallpaper for each area.
How does one area in this game turn out worse than another?
Let's consider the redeeming quality of some of Curse's locales to answer.
To begin with, the music -- an area like Garibaldi Temple is blessed with two brilliant themes that contribute a good deal of pleasure while traversing its grounds.
It's a long and winding road of utter boredom.
The Infinite Corridor BGM is dismal, repetitious, and after a short while, becomes bothersome. However, what it is not is incompetent. I fully recognize what Yamane was going for, and, like "Anxiety" from Castlevania III; it fits the respective area.
On the other hand, this does not make it enjoyable. A satisfying theme or two really would have eased the pain of trudging through this dreadful place.
Another positive factor of the good… or, at least better areas in Curse are the visuals, and feelings evoked thereof.
Going back to Garibaldi Temple, the area is beautiful. I love the will-o-wisps that waft up from the grass in the outer areas, and how you can see them through the windows of the higher inner chambers. The large rooms with the dilapidated pipe organs, the highly elaborate patterns on the floor, the dried blood…
Though these things do not improve the rudimentary structural design, they, along with the music, make the area very breathtaking. Admittedly, the Temple could have (and should have) been much more, but it is still quite impressive in its own right.
What does the Infinite Corridor have? Boring enemies occupying an elongated, suspended pathway that goes on far too long, and some oddly colored crystals and passageways. Again, I understand what the dev team was reaching for. They wanted it to be weird. They wanted it not to make sense. In those respects, they prevailed. Did they prevail in the simple, more important sense of having a genuinely agreeable area?
By no means.
Forest of Silence - Castlevania 64
This is the slowest, most monotonous beginning to a Castlevania game. The Forest of Silence would be the epitome of dull, were it not for the presence of a Giant Skeleton that appears unexpectedly and challenges the hero to a duel.
I really like the Skeleton. At one point, it seemingly commits suicide by leaping off the edge of a high cliff. That… was surprising. There're also motorcycle skeletons. Whether you think them good or bad, they're a surprise, too.
When I mention a giant, leap-of-faith taking Skeleton, and hog-riding bones, this woodland would usually sound anything but dull. Regrettably, the majority of our time here is spent plodding through boring countryside, flipping switches, and whipping (or blasting) the enemies that frequently pop up to aggravate us.
I can't believe how many times the game has us doing this.
If this is meant to be training exercise to acquaint us with the controls, it shouldn't last near as long as it does. One switch is good enough, as is one or two chasms, and one cliff to climb up and down.
Since this area insists on being lengthy, it would have benefited by throwing new concepts and obstacles at the player, instead of the same enemies and hurdles over and again. This can easily cause a person (me) to lose interest.
They weren't kidding when they named it "Forest of Silence." There is no music. The quiet does not add anything to the presentation, but rather makes it seem as though something is missing.
Aqueduct of Dragons - Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
This channel reeks of laziness and infertile creativity. Aside from Circle of the Moon's Eternal Corridor, it comes as close as any of the 2-D games have to something on par with Curse of Darkness. Identical vertical and horizontal shafts with backgrounds that repeat like crazy abound, chalk full of predictable, cyclical enemies.
Run forward, hit Fishmen or Mermen, collect a power up here or there, and fight an uncreative boss. There is no engaging platforming or even mildly interesting level design or enemy placement.
Some good stuff spekkles the aqueduct, like the Boomerang Armor and Goddess statue, but these things are not enough to make up for the general laziness of everything else.
This is the most bearable of the stages on this list, though, because it doesn't last longer than it should. You're in and out before the incredible tedium of something like Infinite Corridor sets in. The Aqueduct is a transitional area that connects the Cavern, Clocktower, and Sky Walkway. Nevertheless, that doesn't excuse it for being utterly straightforward and repetitive.
It boggles my mind how lazy they got with the area. It's really disappointing when you come across something that has the potential to go much further, but is held back because the team just didn't feel like giving it everything they had.
It's a real shame. The aqueduct could have been much more had the team gotten creative with the level design, enemies, and boss fight.
Top Floor - Castlevania Legends
Legends is not as bad as many make it out to be, but the game has issues. The stages are just too long for what they are.
I know, I know - I've sung that number quite a few times now, but it's true. Many times it's the length that stinks a potentially decent stage. Bigger does not always equal better. I'm guessing they thought it did when they made Curse of Darkness.
Legends goes by the same mantra, and both games follow it to a fault. With the type of adventure that Legends is it really shouldn't last too long. The stages, foes, and… well, everything are very humble in appearance, the enemy selection rather limited, and the sort of music that plays, though not bad, isn't really meant to be listened to for a prolonged period of time.
The Top Floor suffers from a mundane cast of enemies, including too many Sword Lords that launch random attacks and take a while to defeat. The background music sounds like it'd be better suited to a Dr. Wily Fortress. The exhilarating song is out of place when almost everything else is moving quite slowly.
Sword Lord needs to take a break. He's making too many appearances in this stage.
Attempts at adding class to the Top Floor in the manner of chandeliers, large windows, and a throne come off as laughable due to the horrible graphics.
I understand the limitations of the Gameboy, but it is possible to produce satisfying imagery with it, as seen by Megaman V and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Legends is pathetic in this regard.
The stages in this game sort of mesh together. It can be difficult to tell one from another, but this one is chosen because the others are more focused on themes, such as the swamp (forest, whatever) that leads into a graveyard in stage 1, and the Clock Tower in 3. This place is very non descript. I wouldn't be able to tell what it was if not for the throne in the boss room.
Which brings us to the boss fight - the battle with Alucard. My lord, if you think the dialogue in Symphony of the Night or Harmony of Dissonance can be hokey you haven't seen anything yet. Perhaps it would have been more convincing had the rest of the presentation been... more convincing.
There is one good thing about this stage. The music that plays during the boss fight is actually very impressive if you sit back and really listen to it.
Chaotic Realm - Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Like Infinite Corridor, this is a hidden realm that does not exist on the Earthly plane. The similarities between the two areas are striking. They are both trite, meant to not make sense, and have inane theme songs.
At least the Chaotic Realm allowed the team to show off an effect that may have been cool in a more appropiate game.
Chaotic Realm is purported to seem suspended in time, but the enemies are still dangerously active. It contains rooms from all of the Castle's diverse areas, jointed in a way that defies logic. At heart, it's a mountainous rehash of other places roamed by high-level monsters.
Your assailants are most often creatures you will have seen in other vicinities of the castle, with a few refreshing new faces. The newcomers are fairly powerful, and drop nifty souls and weapons, making them worthwhile additions.
There isn't more I can touch on that isn't addressed in the Infinite Corridor entry. Both areas play the same role as each other, and they're appalling, tired, and stupid.
Dark Academy - Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
A hitch that IGA and company has is creating certain trends in their games and overusing them to the point of abuse. I touched on one already, which is the chaotic dimension that appears near the end of a game. As if the Castle weren't uncanny enough, they keep trying to weird us out with some sort of twilight zone.
After 3 or so times, are we still supposed to be surprised by this? Are they trying to make it a mainstay of the series? I certainly hope not.
Another development is the parallel castle or parallel stages. I think Harmony of Dissonance executed this the best. What Symphony introduced laid good groundwork, but the lack of direction, music, and story progression hurt the Inverted Castle's flow.
Harmony should have been the final time this was even vaguely implemented; otherwise it becomes redundant, an exhausted idea, and expected, which can reflect badly on the instances when it is actually used well. Lamentably, Portrait of Ruin goes back to this formula with 4 paintings that are in fact rehashes of other stages.
It comes down to laziness and, once again, that philosophy that bigger equals better. Had Portrait of Ruin not had those 4 last paintings, the adventure would have been more acceptable, if shorter. The level design throughout the whole game was bad, but this adds insult to injury.
4 boring rehashed stages, all just for the sake of filling up space to increase game time. Apparently the viewpoint for the Castlevania development team is "If you have space to fill, when in doubt, rehash!"
I don't support this because it's a lazy shortcut. It's insulting. I paid 30-something dollars for this game and these professionals turn around and hand me apathy - lots of it..
Why the parallel system works with Harmony is because it has context. It fits the game. Heck, the dual Castle was partially what the game was about. It's the same story with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and its Dark World.
What Portrait of Ruin does is lead us to comfortably believe that we're quite near the game's finale, and then it lays 4 more areas on us. But the catch is that they are really shabbily designed, and, in a sense, we've already seen them before. So, here we are, satisfied with nearly beating the game (or so we think) and then come 4 bad, rather long stages standing in our way.
I could have stopped playing the game then and there. And you know what? I should have. It would have been better than sitting through an hour and a half or 2 hours of poorly designed, boring repeat stages.
Dracula's Castle - Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
Fittingly, I've saved the worst for last.
After pondering this list, it's come to my mind that a lot of these stages fail for the same reasons.
Curse of Darkness attempted to outdo Lament of Innocence. One of the ways it did this was by making the stages longer than the ones in Lament, and having more of them. In a nutshell, the problem was that the stages were extremely repetitive. In essence, it was too much of a bad thing.
There are two types of rooms in Curse of Darkness. The ones where you can just run past the rather dimwitted enemies, and the others where the doors lock, forcing you to defeat all enemies to continue.
Both are bad.
You know the drill with this - it's pretty much the same as Infinite Corridor. The main difference with Dracula's Castle is that it is huge. Going through it the first time, you may very well spend about 45 minutes in this one area. It's amazingly tiring. The least that could have been done was giving it an additional music track after a while - that can surprisingly help a great deal.
That is always what Curse comes down to. The core designs of the levels are so bad that we must lean on whatever other bobbles they include to try and cover up the wretched level design in any hope of salvaging any possible entertainment.
It feels kind of dishonest. It's like sweeping a bunch of dirt under a rug instead of vacuuming it up. It's like putting on deodorant without ever washing under your arms with actual soap.
Yeah. I think this is the worst area in the Castlevania series.
Well, there you have it – The Worst Stages in Castlevania history as told by The Successor. I know there's been a lot of complaining here, and there may have been a few instances where you may have thought, "What in the world is he talking about?"
I would like to say that I love Castlevania; it's my favorite video game series. It's also not perfect, and I thought it'd be interesting to harp on some of its low moments. Low moments are bound to happen after such a long time, but despite that, here we are, still faithful to the series, and still loyally pressing the Resurrect Dracula Button!