Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

Review Date: April 23, 2021

Release Date: September 1, 1990

Platform: NES

Publisher: Konami

Genre: Linear Platformer

Anecdotes: After the masterpiece that was Simon’s Quest, Konami had a dilemma. For III, do they make it more like I or II, or do something completely different? It turns out the answer, in 1990, was to go back to stage based platforming like the first game. Eventually, though, games like II ruled the series.

Description: Castlevania III takes place a century before Simon had his fights with Dracula. Dracula has always had issues with the Belmonts, but long before Simon came along, there was his ancestor Trevor. Regardless of which path he chooses, Trevor must fight his way through 9 or 10 stages of enemies to get a shot at the big boss himself, Dracula. Along the way, he can meet up with helpers to assist him on his quest. There’s Grant, who is excellent for reaching areas others can’t by gripping ceilings and wall, but is terrible in combat; Alucard, Dracula’s son who can turn into a bat; and Sypha, a mage that can use fire, ice, and lightning spells.

Castlevania III has a few secrets as well. This name allows players to start the game with Sypha as a helper. I didn’t use it, though, because the 10 lives “Help Me” name was more valuable.


-The variety of levels is quite nice, especially on the Alucard side. In order, it goes: destroyed village, clock tower, forest, swamp, creepy cavern, catacombs, mines, castle halls, a weird recap type area, and Dracula’s lair. Each level has its own atmosphere and feel. Konami did a nice job with that.

-Part of that feel is the music. Konami even inserted an in-game “sound test.” Players can listen to any song in the game, but for me, the real highlights are all in the middle stages: “Anxiety” (Ship of Fools/Abandoned Mines), “Rising” (Red Tower), “Demon Seed” (Catacombs), and “Dead Beat” (Murky Marsh of Morbid Morons). I would purchase the soundtrack for just those and listen to it in my car. “Nightmare” isn’t a tune I would play on its own, but it’s perfect for Alucard’s lair.

-Adding in the assistants was a brilliant idea. Grant can reach places the others can’t. He can also walk on walls and ceilings. Alucard can turn into a bat. The ability is nice, but isn’t required at all. It just makes for a nice time saver. Sypha, though, is the star of the lineup. She can cast fire and ice spells, and that fire will come in handy against Dracula, but she also gets lightning orbs, or what I call the Obliterator, which can destroyed nearly anything in it’s path. I was sold on the Obliterators when they ripped apart the boss dragons of stage 6A.

There were dragons here, but the Obliterators took care of them in seconds.


-Konami kept the horizontal areas just like they were in the previous games, but they added vertical segments that are just painful to play. First off, vertical segments involve lots and lots of stairs. Due to the control scheme, though, subweapons can only be fired while facing up the stairs, so they can only be fired in one direction. Enemies can sneak up from behind. Second, most of these areas have either ratchet or automatic scrolling. The ratchet scrolling not only causes cheap deaths, usually due to knockback, but it also prevents any backtracking if there was a candle missed with something good in it. The autoscrolling generally causes Trevor to go to the top of the screen, where knights, skeletons, and Axe Men tend to spawn once the screen catches up. For downward sections, the game loves to make sure that there is no solid floor at the bottom so Trevor will jump into a hole. The clock tower threw a row of spikes in, too.

-As bad as the vertical sections are, none of them are worse than Block 7-5. The first part isn’t hard, just tedious. One mistake and the knockback could send Trevor off the cliff on the left. The ratchet scrolling could make the right a problem, too, is the screen is pushed too high. After this happens a few times, players will just think, “Ok, I’ll just turn Alucard into a bat and fly up to the ledge.” It can be done, but players won’t have enough hearts to start from the bottom if a life was just lost, plus Alucard still has to dodge falling blocks. Then Konami decided to change up the pattern halfway up, so that has to be watched for. Eventually, I got up the shaft to climb the stairs. However, I got worked over horribly by the spiders up there and didn’t make it to the next door. I would have had to do the block puzzle all over again, but instead I reset and started over so that I could do the “alternate” levels. The only things I didn’t do were the Sunken City, 7-6, and 7-7.

Here’s the most hated part of this game: the 7-5 falling block challenge.

-I know split paths were a big selling point of the game. The idea sounds great on paper, but the execution not so much. There are only three points in the game where the forks appear, and two of them only have a minor effect on the game. The first one is really only deciding whether to do the clock tower or skip it. The third one only appears on Alucard’s path and only affects which stage 6 Trevor visits. Only the second one makes any significant difference, as it determines whether Trevor encounters Sypha or Alucard, plus it will affect which stages 4 through 7 will be played. This makes it impossible to play all stages in a single playthrough.

-Another reason I feel this game was a step back from Simon’s Quest was that things were removed in order to go back to stage based platforming. The shops are gone, so there’s no way to do optional upgrades. Defensive items, such as the rib shield and laurels, don’t exist at all. They also didn’t do the day/night cycle, but I imagine there was no space left in the game to do anything like that.


While 1-1 looks like a complete mess, the church in 1-2 looks really good.
Warakiya has had better days. By the way, Fleamen are in block 1. At least the first game waited until the third block.
I think I’m getting the swing of this.
Let’s switch gears for a moment. Upon completion of block 2-3, the game will grant players a helper.
Said helper, Grant, can walk on ceilings and climb walls. He can reach a 1up hidden in the wall above.
I must say I’m impressed. There is an actual thunderstorm going on.
THIS is the one and only major decision of the game. Up leads to Sypha, down leads to Alucard. It also determines which blocks 4 through 7 are played.
As I whip a frog, I think about how this swamp has the best name: the Murky Marsh of Morbid Morons.
Block 4 ends with an annoying Mitosis Boss, but it’s not really much of a threat.
Yes, Alucard wants to lead the charge against his own father.
I serious chose this route over Sunken City just to hear the music.
Please, Mr. or Ms. Spider, please don’t make me repeat that block challenge!
I did most of Alucard’s path, but now it’s time for Sypha to get involved.
Her first boss is Medusa, who had her breasts removed due to Nintendo’s absurd (at the time) censorship rules.
This is what happens in autoscrolling vertical areas. Sypha got partially offscreen.
It’s our old buddy Frankenstein! It’s too bad for him I now have the Obliterators.
The Obliterators clear the screen.
Here I experience the fun of seesaw jumps.
Konami paid homage to the first level of the series, but that Nintendo censored statue wasn’t part of it.
Death is back for the third game. Sypha, though, ripped him apart with the Lightning Orbs.
The Doppelganger goes down just like the others.
Block A-1 is a good place to stake out Dracula.
Dracula’s first form is a joke with Sypha’s fire spell.
The final boss is tough. I did find it interesting the Konami reused the sound of Mikey’s yoyo from Goonies II when the boss is hit.
I’m so proud of myself! I beat CV3 for the first time! I have plenty of room for improvement, though.
Aww, Sypha. I’m sure I’ll learn more about her in future games.

Final Opinion: Castlevania III is a good game, but I feel it’s a step back from Simon’s Quest. The exploration, shops, defensive items, and day/night cycles were all removed. The vertical areas are pure torture. However, the increase in playable characters is, by far, the best thing the game did.

Grade: B

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