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I've reached the core of Dracula's enormous castle in Super Castlevania IV, and its time to finish this game off. If you missed any of the previous entries you can find them in the table of contents. This part only consists of levels A and B, which are the two final levels in the game. That doesn't mean that my session was any shorter though, as I dealt with obstacles and true challenges.
Level A starts off with one of the coolest Castlevania tunes around, but right as I got pumped up from the soundtrack I got shot down by what was ahead of me. I hate clock tower sequences in Castlevania games. If you're unfamiliar with what a clock tower sequence is like in a Castlevania game just imagine spinning cogs of death accompanied by Medusa Heads floating everywhere. And dying. A lot of dying. Now, I didn't die as much from the actual cogs as I thought I would, but I still died plenty. The main thing that got me on this level was a certain platforming segment near the end of the level. There is a rotating rectangular chain that brings you up and you have to swing and dodge enemies that are on your left and right side. I failed so many times that I thought my eyes were going to melt. Again, I just had to rely on rote memorization and I eventually overcame the task at hand. The boss fight was on the hands of a giant clock against a mummy that threw bandages at me. Is that really an effective strategy? Why would Dracula hire you to be the guardian of the clock tower when all you do is throw fluttering ribbons of cloth? The battle was an easy victory, and I don't think I took that much damage.
Again, the music really blossomed in the final stages of this game. The songs are remakes of previous Castlevania compositions, which is common to see in Castlevania games. These sound so much better for some reason, and they actually affected how I felt. Level B does a fantastic job of building up to the battle with the pale dark lord. The level began with swordsmen skeleton that are better off avoided then fought. And then everything blended together so well, and created a sense of epic build up as I crossed the collapsing bridge into Dracula's castle. I don't typically like the usage of the word epic, but it is truly the only word to describe the mixture of music and imagery.
After this nonviolent walk across the bridge I was thrown into a cesspool of death. I had to walk up collapsing stair cases while a giant spinning blade was quickly making it's way upward. The added pressure of being timed and the challenge of mastering the stairs really got to me, and I failed the segment quite a bit. It was a little discouraging because I was in the Castlevania zone, stomping every threat with relative ease. Then my moment was suddenly squashed by just a few stairs and a spinning blade.
Traversing the floating platforms that followed wasn't necessarily a cake walk, but I got past it after a few trials. The name of the game is trial and error. Now, I've proclaimed my love for boss battles a lot in the past, and this level is the perfect send off for the game. After the platforms accelerated me to the top, I was greeted by boss battle after boss battle. It's something that I think is really missing in today's games, last bosses are usually very simple and anticlimactic, if there even is one.
The first boss I faced was a Pterodactyl-like bird-thing... with a staff. I instantly recognized this enemy from the first boss battle in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. This encounter killed me a few times, and it had me stumped for a little while. I had my own strategy developed and refined after facing the bird man a couple times. After the bird combusted in defeat, I fought his counter part. The gargoyle-like bird-dragon-thing. This fight was surprisingly easier, as I thought there would be a steady rise in difficulty. I just whipped diagonally and dodged his flaming swoops.
Now I fought another Castlevania staple, Death himself. The big bad grim reaper. This has got to be the coolest recurring boss in any video game series, it doesn't get much more bad ass then Death. It also doesn't get much more difficult. This boss just womped me. Womped isn't even a real word, but it's the exact verb that he was doing. When I wasn't admiring how awesome I thought his sprite looked, I was dying. I developed a strategy of using my whip as a shield and waiting for him to fly above the corner I was camping in. Keep in mind that I never used Gamefaqs or any walkthroughs during this play through, just like the good ol' days. After a little patience and a lot of time, it was finally time to fight Dracula.
The lead up to the final confrontation with Dracula is one of the most iconic in gaming. I've walked up the staircase and traveled down Dracula's hallways a hundred times in previous Castlevanias, but it still gets me every time I see it. Dracula is the perfect example of how you should end a game. He wasn't absurdly difficult, but he made me die enough times to be considered a challenge. He takes a lot of hits, and is generous to throw a chicken leg your way before he transforms to kick your ass. The transformation is much different from other Castlevania titles, where he usually turns into a giant satanic beast. In Super Castlevania IV, it has sort of a Phantom of the Opera feel to it. His true face is revealed to be a hideous monster, not the charming ladies man look he had going on earlier. After beating Dracula, the window cracked and light flooded in as Dracula separated into a cluster of bats.
My final impressions of this game are mixed. Not a mix of bad and good, a mix of regret for not experiencing this before playing the Metroidvania entries and appreciation for the evolution of the series. There are some things that I don't miss from this game, some semi-awkward controls, some overly-difficult platforming obstructions, but that's what makes Super Castlevania IV so super. It's an experience that can't be duplicated, and its legacy has rippled through every Castlevania title since. The bosses, the music, the detailed graphics all combined into an experience that I won't be able to forget.
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