Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (悪魔城伝説 Akumajō Densetsu?, lit. "Legend of the Evil Demon Castle [or Legend of the Devil Castle]") is the sixth installment in the Castlevania series and third to be released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was published by Konami in Japan in 1989, and in North America in 1990. In Europe, it was published by Palcom Software in 1992.
According to the game's instruction booklet, Dracula's Curse takes place in 1476, 215 years before the events in Castlevania and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Many characters and elements introduced for the first time in Castlevania III would become mainstays in the series.
The year is 1476 and Count Dracula has begun ravaging Europe with an army of monsters. His sole purpose is to exterminate mankind.
The Belmont Clan of vampire hunters, once exiled from Wallachia, is beseeched by the Church for help, as their own armies have met with defeat. The people feared the Belmonts' "super-human" power and drove them out of the land, but with Dracula about to swallow Europe in darkness, they are left with no choice but to call Trevor Belmont, the current wielder of the Vampire Killer.
Trevor and his companions cross the Transylvanian countryside, defeat Dracula's minions and eventually defeat the Count himself. Once his father is defeated, Alucard goes into a self-induced slumber, unable to cope with having fought his father. Grant Danasty oversees the reconstruction of Wallachia after the battle is finished. Trevor Belmont and Sypha Belnades marry once peace is restored in the region.
|Trevor C. Belmont|
(Ralph C. Belmondo)
|The last member of the legendary Belmont family and genuine Vampire Hunter. His Clan had been driven out of the land centuries ago, because the people feared their strong supernatural powers. ()|
|Sypha is a priestess who disguised herself as an apprentice monk and uses the power of the elements. She had been dispatched on a secret mission to infiltrate Dracula's demon castle, but failed when she got captured by a Cyclops and turned to stone. ()|
|Grant Danasty||A carefree rebel and thief from the town of Wallachia. He had been plotting to overthrow Count Dracula, but he and his comrades were no match for his army. ()|
(Adrian Fahrenheitz Tepes)
|The son of Count Dracula. He changed his name to Alucard as a sign that he opposed his father's way of life, and infiltrated the underground of Wallachia when Dracula dispatched his armies. ()|
|Dracula||The Lord of the Vampires who became a Devil worshipper after the death of his second wife. ()|
Dracula's Curse abandons the adventure game elements of its immediate predecessor and returns to the stage based action platform style of the first game. Unlike Castlevania, however, Dracula's Curse is not strictly linear. After completing the first level and at several other points throughout the game, the player is given a choice of paths to follow. The choices made by the player in these circumstances can have a profound impact on how the game unfolds. There are fifteen levels in total.
Another key feature is the option to choose other playable characters to use along with Trevor Belmont, who plays exactly as Simon Belmont does in the first game. These additional characters are found in stages after certain boss battles and have distinctive abilities that lend in, giving Dracula's Curse much more variety over the original game. With Grant, players can move quicker than Trevor, climb walls and change directions in mid-jump; Alucard has the ability to turn into a bat and fly at the cost of Hearts; and Sypha has elemental spells that can home in on enemies, freeze them or burn them with a short range flame attack. Only one additional character can be had at a time and not all of them can be found on the same path, so it is impossible to encounter all of them in one play-through.
The graphics adhere to the style of its predecessors. It makes noticeable leaps forward in environmental detail and introduces tons of new environmental hazards.
The music for Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was composed by Hidenori Maezawa, Jun Funahashi and Yukie Morimoto. The original Japanese version contained a specialized sound chip, the Konami VRCVI. This chip added an extra two square waves (each with eight pulse width settings instead of the standard four) and a sawtooth wave.
The music of the game has been commercially released several times while included with single disc albums of selected arranged tracks. They are titled Akumajō Dracula Famicom Best (March 20th, 1990), Perfect Selection Dracula (1991), Perfect Selection Dracula ~New Classic~ (1992), Dracula Perfect Selection Dracula Battle (1994), Castlevania 20th Anniversary Deluxe Music Collection (2006), and Akumajō Dracula Best Music Collections BOX (2010).
Inspiration and lore
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is the first game in the series to lay an explicit connection with Dracula and the real life Vlad III. The game draws inspiration from Bram Stoker's novel and states that Dracula is an evil sorcerer which was also brought forward in the novel. The only difference being that in the novel he became a vampire after his death whereas in the game he got his powers from an evil deity. This is further implied by the setting which is the 15th century, implying to take place in 1476, the year that the real Țepeș supposedly died; this is also the official date given in the series' timeline which was published later.
The character of Alucard is another movie reference which once again fits with the style of the game. His name is taken from the 1943 film Son of Dracula.
Grant's Japanese name is given as Grant Dănești, a reference to the historical house who rebelled against Vlad Dracula but were later persecuted. This fits well with Grant's role in the game, but he is never mentioned to be of a noble lineage.
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is notorious for having one of the largest lists of localization changes in the series:
- Aesthetic changes
- The original Japanese version used the same font as Castlevania. A new font was created for the American localization.
- The Japanese version contained the specialized sound chip VRCVI, which was removed in the North American release due to lack of support for external audio on the American NES. The VRCVI added an extra two square waves (each with eight pulse width settings instead of the standard four) and a sawtooth wave.
- In the Japanese version, the main protagonist was known as "Ralph C. Belmondo". The American localization changed it to Trevor Belmont.
- No religious content was removed in the American release, even though Nintendo of America had very strict policies in this regard back then. Only a glinting effect was removed from the large cross Trevor prays to at the beginning of the game.
- In the Japanese version, several enemies were colored different, had original sprites, or had slightly different attack patterns. For example, the Hunchbacks that appear in the North American version, in the Japanese original they were the same hopping Gremlins later seen in Super Castlevania IV.
- The female statues in Stage 8 are partially nude in the Japanese original. Just like in Super Castlevania IV, these statues were clothed for the American release.
- Gameplay changes
- In the original Japanese version, Grant throws daggers as his main attack and can only use the Axe as a sub-weapon. In the American localization, he wields a stabbing dagger instead and can use the Axe or the throwing Dagger as sub-weapons.
- In the original Japanese game, each enemy takes a different amount of HP away from the player. In the American localization, each enemy deals the same amount of damage to the player, although this damage increases in the later stages, similar to the original Castlevania. These changes arguably make the American localized game harder.
- The final form of Dracula was made more challenging in the American release. He fires his "laser beams" more often, and they are both longer and launched in a greater variety of directions than in the Japanese version.
- In the final stage of the Japanese original, after losing to Dracula the player begins right outside of the castle keep. In the American localization, they start back at the level's second section instead. This is another factor said to make the American localization harder.
- In 2006 Konami released a port of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse for cell phones and it is part of Konami Masterpiece Series. The port is faithful to the original in terms of graphics, being almost identical. The biggest difference is that the game contains an Easy mode, similar to the 1993 Japanese re-release of the original Castlevania.
- Konami Collector's Series: Castlevania & Contra, released in 2002 for the PC, is a collection of five Konami hits from the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Contra and Super Contra. In addition, the CD contains a Dance Dance Revolution demo. This package was released in October of 2006 and re-released for the download service GameTap. All of the games are perfect emulations of their NES counterparts; the only changes of note are the text differences found in Simon's Quest and the option to perform a quicksave.
- On May 16th, 2019, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was re-released as part of Castlevania Anniversary Collection for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam.
- Programmer: H. Akamatsu, M. Takemoto, Y. Okuda, S. Kitamoto
- Composers: H. Maezawa, J. Funahasi, Y. Morimoto
- Planner: I. Urata
- Director: H. Akamatsu
The origins of Dracula and his son Alucard, along with his reasoning for declaring war against humanity given in the instruction booklet, are different than later explanations given by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, leaving some people to believe this information has been retconned.
Dracula is said to have received his powers from an evil deity, while in Lament of Innocence he got his powers by absorbing the soul of a powerful vampire with the Crimson Stone. However, evidence in the game supports that the evil deity given in Akumajō Densetsu's instruction booklet and Death are supposed to be one and the same.
The roles of the two beings are identical. When Dracula was still known by the name of Mathias Cronqvist, he found the Crimson Stone, which allowed him to gain power over Death. Being an Angel of Death, he was bound to the stone and his role was to harvest souls and grant them to his master, thus allowing that individual to absorb them. After Walter's defeat, Death was able to take his soul and granted it to Mathias, his exact words being: "This power... I offer to the king who wields the Crimson Stone!", thus implying he and the evil deity are retconned to be the same individual.
Another supposed contradiction is that the game intro states that Dracula was able to revive Dark Gods from the underworld and borrowed their powers for his evil goals, supposedly overwriting the statement previously given in the instruction booklet. The Dark Gods and the evil deity were most likely never supposed to be the same character; however, a Castlevania comic that chronicled the timespan between Dracula's Curse and Curse of Darkness once again makes references to these Dark Gods (being referred to as "The Evil Lords") and states that Dracula merely used their power to get even stronger.
Dracula's second form in the game are perhaps these individuals, and the being (which possesses multiple heads) that is fought differs greatly from other forms throughout the series and bears no resemblance to Dracula at all.
Alucard's back story also differs somewhat and suggests that rather than inheriting his powers from Dracula because he was his son, he is mentioned to once have had a human heart but lost his soul due to a contract his father made with the Devil. This controversy has yet to be resolved.
Dracula's Curse has contributed many things to the series that have been used extensively. Examples include recurring enemies like whip-toting skeletons named Gates of Death, Owls, and Dullahans. Dracula's Curse introduces the Belnades family, which has members that appear in other Castlevania titles, and Alucard, who is the starring character of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Trevor Belmont plays an important role in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness and is a playable character in the extra mode, and the story of Curse of Darkness continues shortly after the events of Dracula's Curse.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow's extra mode, Julius Mode, is a clear homage to Dracula's Curse, as it features a Belmont, Belnades, and Alucard teaming up to slay the Dark Lord. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance borrows bosses from Dracula's Curse, such as the Leviathan Gargoyle (named Pazuzu in Harmony), Skull Knight, and the Cyclops. Zombie versions of Trevor, Grant, and Sypha serve as a boss battle in Symphony of the Night and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. It is unclear if the ghost ships in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness are meant as an homage to Dracula's Curse, but Dracula's Curse is the first Castlevania title to feature a haunted ship stage.
There are four different endings to Dracula's Curse. Which one the player receives depends on which additional character they beat the game with, if any. Each ending will start with the line "Trevor made many sacrifices. The long fight is over. Dracula is dead and all other spirits are asleep.When the game is completed without getting any of the other playable characters, the game will show only Trevor watching the castle crumbling. It mentioned that he will someday get the respect that is owed to him, and the Belmont name shall be honored by all.
Trevor and Sypha's ending hits a more romantic tone. Sypha removes her hood and she reveals she is actually a woman. Trevor puts his arm around her. It is told that Sypha had a bad life, but since meeting Trevor, she started to feel more comfortable with herself.
After completing the game along with Alucard, his feelings of guilt are elaborated on as they stand on the mountain cliff. Trevor realizes this as he thinks about his friend.
- The box art of the North American version of Dracula's Curse was created by Tom duBois.
- Dracula's Curse was the first game in the Castlevania series to use the "items and grid" password system.
- Dracula's final form in this game bares a striking similarity to statues of the Sumerian demon Pazuzu.
- In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, fake zombie versions of Trevor, Sypha, and Grant fight Alucard in the Reverse Castle. They later make a reappearance in the Nest of Evil in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.
- Project 51 Productions obtained the rights from Konami to create movies based on Castlevania. Their first project was going to be a direct-to-DVD feature covering the events of Dracula's Curse. The script was going to be written by comic author Warren Ellis, with art direction by James Jean. Information on the project could be found at CastlevaniaDraculasCurse.com , but even though project51productions.com still states this domain contains such information, the site itself is unavailable.
- Koji Igarashi says in an interview present in Castlevania Chronicles that Dracula's Curse is one of his favorite episodes in the series, along with Rondo of Blood. His signature game, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, pays homage to both games.
- It is the first game to feature some vocalizations (as Death is heard laughing before launching an attack in the second phase of his boss battle, and the various bosses when defeated emit a low roar), aside from the small grunts heard when taking damage in previous titles.
- In the Japanese version, at the end of the intro it's mentioned that the events of this game take place 100 years before Simon Belmont; this was removed in the overseas versions.
- Akumajō Densetsu SOUND TRACKS — New recording original soundtrack.
- Akumajō Dracula Famicom Best — Contains the Dracula's Curse original soundtrack.
- Akumajō Dracula Best Music Collections BOX — Contains music from this game on Disc 1 and 2.
- Another Legend - From the Legend of Demon Castle — A four pages comedy manga based on Dracula's Curse.
- Captain N: The Game Master — Has episodes featuring elements of this game (especially Return to Castlevania).
- Castlevania (animated series) — An original Netflix animated series retelling the events of Dracula's Curse.
- Castlevania: Curse of Darkness — PS2 sequel to Dracula's Curse.
- Castlevania: The Movie — Film in the works that according to an early script is based on Dracula's Curse.
- Dracula's Curse Animated Movie — Western animation in the works based on Dracula's Curse. (canceled/in hiatus - project presumed to have evolved into the Netflix animated series instead)
- NES Game Atlas — Contains stage maps for this game.
- Nintendo Power - Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse guide — Magazine guide which contains original artwork for many of the characters and creatures.
- Super Castlevania IV — The next Castlevania game on a Nintendo console.
- The Legend of Satanic Castle: The Vampire Hunters — A choose-your-own-adventure book featuring descendants of the four playable characters in Dracula's Curse.
- Tokuma Shoten Akumajō Densetsu Guide Book — Japanese guide book, contains additional possibly official artwork.
- Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse at the Castlevania Fan Wiki
- Konami mobile (Japanese)
- Konami Wii product page (Japanese)
- Translated Akumajō Densetsu ending
- English Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse instruction booklet at Mr. P's Castlevania Realm
- Japanese Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse instruction booklet at Mr. P's Castlevania Realm