Haunted Castle, known in in Japan as Akumajō Dracula (悪魔城ドラキュラ Akumajō Dorakyura?, lit. "Demon Castle Dracula") is an action/adventure platform game produced for arcades and part of the Castlevania series. It was released in February, 1988 in Japan, and on September 22, 1988 in North America.
In 2006, Hamster™ ported Haunted Castle to the PlayStation 2 as part of their Oretachi Gēsen Zoku series. In 2019, it was ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam and Nintendo Switch as part of the Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection.
The main character of the game. He was to marry Selena at the village's church, but Dracula interrupted the wedding.
Simon's bride, who was captured by Dracula during her wedding.
The fiend who returned. The main antagonist and final boss of the game.
Haunted Castle is the first game in the series which once again adopted a play-style similar to that of the original Famicom and NES games, with Vampire Killer for MSX and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest diverging from this formula with RPG elements like leveling up and more open-ended design.
Thus roughly following the template of the original game, Haunted Castle is made up of six linear stages; each with a characteristic focus - through graveyards and underground caverns, leading through the castle hallway and basement, ending in a confrontation with Count Dracula.
A lot of the enemy selections are taken from the Famicom/NES games, notably examples including hopping hunchbacks and the standard arsenal of undead enemies like skeletons and zombies. On the other hand, some features that were unique to the series at that point were included as well: a wall which breaks apart brick by brick and attacks the player, a glass knight which jumps out of a window, and so on.
The weapon upgrade system has been altered from Castlevania since, contrary to that game, there are no candles. Instead, hearts and weapons are distributed by defeated enemies. The stronger weapons are a chain (morning star) and a sword, both of which were exceptional at the time, as weapon upgrades before were only more powerful versions of the whip instead.
Several unique sub-weapons were introduced in Haunted Castle as well: dynamite and torches taking the place of holy water but with a similar function, and a boomerang which acts like the cross from Castlevania. A unique weapon is the cross, which shoots out little cross-shaped rays. The timer (stopwatch) returns with the exact same function as before.
Whereas previous Castlevania titles gave the player unlimited continues, Haunted Castle only allowed the player three continues after death. Afterward the player would have to start over from the beginning. The player can also add money to the machine to refill their the health meter, though this will also use up their limited continues.
Several different ROM sets with varying difficulties exist. One of the American sets is labeled "M" and is considered the most difficult of all of them, with certain enemies (some even found in the very first stage) able to reduce the player's life meter by half and fewer item drops. The set named "K" is relatively easier, with the same difficulty as the Japanese (named N and P) and European versions (named E).
Although overall the gameplay mechanics of Haunted Castle were the same as Castlevania games up to that point, certain aspects such as Simon in lower difficulties being able to only take two hits before being killed, and to a lesser extent the enemy and level design, were reminiscent of the Capcom game Ghosts 'n' Goblins.
The soundtrack was composed by Kenichi Matsubara, who was also a staff member on Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. "Bloody Tears" and "Game Over" from Simon's Quest make a reappearance. Many songs have been remixed in later games. "Cross Your Heart" is rearranged in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles and is included as a bonus track, as well as in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, where it plays in the Dark Academy. "A Lullaby Sent to the Devils", which plays during the high score screen, has been used in Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth as the theme that plays during the second stage. "The Final Battle", used for the final phase against Dracula, was later reused as the main boss theme as well as either the final phase or penultimate phase (depending on the difficulty level) against Dracula in The Adventure ReBirth. "Can't Wait Until the Night" has been combined with "Heart of Fire" from Castlevania to form Julius Belmont's theme in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. "Basement Melodies" returns in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, playing in the Mine of Judgment.
The music played during the wedding is none other than Felix Mendelssohn's Wedding March.
The game was initially developed as an original horror action game unrelated to the Castlevania series. 
At some point during the development period, which was around six months, the game was in bad shape, quality and schedule-wise. Reportedly, the project was short-staffed. The head of Konami ordered people who were working on a completely different project, called Hot Chase, to help out with the project, one of which was Masaaki Kukino.
It was decided to retool the game into an entry in the Castlevania series. The development team alongside the Hot Chase team spend one month redrawing all the sprites in order to make the game's atmosphere match up with that of Castlevania. Furthermore, unfinished stages and characters were completed and the quality of the player and enemy sprites was improved, as well as their effects and attacks. The schedule left no room for any big additions or changes. However, the concept of the crumbling bridge in the last stage was conceived during that stage of development.
During this stage of development, the protagonist's identity was changed to Simon Belmont. However, Haunted Castle was specifically made for the arcades and it is not a port of the original Castlevania. Due to complicated mechanics posing a problem in arcade games, it was decided the game should be different from the previous two Castlevania games. Despite this, Haunted Castle was advertised as being "the ultimate version of the game that appeared on the Famicom and MSX". The game is also often labeled as a "remake" of the original Castlevania by Konami, despite almost sharing nothing in common.
Kukino later said in an interview that time for debugging was needed, which resulted in the staff having no more time to make changes to the balancing. However, at that time all the staff members from Hot Chase had returned to their own project already.
Haunted Castle was not considered a success in arcades by Konami.
Criticism includes the main character being rather large when compared to other Castlevania games' characters, and thus an easy target for enemy and obstacle hits, poor hit-detection, and most prominently the game's difficulty. A major point of criticism is the limited amount of continues, which is considered unfair to the player and also drives away sales from players who would otherwise be willing to purchase more continues.
Haunted Castle has been cited as being one of the most difficult Castlevania games in existence. Reasons for this are said to be an overwhelming amount of enemies attacking the player and the limited amount of continues the game allows.
The version of Haunted Castle from the Oretachi Gēsen Zoku series is an emulated version of the arcade original. Included as bonus material were a mini-CD with the game's soundtrack and a mini-DVD with a music video and half of an instructional playing video. This port was not released outside of Japan.
The version found on the Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection comes with four selectable difficulty settings (Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard), four different "enemy strength" settings (Low, Normal, High, Very High), and design content found on the Bonus Book included with the game.
Concept art for Simon Belmont, Dracula, Frankenstein, Stained Glass Warrior, Skeleton Snake, Sub-Weapons and Golem was revealed in the Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection. In addition, sheet music for "Can't Wait Until the Night" was also revealed.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers Volume 1. Interview with Masaaki Kukino. Szczepaniak. 2014.
- ↑ Personal correspondence with Masaaki Kukino. Original: 30年くらい前の話ですが、当時わたしは、別のドット絵のレースゲームを創っていて、別のチームがドラキュラと違うホラーアクションゲームを開発していました。その時そのゲームのグラフィックがあまりに質が低かった為、一か月で全てのグラフィックを描き直してくれと会社から命令があり、その際にドラキュラの世界観にすると決定されました。ですから、世界観とテーマの共有なので、リメイクではありません。Translation: "About 30 years ago, I was creating another dot-painted racing game at the time, and another team was developing a horror action game different from Dracula. At that time, the graphics of the game were too low quality, so it was decided by the company to redraw all the graphics in one month, and it was decided to make the game in the style of the Dracula series at that time. So it's not so much a remake, as it is a game with a similar atmosphere and theme.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: Castlevania. September 2014. Kurt Kalata.
- ↑ Anti-Chapel Haunted Castle Review
- ↑ Castlevania Realm Review
|Simon Belmont • Selena • Dracula|
|Wicked Mermaid • Skeleton Snake • Stained Glass Warrior • Golem • Frankenstein|
|Graveyard • Cave • Banquet Room • Basement • Clock Tower • Vampire's Room|
|Konami Game Music Collection Vol. 1 • Oretachi Gēsen Zoku: Akumajō Dracula|
Konami Game Music: Classic Castlevania
|Konami Best Selection|
|Bestiary • Inventory|