Super Castlevania IV (悪魔城ドラキュラ Akumajō Dracula?) is an action/adventure platformer game developed and published by Konami. It is the eighth entry in the Castlevania series, and the first of two Castlevania games released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System console. In Japan, the game is simply known as Akumajō Dracula - this title was chosen in order to signify a "back to basics" approach for the series. The game was released in Japan on October 31, 1991, in North America on December 4, 1991, and in Europe on November 23, 1992.
The game has been re-released several times over the years. It was re-released on the Virtual Console in 2006 for the Wii, in 2013 for the Wii U, and in 2016 for the New Nintendo 3DS. In September 2017, it was included on Nintendo's Super NES Classic Edition in North America and Europe but was not part of the list in Japan. The game is also included in the cross-platform Castlevania: Anniversary Collection, released on May 17, 2019.
As a result of the above mentioned "back to basics" approach, the game recycles the basic plot and protagonist of the original Castlevania released on the Nintendo Entertainment System: Count Dracula has awoken from a 100-year slumber and vampire hunter Simon Belmont sets out to seal him away once again. However, the game features entirely new levels and enemies, as well as an almost completely original soundtrack. Therefore, the game can be considered to be a wholly separate entry in the Castlevania franchise.
The story is set in 1691. The following is translated from the original Akumajō Dracula Japanese manual:
- During the middle ages in Europe, there was once a peaceful small country named Transylvania. A country associated with the legend of Dracula.
- Once every one-hundred years, there comes a time when the power of good is weakened, and men with evil in their hearts pray for the resurrection of the Prince of Darkness. And with each resurrection, his evil power grows stronger.
- In the past, he has taken several forms in this world with each resurrection. However, when the entire world is covered by many dark clouds and the Demon King rules the dark evening, the Belmont Clan has always come forth to oppose him.
- The Belmonts had always defeated Dracula in duels to the death, banishing him from the living world for another hundred years; when those years were over, prosperity would once again be covered by shadows. Transylvania suffers a continuous disaster...
- One day, the village is shrouded by a dark thunderstorm, and a stroke of lightning quickly silences the town. In that very instance, the dark powers have brought back the powerful Prince of Darkness, and along with him, a powerful demon army. To help solve this crisis, Simon, the young heir of the Belmont clan, has vowed to liberate the mortal world. Although overwhelmed by the task set before him, Simon nonetheless arms himself with the whip containing mysterious powers inherited from his ancestors and sets out for the Devil's Castle.
Simon, with the Vampire Killer whip, successfully defeated Dracula and his demon army. Or, so he thought (see Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for the continuation).
North American version
When the game was localized in North America as Super Castlevania IV, the story within the manual and prologue screen was modified in order to make it take place after Simon's Quest. This is reflected in the last line of the prologue screen of the game, when it says it is "time once again for Simon Belmont to take up his whip...". Although Super Castlevania IV is considered a remake of the original Castlevania in the Japanese Castlevania timeline by current director Koji Igarashi, Konami USA had not reflected it, and it remained a canon sequel to Simon's Quest according to Konami USA, up until it was removed with the release of the recent official Xtreme desktop timeline which brings the series closer to Koji's vision. Quoting the U.S. manual for the game:
EVIL LURKS IN THE DARKNESS...
In the small country of Transylvania there is a legend which says that every 100 years the forces of Good mysteriously become weak and the forces of Evil gain a foothold into our world. The evil manifests itself in the form of one of the most feared characters to roam the earth - the vampire Dracula!
Every 100 years Dracula is revived and grows stronger and stronger. His goal is to turn all humanity into creatures of darkness, to be ruled under his iron fist. He has appeared in this world many times, and there are many people who fear that in his next appearance, he may be unstoppable.
There is one group that has always been around to see that Dracula is defeated, the Belmont family. For generations the Belmonts have passed along the secrets and skills of vampire-hunting to the eldest child of the family. While many of the Belmonts have lived peaceful lives without encountering Dracula, they remain prepared. There are occasional skirmishes with lesser monsters, but the Belmont clan has always emerged victorious.
Now, 100 years have passed since the last battle between Dracula and the Belmonts. Transylvanians are reporting mysterious sightings of odd creatures appearing under the cover of darkness. As Spring approaches, the citizens prepare for a traditional celebration.
Unbeknownst to them, an evil group of people is holding a ceremony in the old destroyed abbey outside of town, attempting to revive the Prince of Darkness. As they carry out their ritual a dark cloud descends over the countryside. The sinister group stirs itself into a frenzy of mysterious chanting and pagan dancing, then lightning strikes the abbey. The ground bucks under their feet, and the abbey walls shudder. Once again, Dracula is revived!
It is time once again for Simon Belmont to call forth the powers of good to aid him in his battle. Armed with his mystical whip, his courage and the centuries-old knowledge of Belmont family training, he sets forth on his mission...
The controls have been improved from its predecessors. These include the ability for Simon to now whip in eight directions, as well as keep the whip held out if the player holds the attack button. Holding the whip out lets Simon swing or spin it around, allowing the player to easily block enemy projectiles, or hit enemies rapidly (albeit for less damage than a normal strike), this would later become a staple for whips in later games. In addition, Simon can latch his whip onto grapples, letting him swing over various obstacles.
Like most Castlevania games, Simon can use sub-weapons and grab whip power-ups. Sub-weapons are powered by the hearts found in candles and from slain enemies. Since the control pad is used to aim the whip, another button is used to attack with sub-weapons, rather than pressing UP and the attack button. The more powerful sub-weapons require more hearts to use. Whip power-ups increase the strength and length of the whip, as expected, and are usually found in candles.
Simon's jumps can now be controlled in the air, to a limited extent. This opens up the possibility to dodge and maneuver away from danger. Simon can also climb stairs in mid-jump, as well as crouch while moving forward.
In addition, if the player presses UP on the directional pad to climb a set of stairs, while also pressing the directional pad for the direction away from the staircase he is facing, Simon will appear to "moonwalk" up the stairs, which many see as amusing.
- Main article: Super Castlevania IV/Gallery
The hero and only playable character of the game.
The main antagonist and final boss of the game.
Super Castlevania IV is notable for its graphics, displaying effects such as multi-scrolling backgrounds, animated objects in the distance, and very complex and diverse colors and shapes in its levels. The game takes on a darker, more eccentric mood than prior games in the series. Stage 2, for example, features multiple storm clouds that zip by, and later an animated river path in the background and foreground that spills little waterfalls. Additionally, Super Castlevania IV was the first Castlevania game to use the Super NES' Mode 7 feature. Its effects can be seen in Stage 4, a level which seems to twist and turn in both 2D and 3D throughout. Enemies and objects have many animations, such as the treasure boxes in the Treasury level.
Following the model set by the previous games, Super Castlevania IV employs the usage of many the series' recurring elements, such as moving platforms, pits with spikes, and stairs that one can traverse only by pressing the Up or Down direction on the D-Pad.
Unique to Super Castlevania IV's level design is its connection with Simon's whip, the Vampire Killer. Occasionally, objects, similar to door knockers, will appear in the player's view, and the player must use Simon's whip to grab onto them, and swing across pits and such to gain access to the next part of the stage. Simon is also able to adjust the length of the whip while on the "door knockers" if the player uses the D-pad accordingly.
True to Castlevania, Super Castlevania IV puts the player in very tense moments, such as escaping the deadly blades of a huge, circular saw in one of the final levels, or crossing a bridge with randomly disappearing parts, along with timing jumps between large, swinging chandeliers, where one wrong move sends the player to the deadly void below.
For more information about the music of this game, go to Akumajō Dracula Best 2's page.
Despite being one of the first games for the Super NES, the game managed to produce some of the best sounds ever heard on the system, and, like the graphics, is still an amazing achievement. The bold drum and string synths of the Super NES' sound card are especially apparent in the new compositions.
The particular score is famous for creating one of the darkest and most foreboding atmospheres in the series, along with accordingly sprinkling the upbeat, catchy tunes Castlevania is renowned for.
The music of the Baroque era, at its zenith in the 18th century, and the Rococo era shortly after, is found throughout the soundtrack. There is the use of techniques called Four Voice Leading (type of chord movement), pedal melody, where one note repeats under a distinctive motive or "riff" (Bloody Tears), secondary dominants (also a part of chord movement), and non-harmonic tones like suspensions and passing tones.
But the soundtrack has not been praised so much for its apparent tributes to other styles, so much as its incredibly complex nature for such an early game on the respective system. For example, the stage Sunken City begins its theme with a wavering and fading effect with an organ, and then evolves into a near-improvisational jazz-influenced melody (additionally, it is one of the game's most touted compositions).
Super Castlevania IV's soundtrack includes remixes of songs from past games. These include "Vampire Killer" (from Castlevania, this version is in F minor), and "Bloody Tears" (from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest), two themes that would eventually reappear in many more games. "Beginning", the song played on Stage 1 from Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, is also present.
Songs that eventually appeared in other games
"Theme of Simon Belmont", now considered to be the character's trademark theme song, was played on the last stage in Castlevania Chronicles/Akumajō Dracula X68000 and the last half of the final stage in Castlevania: Bloodlines. The "Theme of Simon Belmont" victory fanfare, which was used in Super Castlevania IV whenever a crystal was obtained after defeating a boss, was also featured in Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. If you rescued one of the 6 children in Henry Mode, this fanfare would play as a victory theme. Interestingly enough, after Castlevania: Circle of the Moon's soundtrack was dumped into GSF files, an unused track that resembled this fanfare was discovered.
The "Game Over" theme was also reused in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, and so was "Rotating Room" and "Spinning Tale", in a remix combining the two songs called "Clockwork Mansion".
It has been debated that "Dracula Battle BGM" is played somewhere in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
The game is simply called Akumajō Dracula in Japan. The logo is different and resembles the original Akumajō Dracula title screen from the Famicom Disk System. Blood also drips below the title's lettering.
The font in the game is different. The English version's is bright green, yet the Japanese version has a completely different font and is also significantly darker.
In the Japanese version, there is a cross on top of the tombstone from the introduction. It was removed in the Western release to avoid religious controversies. Also, the word "Dracura" (a case of Engrish) can be barely seen written on the tombstone.
As with many games on the Super NES, there were censorship issues. The statues in Stage 6 were originally bare chested and the blood in Stage 8 was changed from red to green.
The in-game prologue text for Super Castlevania IV in the North American version was also different from the Japanese prologue screen text, with an extra line claiming that it was "Once again Simon Belmont is called upon to destroy Dracula", in order to force the game into being a sequel to Simon's Quest, when it wasn't originally one.
- Note: While the text still remains in the U.S. version of the game, the game is no longer considered a sequel in that region.
- Some of the enemies' graphics from Super Castlevania IV would eventually be recolored and ported into Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the most known examples being Slogra and Gaibon.
- The Dancing Spectres of Stage 6 are named "Paula Abghoul" and "Fred Askare" in the North American version, a parody on Paula Abdul and Fred Astaire.
- The floating horse head enemy character "Mr. Hed" is a pun off of the 1960's sitcom Mister Ed.
- An American commercial shows beta footage of the game, along with a beta version of "Bloody Tears".
- The box art of the North American version was created by Tom duBois, a veteran illustrator responsible for creating the cover artworks for the Western market from most Konami games during its golden era.
- Akumajō Dracula Best 2 — Contains the Super Castlevania IV original soundtrack.
- All About Akumajō Dracula — Japanese guidebook featuring artwork for all of the enemies.
- Famitsu Akumajo Dracula — Another Japanese guidebook.
- Nintendo Power Super Castlevania IV Guide — Magazine guide containing original artwork of the game.
- Castlevania — This game is officially considered a non-canon remake of this game.
- Castlevania II: Simon's Quest — This game was originally considered a sequel to this game in North America.
- Castlevania: Dracula X — This Super Nintendo game is sometimes called "Castlevania V" and considered a sequel to this game.
- Akumajō Dracula Best Music Collections BOX — Contains music from this game on Disc 3.
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — A 3D game inspired by this game.
- The Super Famicom #12 1991.
- Castlevania Realm
- Konami Wii Product Page (Japanese)
- Instruction Manual (English)
- Super Castlevania IV Virtual Console Trailer
- Virtual Console Product Page
- Title at MobyGames