Platform Famicom (as Legend of Demon Castle)
Wii Virtual Console
PC (as Konami Collector's Series: Castlevania and Contra)
Release Date JP (Famicom): December 22, 1989
NA (NES): September 1, 1990
EU (NES): December 10, 1992
Developer Konami
Publisher JP: Konami
NA: Konami
EU: Palcom
ESRB E - Everyone

Dracula's Curse is the third and final installment of the Castlevania series for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Released by Konami in Japan in late 1989, Dracula's Curse made its way to North America by the following Fall, and quickly proved that the series had returned to its roots as one of the canonical platformers for the NES.

"The time is 100 years before Simon Belmont's birth. The moon burns red overhead and black clouds loom large on the horizon. All is still and quiet. Only the call of a distant crow stirs the cold night air. Suddenly, thunder roars out of the Morbid Mountains and into the village of Warakiya. Like the yell an angry giant, the terrible sound shakes homes and shops as if they were sapling branches.

But no one blinks an eye. The village is dead calm. For all the people have fled after receiving warnings from the Great Beyond that Count Dracula has assembled a mighty army of evil, and they're poised to march up from the Valley of Graveyards to bury mankind in a Tomb of Terror. Unfortunately, there's no corner on earth that will not be gobbled up by this bloodthirsty legion of Swamp Dragons, Slasher Skeletons and Forces of the Undead.

The last line of defense is you, Trevor Belmont - the forefather of Simon Belmont and the origin of the Belmont Warlord Chromosomes. But your chances are slimmer than Jim. In fact, the only real edge you have over this fang sharpened freak is your power to transform into three different partner spirits: Grant DaNasty, the ferocious Ghost Pirate, Sypha, the Mystic Warlord, And Alucard, Dracula's forgotten son. Each of the spirits will confront you as you fight through 17 possible levels of never-ending fright, including the Haunted Ship of Fools Dead, The Clock Tower of Untimely Death and Curse Castle. You must also possess the strength to wield the mighty Battle Axe and Mystic Whip, which were given to you by the Poltergeist King."

This odd introduction from the game's manual sets the story for Dracula's Curse. It is 1476, and Dracula's forces have gathered to ravage Wallachia, and then Europe. You play Trevor Belmont, a man previously shunned by the Church but who is now the only hope in stopping Count Dracula. To do this, you must guide Trevor from the approach to the Castle through graveyards, catacombs, and guard towers until ultimately reaching Dracula's throne room. Depending on which path you choose, you may be joined by one of three companions. Each companion has a unique set of abilities which, together with your trusty whip and secondary weapon, will allow you to cut through endless legions of zombies, skeletons, bats, and many other creatures of the night.

Gameplay in Dracula's Curse, like many of the original NES side scrolling platformers, is fairly straightforward. The directional pad is used to move Trevor from left to right or up and down stairwells. Of the two buttons available on the original controller, one is used to jump and one is used to attack with Trevor's whip. Beefy vampire hunters aren't exactly Olympic high jumpers, and despite having the undead literally grasping at his ankles, Trevor isn't breaking any sprint records either. Controlling Trevor all the way to the final battle requires almost superhuman timing. With limited speed and jumping ability, positioning Trevor so that the repeating patterns of skeletons and bats flying, acid dripping, and spikes crashing on the floor can all be avoided is a must. In this regard, Dracula's Curse plays more closely to the original Castlevania than to its predecessor Simon's Quest.

Unlike the previous two installments, this version of Castlevania allows the player to control one additional character through the course of the game. Three characters are available, but only one can join you at a time, and to play them the character must be switched with Trevor during play (both cannot be played at the same time). The three possible companions are:

  • Grant DaNasty - Grant, a former pirate whose entire family was killed by Dracula, has had a curse placed upon him and now guards one of the approaches to the Castle. By defeating him, Grant will offer to join Trevor. His special ability allows him to climb up walls and ceilings, which provides much greater mobility over Trevor's basic walk/jump routine. He is limited in combat, however, and can only use the stopwatch, axe, and dagger.

  • Alucard Farenheights Tepes - The son of Dracula, Trevor will battle him in Alucard's Cave. By defeating Alucard, he will offer to join Trevor to stop his evil father. His special ability allows him to transform into a bat and fly across obstacles and up to otherwise unreachable areas. Alucard attacks with fireballs, but is only able to use the stopwatch as a secondary weapon.

  • Sypha Belnades - Sypha, unlike the other two companions, is not battled directly but instead is free once Trevor defeats the Cyclops. As a witch, she can use three different spells (fire, ice, and lightning) in addition to the stopwatch.

In addition to offering a choice of companions, Castlevania III also improved on the replayability of the series by introducing alternate paths. At different junctures in the game, the player is given the option to take a high road or a low road. Some of these choices lead to easier levels with a shorter path to the final stage, while others prove much more difficult to traverse.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was a great game in its day, and certainly deserves a look once again for any now-grown-up vampire hunters whose stakes hold up tomato plants instead of expired bloodsuckers.

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