A Castlevania arcade game? It happened! In 1988 Konami released Haunted Castle, a game that tried to duplicate the success of Castlevania but on a more graphically impressive scale. Characters are physically large and well animated (some bosses are so large they don't even fit on the screen all at once) plus some of the music would later appear in future Castlevania games, but in the end the biggest thing that bogs the game down is its extreme difficulty.

The game begins as Dracula swoops down from above and runs off with the hero's bride. A massive castle springs up, and our hero (unnamed, but presumably a relative of Simon Belmont) grabs his trusty whip and goes monster hunting. Unlike other Castlevania games, there are no candles to smash nor are there upgrades for the whip. Instead our hero can upgrade to a sword and can use special weapons such as a torch, boomerang (that doesn't return to the hero upon throwing, strangely enough), a cross, and other goodies.

As I mentioned earlier, the difficulty level in the game is quite extreme. Our hero only gets one life and can only continue three times. Furthermore, continuing places our hero at the beginning of the level. It seems odd that Konami would limit the continue feature. After all, isn't the primary object of an arcade game to make as much money as possible? I'd imagine players would become frustrated at that final 'Game Over' and would walk away from the game rather than restart. Haunted Castle is a fun diversion and an interesting aside to the traditional Castlevania series of games, but overall it feels unpolished and excessively difficult. The machine itself is long out of production and difficult to find in the arcades, but the ROM is playable on the MAME emulator if you know where to find it. Put a stake through this one, I'm sorry to say. It's murder.

Playing the game