The second Castlevania game introduced the RPG elements that would become a staple in later entries of the series. After the first game Simon gets a curse that can only be dispelled by collecting Dracula's five different body parts. Lots of walking back and forth ensues.
The game plays like a side scrolling version of Zelda, where you have to visit one place, do something, then visit another place and do something else. While it manages to keep from becoming too boring the side scrolling world can become a little confusing. You reach different areas by going up and down staircases, problem is it's easy to forget where these diversion points are. There are signs in each town that kind of help. Add to the fact that sometimes each task requires you to walk way to the other end of the "world" and it becomes easy to lose focus.
Much of the game takes place in little towns, where true to the 8-bit RPG play mechanic various people talk to you, give you stuff, heal you, etc. In the towns it's safe (in the daytime) while out in the wilderness you get attacked by monsters. The game also features a day/night system (one of the first on a console game actually.) After night the monsters become stronger and even the towns are not safe.
As the game progresses Simon collects various Items to become stronger (another hallmark of the series.) Even the Count's various body parts have functions, such as the ribcage-shield and the eye that lets you see invisible platforms.
There are a few problems with this game. First off it's too easy. None of the enemy types are really much of a challenge and mostly just get in your way. Halfway through the game you get a Flaming Whip and can kill most enemies easily. You die more often from falling into water that from actual combat. Second the Count's mansions all look the same (as in they're all made up of the same gray bricks/blocks.) It would have been nice to see a little variation here and there. There isn't much in the way of Boss monsters either, the main one being a huge evil mask-thing that you can beat by standing in the same place and whipping. Why no Medusa or Frankenstein? Finally Simon feels a little "floaty," as in he doesn't have much weight when jumping or falling.
On the good side the graphics and sounds are among the best on the NES. The day/night each has it's own unique music and each area has a theme. Each item is represented faithfully and everything you collect has a purpose. Puzzles are easy to figure out but there's a few that will take some investigating to get past.
Its' Castlevania with a lot of walking and item collecting. While the game isn't a bad 8-bit RPG it does show it's age. The game does manage to draw you in enough so as you want to figure out how to get up that cliff, or how to get past that high ledge. A solid entry in the series that introduced a lot of what Castlevania would become.
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