Approximate Release Date: December 4, 1991
Super Castlevania IV is a kinder, friendlier Castlevania.
That doesn’t mean the game is easy, of course. But the biggest differentiator between Super Castlevania IV and earlier games in the series is that the player has more flexibility in how to handle enemies. Rather than being forced to attack enemies head-on, the player can now whip enemies in eight directions or hold the button down and spin the whip to block projectiles. These changes seem small, but it adds new dimensions to the gameplay that didn’t exist in the NES games.
This change gives the player more control and makes the game seem fairer because of it. Enemies will still pop out and try to knock you into pits, of course.
The move to the Super Nintendo also means that the game is gorgeous. Enemies are large and well-detailed, with smooth animations and will often explode into bones or feathers when defeated. The backgrounds are more detailed than any SNES game up to this point; one especially impressive area in a later part of the game features Mode 7 scaling of a background to make the entire level rotate around you. It’s the kind of thing kids would show off to their friends to make them jealous of not having the hot new Super Nintendo.
And, for a series well-known for great tunes, Super Castlevania IV doesn’t disappoint. The Stage 1 (0:40) and Stage 2 (6:17) songs are among the most memorable the SNES will produce.
These are all part of the reason Super Castlevania IV is an important game in the 16-bit era; it’s the first game from an existing series to jump to the next generation and show how the extra processing power of the SNES could improve established gameplay. As much as I love Super Mario World, it didn’t push the technical envelope; the gulf between Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World isn’t close to the difference between Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Super Castlevania IV.
And even outside of this historical context, it’s still fun and worth experiencing. Super Castlevania IV is one of the Super Nintendo’s top games.
Tomorrow: The Super Nintendo’s first game based on a movie is Home Alone. Hoo boy.