Still cracking that whip: Akumajou Densetsu at 30

What people mean when they say Nintendo Hard.

It's time for a confession, my dear and precious Nauties. Series prequel Akumajou Densetsu - better known as Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse - is, by and large, unknown to me. The original Castlevania, sure. But its highly acclaimed second sequel has remained a little elusive. I purchased it on the 3DS Virtual Console a few years back, but I just... never got around to it.

You'd think I'd make time for what's clearly one of the most beloved and influential games in the entire series, but for some reason I just never did, despite being a Quite Big Fan of Castlevania. And seeing that the game was coming up on the 30th anniversary of its Japanese bow, I thought I'd give it a proper go for the first time ever. Mssr. Parish suggested I try the Japanese version as it is easier, as well as having superior music thanks to the inclusion of an extra chip allowing for two extra sound channels. Akumajou Densetsu got thrown on via the superb Castlevania Anniversary Collection, and I eagerly sat down to finally see it through. And promptly got massacred by some owls.

Yeah, that seems about right.

The game is hard! I mean, most classic Castlevanias are hardly a walk in the vampire park, but I was taken aback by the sudden Strigiforme slaughter. It's entirely possible they mistook poor Trevor Belmont's whip for a mouse's tail and swooped, only realising their mistake when Trevor's face resembled a doner kebab. At any rate, I was later informed that I made a terrible decision when the game offered me a branching path, opting to avoid the Clock Tower stage. I mean, who can really blame me? They're always a nightmare. But, no, apparently the Clock Tower would have offered me the advantage of a recruitable character, had I seen it through.

Taking the (deliberately) stiff controls of the other NES titles but applying them to exponentially more demanding, complex level designs seems to have been a recipe for a terrific but very, very challenging game. Even as I saw Game Over after Game Over, I was drawn in by the brilliantly colourful and atmospheric graphics, as well as the aforementioned music. It's become something of a White Whale for me now; I've beaten the others and now I need to see off Akumajou Densetsu before I'm allowed to move on to another game.

Brillantly atmospheric use of colour. Also, there's a frog. 10/10.

Perseverance on my part will see Dracula finally vanquished. That said, I'm sure you've all beaten it already. Probably with one hand. You're probably reading this thinking "this guy's rubbish!". And I am, for now. But I'll get better, and I'll beat the game, and I'll come back and tell you all about it and you can be very, very proud of me.

If the Japanese version is this difficult, I can't even imagine what the localised game is like. Maybe when you die in the game, you die for real?