Castlevania for the Commodore Amiga
Review by Mike Finkelstein
During the course of its life, Castlevania had many ports, remakes, and re-releases. A few of the remakes (such as Vampire Killer or the Sharp x68000 Castlevania) tried to reinvent the game, adding new stages, new concepts, and a reworked concept to give the game more depth. Other entries, such as the port for the Commodore Amiga, hewed closer to the original game.
Upon first load, there would appear to be a lot to like about the Amiga version of Castlevania. The presentation of the game is simply stunning (especially for an older port of the game). Everything has been redrawn and touched up, and the colors come off as sharp and vibrant. Sure, some of the drawn sprites are a little goofy (the zombies look more like ladies with their arms in the air, and Frankenstein's monster looks more like a vampire than the green-faced behemoth we're used to). Regardless of little nit-picks, though, the game is one of the prettier ports of the original.
Sound-wise, too, there's a lot to love. I'm a sucker for the MOD files that were a part of the Amiga's music system, and the Amiga port of Castlevania uses those MOD files to give all the music a richer tone than the original game. Sure, in a way MOD files are glorified MIDIs with specialized instruments, so in comparison to later compositions, the Amiga isn't as good. I still dig it, though.
Unfortunately, while the game gets the music and sound correctly, it absolutely butchers one key area: control. Castlevania on the Amiga only features one action button (a limit of the system). So while you could run around with the joystick, you had to push up on the stick to jump. Anyone that has played a Castlevania game knows that pressing up and using your attack button is how you throw a sub-weapon (all of which are included). To get around this, you have press-and-hold your attack button to throw a sub-weapon.
This compromise needlessly complicates attacking in the game. If you happen to press the button for too long, you'll throw a sub-weapon when you meant to whip. Worse, since you have to hold it down, you have to pre-plan all your sub-weapon attacks, and it's not as if Castlevania is known for having a slow pace. Plus, weirdly, Simon has a noticeable lag between when you press the whip button and when he actually attacks (as if the game is waiting to see which attack you meant to use). It makes the game's timing frustrating, and the challenge harder because of it.
Sadly, the game just can't recover from such a botched compromise to make the basic functionality work. I'm not saying I have a better idea of how to make it work (a joystick with one button will compromise the game no matter how you plan it out), but the game can seem unplayable in parts because of it. For the average player, despite a gorgeous presentation, you're better off avoiding the Amiga release and sticking to the original NES Castlevania for your classic vampire hunting fix.