Akumajo Dracula II: The Accursed Seal in Japan
The first Castlevania game for the NES was met with a fair amount of success--at least enough to force Konami to consider developing a sequel to the game. As with most sequels in the early NES days, many fans were expecting more of the same gameplay found in the first game, which is to say more platform jumping, more candle whipping, and more turkey eating. But that was not the case, and Konami decided to go an entirely different route with Castlevania II: Simon's Quest by making it more of a role-playing game with platforming elements--that had more in common with Vampire Killer--rather than a pure platformer. It turned out to be a relatively unpopular decision, as Simon's Quest wasn't quite as popular as its predecessor.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest was the first Castlevania to have anything that even comes close to resembling a structured storyline, but to be fair, the previous games really didn't require one. You find out that just before Simon destroys Dracula in Castlevania, he puts a curse on Simon, one that will haunt him until the day he dies. To get rid of the curse, Simon has to scour the countryside of Transylvania to find Dracula's organs, bring them together in Dracula's castle, and resurrect him. Dracula's body parts have special powers, which are very useful during the course of Simon's journey. One such power is Dracula's rib, which serves as a shield capable of deflecting enemy projectiles.
After playing the game for a few minutes, many people were wondering if they bought the right game, because Simon's Quest is so different in structure from the previous Castlevania game. There is no single castle, and there are several different towns located in the Transylvanian countryside, ones that play an integral part in finding the mansions that contain Dracula's parts because the townspeople provide you with valuable information and items. But if there's anything that serves as a sign of Castlevnia II's departure from the first Castlevania game, it's the return of the merchants. Merchants play a key role in Simon's Quest, selling basic items that will help make Simon's life a little easier--some even carry special items that are essential for completing subquests.
|The first town in Simon's Quest--Veros--makes another appearance in Dracula X: The Rondo of Blood, but now it's on fire and overrun with skeletons.|
Simon's Quest was one of the first games to introduce the passage of time and actually have it affect gameplay. During the day, the towns are filled with people to talk to, and the enemies lurking about the countryside are pretty easy to defeat with Simon's basic thorn whip. Once it becomes night, zombies infest the towns and chase you throughout. Even the enemies outside of the towns receive a boost in strength, making it incredibly difficult to defeat even the low-level skeletons and werewolves with Simon's basic weapons. If you need to travel through the forest early in the game, it's best to just wait for sunrise, when enemies become much weaker and easier to deal with. There are a few other aspects of the game influenced by the passage of time, like the ferryman, who appears only during a specific time of the day. Plus, even the endings change, depending on how long it takes you to complete the entire game. Simon's Quest wasn't the last Castlevania to use this system, but there's no question that it's often overlooked as being one of the first to successfully incorporate the element of time.
Overall, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest is a decent game. The graphics are really well done, and the changes in character designs--especially Simon's metamorphosis into a multicolored sprite--were welcomed changes from the subdued palettes and background graphics in Vampire Killer and the NES Castlevania. Simon's Quest continues the trend set by Castlevania (in that the music is some of the best on the NES), and the game's main track, Bloody Tears, remains a favorite among Castlevania fans.