The year? 1691. There has been a hundred years of peace, thanks to the efforts of the infamous vampire slayers, known as the Belmont clan. Dracula was defeated by Christopher Belmont, and all was quiet, happy, peaceful.
Suddenly, almost as if to answer the happiness of the world, Dracula returns, and sends his unholy minions to rid the world of the living. The people cry out for help, and there is one who takes up the fight. Simon Belmont takes his family weapon, "Vampire Killer", and sets out for the Counts dreaded home.
Vampire Killer, desputed as the first Castlevania (Actually is the 2nd) was released in 1986 on the MSX2. This is perhaps the better of the two games. Sadly America does not have this title available without some form of emulator. For those who favor say Symphony of the Night over the older titles for their non-linear presentation, you will not be dissapointed with Vampire Killer. You are allowed to explore around the areas finding items and chests, beating the crap out of enemies, or running from those same enemies.
Graphically speaking, this is a much cleaner game than the original Castlevania released on the NES the same year. However the sprites in the NES version are re-issues of this game. The only difference is the colors have changed. But for sure this title is the better version graphically. The background trees look like trees, and things are far more fluid. This is of course due to the much better CPU of the MSX@ vs the NES.
The story is of similar fashion to the original as well. There is little outside of Simon Belmont of the Vampire hunting clan must go and defeat Dracula and his evil forces. You do get a mention of Christopher Belmont (Adventure and Belmont's Revenge) but outside of this, there is no real story to follow.
The music was awesome at the time of release, and is still great even now. Composed by Kinuyo Yamashita, the track was creepy, and frightening from beginning to end. The tone of the music set the game perfectly, and sometimes for younger kids was almost too scary. (I know at the age of 5, my sister was too scared of the music when I played the game, and would ask Mom to have me turn it off) However with Vampire Killer, the sound quality is a little bit better. And that made it all the more fun to play!
The gameplay might be overly challenging for those accustomed to the whole gamepad thing. If you are not comfotable using a keyboard, you will have some difficulty with the game. The directional buttons act as Simons movement, ducking, and jumping, while you hit the space bar to use the whip etc. This can be difficult to get the hang of, and will most likely frighten some people into not giving this game a go.
A minor phrase helps explain the challenge....YOU ARE GONNA GET STOMPED! This is perhaps the most difficult game in the series I have had the fun of playing. Another title where I just get taken to lunch more times than not lol. This was also due mostly to the 3 lives you have to get to the end of 18 levels! Thank god for emulators and the save function. I was able to finally get through the entirety of the game. And unlike the original Castlevania NES, I did beat his unholyness in this game. But the challenge is exrtremely high, like we would expect nothing less from Castlevania.
This is a hard title to top for sound, quality and difficulty among the older retro games. And even in the world of Castlevania, this is a excellent show of what they could do in the beginning of the game craze of the 80's.
If you can find a MSX2 emulator and get this rom, give it a go. If you liked the NES Castlevania, I am certain you will like this one even more. It has more to offer, is a lot cleaner and graphically better, and has the same great music and gameplay of the original. I would say this should be taken as a remake or a improvement on the other.