Vampire Killer (1986)
Released for the MSX Japanese home computer (and also brought out in Europe and Brazil), Vampire Killer isn't really a port of the original Castlevania, but rather an interesting adaption.
While the game initially shares the same look as the first Castlevania game, the structure is very different. The game gives you a small area that you must explore in order to find the key for the exit. In addition to searching for said skeleton key, you also find a variety of treasure chests to be unlocked that provide some very useful power-ups. There are also merchants (sometimes hidden) that will sell you items in exchanges for hearts. Weapons such as daggers and axes take the place of your whip, and can be used as long as necessary (but you must catch the axe on its return.) You also get holy water, an hourglass to stop time, a map to take a look at your progress, and two varieties of shields. After making your way through three of the minor areas, you fight a boss and can proceed to the next stage.
While the game will seem familiar to those that played the NES original, there are some additional areas that are new. For instance, there's an extra level in Dracula's tower before you fight him. The fight with Dracula is almost completely different...although the first method of attack Dracula uses is similar, once you beat him, the painting in the background starts spitting out bats.
Although there are some control differences, the game plays similarly to it's offspring. You must press up to jump, for example, which can create a bit of trouble when trying to go up stairs. However, this problem is alleviated if you have a gamepad, as it uses one of the buttons to jump. Still, the game feels a little bit awkward - your hero whips very quickly, making it hard to hit the faster moving enemies. Whip upgrades are fairly rare as well.
The graphics look like the original Castlevania, only slightly better. There's nice color, and the backgrounds are much cleaner looking. The music is pretty much the same though, and the sound effects, at least coming from an emulator aren't all that special.
The one main problem I have with this title is the difficulty. You start off every level with a minimal amount of hearts and your stupid leather whip, leaving you mincemeat for any enemy coming at the beginning of a level. Furthermore, the enemies are quite aggressive, and your character whips so fast, it's hard to hit anything. However, if you have the Game Master ROM, you can choose your level and select how many lives you want. If want to play this lost Castlevania title, check out the Emulation Section.
Manual Scans provided by Proto and Captain Commando.
Vampire Killer Artwork
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Castlevania Games - Vampire Killer