Your tour guide for the evening: Shattenjager and Vampire Killer: Mark "Xerxes" Whiting (


Hmm… What’s this? Weird folks in pointy cowls? Human hearts bursting in people’s clutched fingers? Spooky and vaguely Shinto-esque music? And a bright nasty implied whiteness that can ONLY suggest our favorite Blood-Quaffer? This isn’t the stuff we’re used to seeing in our little white bread North America world… It can only mean one thing – AKUMAJO DRACULA EX68000! That’s right - that little-known installment in our favourite video game series: Castlevania!

Akumajo Dracula. was originally released (I guess) on some sort of weird-ass system of computer goodness that never quite made it across the pacific from Japan in its original form called the EX68. Judging by the interface, it was vaguely dos-esque. Slightly fussy to install, but worth the effort, the emulator program mimics the original system well, with excellent sound and some nifty effects such as rotation and scaling/stretching of objcects much like the old Super Nintendo Castlevania 4. The graphics are good… (personally, I think they’re better than CV4)… at least on my screen they don’t look as pixely as the SNES games. Of course, that could be due to the size of the window, which is square and sort of little. On my machine (a Celeron 500 with win ’98) I have the "windows" button clicked in that weird little Japanese option box that you get in the emulator interface, which just about doubles the size of the viewing area from that silly little square, and gives lots of room to enjoy the nice visuals.

Some installation notes: Just skip this point if you’re looking for the walkthrough… I use EX86 for my emulation, which works great and has great sound. To install, just unzip the goodness into a directory along with the rom, and when you want to play run the emulator (the first time you run it you’ll have to click on the mini-program which will patch EX68000 files into the registry so your computer knows what to do with them), and then do the following.

At the prompt, type


And when you’re in the directory

ADRA (Akumajo Dracula, get it?)

That’s it. You can fuss with the options in the control box if you like, but I highly recommend leaving them alone unless you want to mess the emulator right up. Click the "windows" box in the display panel though… but I found that the Direct Draw option just slowed things down. Messing with other controls caused various treats to happen - like my keyboard not working or the sound being slowed down to about 1/5th speed.

Next comes an option thing. It’s in Japanese, which I can’t unfortunately read… however, I think the gist is "what sort of sound emulation do you want".. I choose option 1, which is the original sound, rather than MIDI. It’s your call… but the music is quite good, and the FX are as well under the original emulation. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Now it’s off to the Introduction and a name input screen. Here you can also do something called "trigger reverse" which alternates the Z and X keys, so that jump becomes whip and whip becomes jump. I like hammering away on the whip key with my ring finger, so I switched it… but like I said, it’s all personal preferance.

Allright, ready? Good Time to go open cans on some undeath!


There’s the obligatory Castle Up Ahead Of You Being Forbidding And You Don’t Care, scene, and it’s onward to Stage 1.


Stage 1: "Honey… I’m Home."

Like a bad Chinese buffet, that wacky first level of the original Castlevania keeps lingering on and resurfacing in many interesting forms (CV I, III, IV, Bloodlines, and X all tip the hat to some degree) Any whipcracker worth his garlic salt knows right enough that when the dulcet tune of Vampire Killer starts blastin’ over those speakers of yours and that big ugly drawbridge starts liftin’ itself up, it’s time to put out the cat and start taking the belt to some zombies. First, of course there is the equally ritualized and Kabuki-esque "let’s walk up to the castle and go inside" preemptive part. So do that, and snag some goodies along the way in the various burning urns scattered about. Enjoy the satisfying crack of thunder as lightning wastes a tree behind you. Oh yeah – pathetic fallacy never sounded so appropriate. Get onto that drawbridge boy! Grab the knife and do the Eddie Murphy voice from the Golden Child.

Now you’re back inside Castlevania (Its technical term? Who knows.) once again. You know the drill. Weird red and pink zombies with bad fashion sense are going to come at you waving their arms like a Sure Deodorant commercial. Take the belt to ‘em. Note that annoyed little eye lurking outside the window, following you along and trying to get in. We’ll see him later. There are three panthers here, just like in the Original CV, and they are HARD to see. Watch for them on the stairs. Aside from that, not much to say about block 1. Whip Zombies, Take Names. Take a gander at Drac’s new interest in Rubensesque art as you stroll by. Fat ladies. Nice. Lots of blood in those babies. Snatch a crucifix for effect in the last candle, even though there are no enemies on the screen. Feel cool.

Block two. Remember that eye? He’s found an open window, so smack him when he comes after you. Here’s where the game designers get cute. Remember waaaaay back in Castlevania 1 when you busted up the right hand side of this part of the level for werewolf kabobs? Don’t. The twisted minds at Konami have seen fit to stock THOSE blocks with about a million spawning Igors, and you’ll be plenty sorry if you let them out. Go left instead and hit the left wall. Ah! There’s that tasty morsel. Set a downward course and head for the fish pond.

Yep. There’s a heart on the left that’s worth five units of ammo, and I’ll be buggered if I know how to get it. Forget about it… try not to become NutraFin as you move along. Snatch the watch in the middle candle, because it’s cool. Purists will argue against the use of the pocketwatch, but trust me…you’ll grow to like that friendly chronometer in THIS particular resurrection of the series, let me tell you. Especially in the later levels. For those of you seeking glory, don’t forget the interesting little crown treat that you can conjure up at the end of the fish pond. Just break a few bricks and drop down onto that little platform just under the surface of the water, then kneel. Easy!

Come up out of the water and head in the big oak door. If you’re feeling silly, you can break a block here and walk backwards across the top of the level to the point where the Igors were hiding. But really, why?

The next block is similarly straightforward. Slap zombies, grab treats. Make sure you exchange your stopwatch for the axe when the candle comes around. You’ll feel pretty stupid holding that watch when you’re trying to fight the boss. Just grab the axe, and also the II multiplier hidden in the blocks just underneath the Bat Roost.

Boss 1: Phantom Bat.

Whee. We’ve all seen this before, several times. Big Black Bat versus Big Bad Simon. Not a problem. Laugh gleefully because this is level one and you only take two measly bars of damage when you get hit by something. I went back to do this writeup after polishing off Drac and couldn’t believe how much leeway that seems like – especially when you’re used to Four Strikes And You’re Out. Regardless – there’s a big flying mammal there and it’s gotta die. Whip your trusty axe in a high arc and get ready to run when it connects because a mad hornet mob of little batlings are going to come right after that spot you’re standing in. Jump, throw, and move. Try not to do it in a corner because obviously, you’re not getting out of there quickly when the Bat Mob dives. Smack them with the Vampire Killer if they get uppity. In no time the bat bursts in a satisfying fireball and you’re going to level 2.

Being a Zen Buddhist, I think I’ll just gloss over that snazzy crucifix on the map which Simon puts up to signify Dead Boss, and we’ll progress directly to the Caves. ;) Grit your teeth and snarl at the tasteful negative-space image of the Bone Dragon Golem that appears in that little red map box. We’ll be seeing HIM shortly.


Level 2: Spelunking for Goodness.

OK, well here you are. Caves. Not something that made an appearance in the original CV1. Savour the heavy bass thrumming in one of the original musical compositions of Dracula EX68000. Those of us with Subwoofers Love It, expecially. It’s an interesting level that begins with a quick descent straight down. After sending some bats back to the Big Roost In The Sky, you are faced with… uh… big pillars of phlegm. Yep. Don’t ask, just whip ‘em until they recoil like Ronald on a Frosty Morning and then continue onward while wiping the snot off your tunic with a Kleenex. Hmm. Big spikes in the ceiling? Gee.. that couldn’t be threatening, could it? Fake the suckas and jump on them after they fall. Don’t jump into the little spiked pits that come after the staircase of stalactites (duh.) Grab the doorhandle and you’re in block two.

Block two is weird… unlike most other CV games, EX68000 occasionally gives you the option to take one of two paths to get to the end of the level, and this would be one of those times. You are faced with the choice of having to ram around in the depths of the caves or take the high road (not to Scotland) but to the weird underground river. It’s your call, but I suggest the upper road simply because it makes more sense, and is (IMHO) less difficult. Those of you following in my footsteps get to slog along in this little rushing stream while stomping magic eyes and those little gargoyles that you saw flying around in the background of the level earlier (nice touch, BTW). Note how that skeletal dragon’s wing wiggles as you go by? Foreshadowing. Leave the river and smack some bats, then run up against your first Bone Dragon of the game. Thump him and proceed forthwith to the secret room behind him.

For those of you taking the LOW road, get ready to dodge some weird worm-things that look like they came from the movie "Tremors", and leap out of the ground to GIT you. When that invisibility potion shows up in the first or second candlestick on the lower level, grab it and run like hell towards the right. If you’re fast, you get the satisfaction of standing on a little pillar while two huge worms make simultaneous dives at your invisible form and collide head-on in the process, thereby annihilating themselves. Too bad the next ones aren’t so easy. It was the annoyance of faking out these next worms that drove me to the upper path, eventually. You DO get to have fun smacking the bony tail of the Dragon Skeleton… watch it swing, back and forth. Back and forth. You make your own fun. When you’ve finished having fun with that, proceed. Either way, after smacking some bats, you come to the above mentioned Bone Dragon. Just hand out a beatdown and proceed into the secret room.

The secret room lies in the wall slightly above and behind where the Bone Dragon was hanging around. Smack the rock and proceed inwards to face… the mysterious cloaked stranger!, MCS for short. Whos is this angel of mercy? It might be Sypha Belnades in one of her Taller moods, it might be Gene Siskel in a big grey robe. Nobody knows, as the mystery is never fully explained. Doesn’t matter. He’ll show up and a weird ring of relatively crappy powerups starts spinning around his head. Boo! Bad stock – although the II multiplier is pretty cool. Snatch it if you have full health. If you don’t see something you like, do what any sane 15th century Vampire Hunter would do and start whipping your mysterious ally until he gives you exactly what you want. I, personally, favour the werewolf meat – but hey. Anyway when you find what you want, smack it with the Vampire Killer, and remember to say Thank You as you leave.

Proceed downward and wait at the river until you get to that little levitating platform that we all know and love from the Frankenstein level of the Original. Leap on, and duck so you don’t bump your head on the roof, which smarts. When you disembark, you’ll see a rather largish Stone Lion Head set in the right side of the screen. It will be spewing water from its mouth and blowing the occasional fireball in your direction. Toast it.

Wheeeeeeee! Bet you weren’t expecting THAT! OK, so yeah, the platform you were just standing on has suddenly become a raft hurtling upwards into the upper reaches of the cavern. Just how much water WAS in that lion statue anyway? Duck and weave and try not to smash your head on those big rock platforms that are heading in your general direction. Keep to the middle of the raft because collision with the rock outcroppings will tilt it quite severely. Try and be in the air when that happens, and it won’t throw you as much. Also, fish men will be leaping up on either side of you. Smack them in the air if you can, because they’re going to start breathing fire at you if they survive their initial leap. Again, I found jumping the fireballs rather than whipping them to be the most effective. When the raft starts to slow down, get ready to leap like crazy on the platforms that sink quickly past you. If you already have the axe, forget about snagging other weapons in the candlesticks. If you make that last part, you come face-to-skull with the Bone Dragon Golem Thingie.

Boss 2: Bone Dragon Golem Thingie.

It’s not a great advertisement for this particular model of boss to state that I have only ever fought it twice. Each time I beat it, no problem. He will rise up from the right hand side of the screen, looking irate. If you have plenty of health, you’ll do fine. Just crack him in that big, grinnin’ skull with the Vampire Killer, and be aware of the fact that he enjoys flicking the raft with his tail, and it will tilt when he does. Stay on the left side for tail action, and hang a right when he decides to blow fire at you (that way, even if you take a hit you won’t go into the drink). Just jump like crazy and whip his head, throwing axes if the need takes you. He should collapse and sink back to Davy Jones without too much hee-haw, clearing the way to level 3.

Stage 3: Midnight in the Garden of Evil.

Hm. What’s that weird picture of some crazy wizard doing in the map screen? I thought that the garden levels were reserved for mummies? Hmmf.

Well, here we are. I don’t know who’s idea it was to run "Wicked Child" through the Lounge-O-Sizer but you have some nice Vegas-style revamped music from the original courtyard level to keep you company as you bang through this one.

If your emulator is anything like mine, this is the point where the whole screen goes black except for Simon, and things get screwy. Just ignore it. You’re going to have to put up with a bit of that occasionally when levels start up. You’ll notice that as you progress further to the right, that everything becomes visible again soon enough. Whew! After that whole Genesyst fiasco with the last level of Bloodlines, Bad emulation is starting to become a pet peeve of mine.

OK, so you’re going to get to meet Tree People soon enough. Weird little buggers who obviously don’t like being part of your local elm. When you move past a tree in this level, odds are that one of these fools is going to try to leap out and grab you. Be aware.

Move past the trees, making sure to put distance between them and you before the little bark boys can snatch you. Then get ready for everybody’s favourite part of any Castlevania game, the "Igors keep falling on my head" scene. Do your best attempt at a thirties musical while whipping those ubiquitous pests. Unlike other more merciful castlevanias, the Igors are JUST small enough to evade the Vampire Killer’s just retribution if you are standing and they are not. This means that you either have to A) duck and whip or B) get a lucky shot in when they jump at you. RRRrrh I HATE Igors.

Anyway, get through that as fast as you can, and snag a knife while you do. Next comes the Fountain of Badness. Something like the fountain at Versailles in Bloodlines, only just spewing possessed water globs instead of blood and skeletons. Run as fast as you can through the fountain… don’t bother to mess with the droplets yet. Wise man say: He who crack whip while surrounded by enemy end up busted like fortune cookie. Run away, and then if you like, smack a few of the possessed blobbies from the safety of the right hand side… but be advised, these Quick Babies like to Jump. So they’re hard to hit. You think THAT’S annoying? Wait until the Valley of the Dolls in level 6.

Statues come next. While it IS interesting to note that the arrows they shoot will stick into your character and look painful for a while if they connect, you probably don’t want that. Instead, get used to the idea that whenever these things are about, you’re looking for a patch of cover. The arrows can’t arc through terrain, so use that as an advantage. Run up, smack the first one… but don’t forget about that weird caterpillar thingie with the big proboscis that you have to deal with first. Hint: When fighting these things, duck. Their tongue will go over your head… Who’s an Igor now? Best way to handle statues is to whip, step, whip, step. By the time you get up to them, they’ll be just about dead. Make the final dash for the big iron garden gate and you’re through to block 2.

I have no idea why the Count keeps a pit full of soggy mud in the middle of his garden. The mud is full of frogs - so get ready for these guys. They love to jump, so fricassee them when they do, and proceed towards the right. That candle way up there isn’t worth your time so forget about it. If you really MUST take out every single lighting fixture, the way to get that baby is to jump from the far left moving platform to the far right one, then up. It’s hard. I told you so.

Reduce a few ravens into writing implements, and hop up on the big mass of mud. Weird mud-women will emerge from the silt and you can have fun hacking arms and limbs off of them. They take a lot of hits! Then move to the right. Hey. Notice that weird candlestick underneath you that you can’t seem to get to? You want that. Walk down the stairs on the far right, and let yourself sink into the mud… don’t worry.. just keep pressing jump and you won’t go down totally. Let your head sink under the surface and you should be able to move left enough to get under the candle but DON’T whip it unless you’re standing right underneath the candle as your prize will sink into the mud. Smoke that raven who’s pestering you.

OK, here’s our first official introduction to the Herb, although you might have gotten it from a random enemy at some earlier point in the game. As Cyprus Hill fans will attest, the Herb is more than just a powerful potion, and should ONLY be used for medicinal purposes. Fortunately, that’s exactly what it does. For the measly price of ten hearts, you too can have a werewolf chop in your back pocket. Great stuff! I love the Herb… it’s way too sparsely allocated in this game. Only the triple-shot boomerangs can match this item for sheer coolness.

After snatching your prize, go back through the mud, and head right. Pretty soon you come to this weird crypt… they COULD just open the door for you, but that would be boring. Watch as the whole thing tears itself up from the ground and levitates in the air, revealing a secret stair to the Ice Caverns.

The Ice Caverns appears to be a place where the Count has made a morgue of sorts. Lots of poor souls trapped in the ice, or in the weird pillars in the background. Unfortunately, if your emulator’s like mine, for the first screen, all you see is Black. A pillar will foil your way…Just walk forward and whip the candle that sits in front of your face. Then wait. After about ten seconds, there is a crashing noise and something under your feet breaks, revealing a hole. Well, actually, since the screen is still black it reveals nothing. But you can at least drop down now. Snap the torches and grab your booty. Then move to the right… Ah.. the level is not visable! Go up the staircase, but watch your head for the bat who will swoop harmlessly by if you let it. If you DON’T have the herb (i.e. if you’ve already died and restarted in the caves), grab the stopwatch at the top of the stairs, and then do a leap off the upper level, snapping 10 units worth of Phat Hearts as you do. Ok. Now we have a big weird blue pillar. Hmm. It’s covered with gore, and so are those spikes immediately above it. Hmmmm. Menacing. Don’t be a doorknob by jumping right onto it and trying to shimmy across, because you will end up as a pincushion. Instead, pull a fakey and leap onto the pillar, then leap off again. Psych! It will shoot upwards, but will be frustrated in not squishing you. As it slowly descends it is safe to jump back onto it and make your way across. It’s only dangerous when it reaches the bottom again, so be sure you get OFF before that happens. Leap across the weird levitating platforms while smacking a bat.

See that weird Dune-style sandworm? What the hell is it doing in an ice cave? Who cares. HERE is where you use the watch (if you have it) for the first time. It will go plink, plink, plink and you can jump over the worm’s pit and smack an immobile bat before the Goodness runs out. Hang onto that watch… you’ll need it again, like right now. Next part of the level has Igors frozen in ice cubes. A most sensible idea. Unfortunately, to get past them, you’re going to have to thaw the little buggers and THAT will be difficult to do without hurting yourself. With a bit of luck you SHOULD be able to kill the first two no problem. (One encased in a little ice prison, the other in a solid block of ice), but don’t try and handle the next part without using the watch, because 3 Igors + Slippery floor + you = big damage, and with the boss coming up you just can’t afford that. Freeze time and smoke them in their cubes. You should be able to do that with one use of the watch. Then move onward.

Next there are some skeletons throwing icy bones at you. If you have hearts to blow, you can freeze time again and get past the first one, but I just jump the arcing femurs and then hand out some beatdowns when I get on their level. Go left and grab a valentine heart, then resume your rightward tack. You want to take the lower path here, because the second-last candle has a boomerang in it. You definitely want that cross-shaped hunk of goodness. Don’t hit any of the other candles on the way there, because once you grab the boomer, (DON’T slide immediately into the knife which is in the next candle), you will want to use the boomerang to knock those candles out. Why? Because killing a whole lot of stuff like candles with your special weapon gives you II and III multipliers. If you consistently use the boomerang on the next set of skeletons and candles, a II should fall in your lap with enough time to use it on the boss. For the point-obsessed among us, you can backtrack and kneel on the lower level after finishing off the last ice skeleton to make a crown pop out of the ground. Search me if I can figure out how to get it without getting mauled by the ice skeleton (who will respawn if you do such a silly thing). Just continue onwards to the right. Real Undead Hunters don’t do it for the points, anyway.

Boss 3: Mad Wizard Malcolm:

OK, so it COULD be Malcolm. It’s an in-joke. Forget it.

Colm will materialize somewhere on the right side of the screen. He will frustrate you because he levitates JUST out of reach of your trusty whip (Duh. If YOU could fly would YOU be sitting around on the ground?) Colm has an assortment of nifty spells that he will hurl at you with gleeful abandon, and beating him is just a matter of knowing how to counter each one that he whips.

Columns: If blue sparks start zinging around the wizad’s head then get ready for a spell that will shoot out and strike the ground at your feet, causing huge pillars of ice to shoot forth. I think the idea is that they are supposed to pile-drive you against the ceiling, but really, they’re not threatening. Hop on one if you can and ride it to the top… although riding them DOWN is probably a more likely option. These pillars are the only way you can actually GET at Colm if he’s got his mind set on hovering around in the air and being silly, so as soon as you get some distance from the ground, take the opportunity to fill the stratosphere with boomerangs and whip his gloating form if you can. The air at the top of the screen is a great place to have boomerangs, because it’s quite likely that Colm will materialize there and get hit several times.

Dragon Heads: These suckers are scary at first because they’re fast and hard to dodge. I think you can smack them if you’re worried about them connecting, but breathe easy when you see the green stuff, because the Dragon Heads don’t actually hurt you. They WILL suck some hearts from you and make your whip power-down, which sucks… but Colm won’t be living long enough to gloat about that. Just avoid ‘em if you can.

Swords: OK. These things are the ones to watch. They are semi-intelligent and they track. Colm will summon a trio of knives which float around and then come shooting straight at your head. Best way to avoid them is to hang around the middle of the screen when you see them coming, then jump away at the last second. Don’t go in the corner when he does this spell, because there’s nowhere to run and you’ll get cut.

Demon Summoning: Not REALLY sure what this crazy thing is supposed to be, but the point is, when you see the big pentagram, get ready for Mr. Ugly to show up. As best as I can figure, this beast is indestructible so don’t even try. What you want to do is to get him to start breathing, because he breathes a cloud of this weird grey gas that you don’t want connecting with you… Now, the idea is to get him started with his breath somewhere around the middle of the screen (hang around there until he does) and then beat it to a corner. If you just run to a corner right away he’ll just start unloading on you right there, and you’re not escaping it any more than you’re dodging those swords. The Big guy will go away once he’s done spewing gas, so just wait him out, and then go after the twisted mutha who would dare summon such a thing.

All in all, Colm’s tricky, but if you know what’s what, you shouldn’t have any problems. He’s pretty weak, healthwise - and if you’re quick to snap a hit off before he can squeak out a spell, he will teleport away annoyed, the spell unfinished. He’s only dangerous when he floats away from the whip, so use those columns and throw lots of boomerangs. He’ll go down with a satisfying reverse shower of golden rain. Now, onward!

Stage 4: "I hate snakes, Jacque! I HATE ‘em!"

Groovy! I’ve liked "Bloody Tears", since CVII and when they do it in some crazy reverbed guitar-style… well, that just makes my day. Anyone recognize that crazy red brick and armour motif? Sure ya do. As IF that weird medusa-thingie in the preview wasn’t a dead giveaway, we’re looking at the same part of the castle that served as stage 2 in the original. Some improvements have been made, of course.

Block one is simple. Go up, wreck the armour, don’t let those little medusa heads connect with your solar plexus. (Damn, I hate those things almost as much as the Igors…) Cracking the shins of the walking pikemen with your whip as you ascend the staircases is cheap, cowardly and effective. Unload some hurt on the Bone Dragon first, of course. Just make your way to the top and try not to take one to the skull… keep an eye on those medusae as they will be warping in and bobbing around as they always do.

Once you get to the top of the chamber and hit that big oak door which signifies Block 2, things change substantially from the original. I MUST say right here that I was quite impressed with this whole three-stories-high-enormous-greek-goddess-figure idea. There are no torches in this room but you can smack the fires in the burning brazers for goodness. However, LISTEN UP. They didn’t use Bloody Tears as the music for this level for nothing. As soon as you set foot in this block you have to be running like hell for the stairs, because there is a serious time limit. You can’t see it now, but the towering figure is crying bloody tears from her eyesockets and when these blobs of AB negative connect with the concrete, blood skeletons are going to start springing up just like little Anne Geddes daisies with big skulls instead of chirpin’ baby faces.. Get outa there! One tear falls every three seconds or so, so you do the math. If it takes you ten seconds to get to the third platform (where you will be safe), you have 3 skeletons to deal with. If it takes you two minutes, you have 40. You don’t want that. Forget about the torches… you don’t need what’s in them badly enough to fight a million regenerating skeletons. Just head for the top of the level as fast as your little legs can pump. Once you get to the third platform, you’re relatively safe. Moving at top speed, you’ll only have to snap a grand total of one skeleton before you make it all the way up. Then, just slap the foo’s in your way and jump left pass the big head. This sort of thing makes me wish I knew more about the whole Vampirella tale involving the lesbian vampire with the bloody, crying mask. These bloody tears are a recurring mythology? And here I thought Ashtar from Ninja Gaiden just had cool fashion sense.

OK. So you’re past the big statue. Obviously, do NOT fall into the pits with the walking suits of armour in them. Jump on the floating platforms, deke a few medusa heads and start knockin’ on block 3. Simple.

Block three. Yep, Drac liked those spiky platforms enough to keep them around for another installment. Jump up and duck to avoid being impaled by the first one. The candle between the first two descending spike traps is Holy Water. Unless you have a real good reason not to, (i.e. you have the Herb) grab it. It’ll come in handy in a sec.

As soon as you make it past the last platform, immediately turn to your right and crouch to smack one of those little ghosties that’ll be materializing there. It will expire with a satisfying squeak. Always liked those things. Now, go do the same for the eye which is going to be on your left. Good. Grab that heart-shaped booty and hightail it up the stairs. Now we have the interestingly novel dilemma of rotating blades on poles. These things are much more difficult to get by unscathed than the descending spikey things were. The first two aren’t so bad… Jump and duck, respectively. However, the LAST one requires you to do both while smacking a bat in the process. I only ever managed it once without getting hit SOMEWHERE along the line. Don’t worry… Werewolf chop’s a-comin’ before the end of the level anyway. Just don’t do it again.

Once you take the stairs up you have an interesting scene. Skeletal boys above you, hurling bones. Skeletons. Hate ‘em. No hit points but damn annoying when they’re above you. Dispatch the one at your left immediately, and then try and herd the upper two against the far-right platform. They’ll do that if you start on the left and gradually work your way over, because they’re stupid as bricks. As soon as they’re both masrshalled over there, hit the stairs. You should be able to make it all the way up without getting a bone to your dome. Of course, they will once again leap at you, seeking vengance, but you are now in a position to just laugh in their bony faces and dispatch them with a quick leap and flip of the Vampire Killer. Then move up a platform and do the same to their buddy. You can just jump straight up and nail him without even taking the stairs.

NOW it gets fun. This part is tricky. As you keep moving up in the world, that picturesque stained glass window behind you explodes and congeals itself into a big animated mess-o-glass who stomps around and carries a conglomerate of shards as a shield. This dude is one bad hombre, and you have to be clever to beat him. The shield will, effectively, block all your attempts to hit him, and he has an annoying tendency of whipping sharp pieces of glass at you. Also, he’s cowardly and backs away from you rather than fight mano-a-mano. Hmm. Well, remember that holy water? This is where you use it. Charge right up there as fast as you can, and force him backwards onto the left hand platforms. You want to be above him on the centre platform. Now just leap up and whip vials of holy water down at him. They should connect at his feet, and after a few jars, the main glass body will explode. Now, get the hell out of Dodge, because all these pissed-off little bits of shield will come flying at you. Don’t be stupid and try to fight them… just fall downwards a screen or so until the angry little glass noises stop. Then poke your head up where it’s safe and contintue. The next bit involves an easy march through the chapel proper, exterminating medusa heads along the way. There is a crucifix here that I suspect was meant to be used on Glassman however, since he’s dead just snatch it and toast a medusa head or two. When the floor drops down a brick and you see the Big Cross With A Snake Crawling On It, don’t forget to turn around and bust the brick at your feet for Werewolf Meat. You should now be healthy enough to go up against the Real Medusa.

Boss 4: Medusa

Always a joy to see HER smiling face. You all knew it was coming, so quit moaning already. Medusa will un-petrify and come after you in a serious way. This is a rather tough fight so be sure you’ve got plenty of holy water on tap. I finished her off rightly enough by leaping into the air and hurling the flasks at her while cracking with my whip when I was on the ground. Keep your head down because that big purple ray that we all know will come out of her mouth and petrify you, and turn you into a sitting duck for this weird little karate-type Jackie Chan tail whip thing she does. Random Fact: I discovered while fighting her that if I stood RIGHT on the edge of the right-hand side of the screen, she ran right up to me and tried to do that crazy tail-voodoo but couldn’t connect. I was able to just hammer her easily without taking any damage… however that MIGHT have been a glitch, so don’t blame me if you become snake feed trying it. Fortunately, there’s nothing in particular that you have to hit on her, so just go ballistic and when the rage dies down, hopefully medusa will crumble into dust at your feet. Watch smugly as that snake crawling around on the crucifix suddenly spontaneously combusts. Wrath of God or carefully situated explosive? You be the judge.



Stage 5: Jockin’ the Freaks, Clockin’ the Dough.

If you love Clock Towers and you Know It, clap your hands. These levels are either loved or completely reviled by followers of the Belmonts, and since they occur with kabuki-like predictability in every episode, you have plenty of material to base your decision on. Me? I like ‘em. Reminds me of Grant from CVIII, and he was quite the G. Pirates… Arrrrr! Now, you’re NOT going to get cool pirate buddies in this installment, unfortunately. But you ARE going to get one hell of a difficult level and also some of the most annoying (surprisingly) music in the game to listen to. Think of it as your right of passage to the Big Leagues and things will get easier to swallow. I KNOW you’re all thinking MUMMIES, but no, the boss is actually a very nasty werewolf who we will discuss later on. But I recommend taking a break and coming back to this level, because I kid you not, it will frustrate. The true Castlevania Roshis won’t be daunted though, and will embrace the challenge with gritted teeth and cracking whip. Bring it on!

OK, so let’s get the flavour of this level off, right away. Level 5 is EVIL because… well, just because. The initial jump will convince you right off. There is a skeleton armed with a sword hanging around on the other side of a largish pit with spikes in it. Kill him, and then jump over the spikes. This is one of those long-gaps-that-you-almost-have-to-be-falling-into-the-pit-anyway-to-cross jobbies. But jump over there and whip the wall, revealing a secret axe. That axe will be your buddy for a little while and will come in handy during your assault. Now, start movin’ on up to the East Side. Literally. There are some weird elevator-type things that will show up right after you get past the rotating block and snatch a Phat Heart in the process. You know. Right after you jump on that giant rotating gear… Geez. So many gears in these games. Use you axe to smoke the skeletal guys with the blades, because trust me, they are fast with drawing those things and getting close to them with your dinky-ass whip is dangerous. Hit the feet of the next skeleton and continue. Like I said, avoid the elevator thing.. there’s basically nothing you really want there, and you stand a good chance of getting impaled on the spikes at the top if you decide to front. Just play it cool, daddy-o and head up the right-hand side of the tower, using your body’s weight to offset those weird teeter-totter things enough that you can use them as jumping points. Obviously, when you have a see-saw rotated to maximum angleness, jump up on it rather than walk so your body doesn’t counterweight the thing to the point of nonfunctionality. Dodge those damn medusa heads or whip ‘em if you get the chance, and make your way up to a point where you can chuck an axe and kill a skeleton who is stomping around right above your head (difficult to do without this handy weapon). However, now you’re going to lose that axe and grab the boomerang that’s hidden in the right-hand candle (after Jimmy is dead, of course.) Keep moving, and you’ll get to a point where you can jump on another huge gear and make it to the end of block 1. Whew!

OK, Block 2 starts out (on my emulator) totally black again. Don’t let this throw you. Just wait and maybe grab that closest candle if you’re in need of a Biggie Whip, but be sure to beat a retreat back to the left-hand side of the screen because dragon skull pillars are going to start falling out of the sky and you don’t want to be caught in the middle of the Mexican Shootout. Fortunately, they didn’t build these things with rotating bases, so you’re safe as long as you don’t get flanked. Time your whipcracks to coincide with the fireballs they spew, and advance slowly while murdering them. There are three in the set, total. Now, walk RIGHT to the edge of the next platform and jump straight up to whip that candle, or it’s going to go falling down to the bottom of the clock tower with Rattigan and Quasimodo. Got it? Good. Now leap onto those crazy spinning gears and execute a dashing feat of jumping prowess, making your way to the top of the structure without getting spun off into the spikes. Pause the game and examine the crushed skeleton smushed down inside the smaller of the two gears and grin because you didn’t go out like that. OK, now whip a medusa head and continue further along. Here’s the obligatory "Jump-onto-the-Pendulum" scene, and jumping onto it is quite simple… just don’t plummet into the spikes. Make sure to walk a little bit on the top of the thing because you’re going to want to be right at the right edge of it when you leap off… that jump is kinda long.

Jumping on the little counterweight platforms is Big Fun, and a nice silly little break from the normal mayhem of the level. I’m quite pleased they decided to program something unnecessary like these things in there. Just jump off the pendulum, then right, then stright up (onto platform #2) then right again. Easy. Now head over towards Pendulum #2. Since when is a huge morningstar an appropriate thing to use in timekeeping? Sheesh, these people. Anyway, you have to duck it… and this part is hard. Like the blades on level 4, I only ever got past it once without getting clowned. Get as close to the big spiky thing as you can, and then duck as it comes at you. It should go zinging over your head, and when it does, stand up and run hell-for-leather. Jump and keep jumping since the big screw you’re standing on is now going to be carrying you back towards that spiky pit of badness. There is also a medusa head complicating things, and you’re a real cowboy if you manage to pull it off without a hitch. Most people will get clunked by either the ball or the medusa head. Don’t worry if this is the case, just keep dashing right and hope that your temporary damage invulnerability lasts long enough to get you out of the hot spot. That last candle on the right side of the pit closest to the morningstar is a boomerang… get it if you don’t already have one, but be careful!

OK, now we come to an interesting little device. Hmm. It’s a lever, attached to a big platform, which is attached to a cage full of Igors. The answer seems obvious. Don’t let the Igors out. But it doesn’t work like that, and unfortunately, you have to. There ARE some things you can do to protect yourself. When you’re standing on the sinking platform attatched to the counterweight, jump and hurl some boomerangs through the wall, and maybe you can take a few of the little bastards out before they all get a chance to go helter-skelter. When the arm sinks all the way to the bottom you will be in the unenviable position of having about a thousand Igors coming at you, bouncing and giggling with perverse glee. All you can do is kneel whip. If you’re fast and lucky, you’ll get them in mid bounce at the last second… but it’s quite normal to take one of the sniggering little fools to the chest. When the dust clears, step off the platform and watch the sinking cage lower back into place… (RRRrrr!) A side note: you can break that wall immediately to your left at the bottom of the armature, but there’s nothing in it (weird.) Maybe they THOUGT of putting something in there but decided to give it a pass… who knows? If you don’t believe me, go in and get hit by the medusa head that’s now barreling for your exposed back. See?

Continue right, and stop at the foot of the staircase. What you’re NOT immediately seeing is the little Igor snickering and cracking his knuckles immediately offscreen to your right. Just walk as far right as you can while remaining off the stairs, duck, face left, and wait. Igor will eventually get bored with hanging around and will emerge from hiding to try and front. Snap him back to reality with a quick flick, and then mount the stairs. If you snag the Biggie Heart, expect the Igor to respawn. Igor #2 is hanging around immediately behind his buddy, so get ready to duck when you come off the staircase and nail his little hunchback ass. Then grab the loot and mosey into the final block.

Block 3 is BAD bad. It will test your patience and you will learn to curse a variety of creative epithets at those eye-thingies. It also doesn’t help much that the emulator decides to screw up again right at the beginning, so just put that blackness in the background out of your mind and get to work.

Crack Skeleton Boy in the chest and head on over to where that Big Heart is waiting in that candle… but be careful because an enormous gear is about to land right in front of you. Don’t walk into it… those gears are everywhere in this place. However, if you follow the following directions EXACTLY, you’ll be able to deal with them. Head on up the stairs. See that happy looking candle right in front of your face? It has an axe in it, and you WANT that. But you must have patience, grasshopper. Here’s what you do to snag the prize: Jump up on the ledge. An enormous gear will come crashing down and sit, right where you were about to step. It will continue to just sit there unless you give it a good whip, at which point it will begin to roll. Quickly jump onto that tilting teeter-totter and wait out the gear as it makes its slow progression left, bounces, and then comes back. When it drops down underneath the platform, you have the green light to go for the axe. But be warned, that thing is still down there and if you fall off the seesaw (which is likely) you will probably get rolled on by it. Don’t fall.

Axe in hand, continue onto the seesaw and upwards. Cast your eye up to that sneaky little bastard of a magic eye who is hanging around near the top-right of the screen. He’s just going to perch there innocently until you want to do anything important, at which point he will swoop down and make your life hell. Take him out before this happens. Jump up the right hand side of the seesaw, and when you get his attention, whip two axes and try to score two hits. If he gets too close, you’re going to have to fight him on the seesaw which is almost IMPOSSIBLE to do without falling. I HATE this pair of eyes… They are responsible for more aggravation on my part than any other enemy in the game, and I took a sick glee in popping them.

When that particular hellspawn is pushing up contact lenses, tilt the seesaw and leap up on the platform on the left, but get ready to execute a series of snazzy jumps because a huge gear is going to fall and you have no choice other than to jump it twice.. .once on the rebound. It’s not too bad if you’re expecting it. Move on to the next seesaw… OK, HERE is the most hideously reviled, annoying and frustrating part of the ENTIRE game. On the top left of the screen is another one of those damn eyes… and I STRESS that this thing will hand out pantloads of grief until you want to give up and slink away weeping. It will maliciously try and knock you off your teeter-totter by divebombing you, and will hover around taunting and harassing you until you manage to connect. Seems so simple, and yet… so DAMN DIFFICULT to hit. It just maneuvers around to the point where you can’t do anything with it at all… and the slightest hit sends you spiraling back down to the bottom of the whole level, only to have to march up again in a Sisyphean fashion and get knocked off again. AAAArrrgh! I HATE this eye! Your only hope is to get two lucky axe throws off, and kill the accursed thing, WHILE staggering and sliding on a tilting platform that’s trying desperately to buck you off into the void… at this point you likely only HAVE 6 or so axes left so if you waste them all, you’re going to HATE it. You’ve been warned. Don’t miss. There is no sweeter sound to my ears than the pathetic squeak of that eye as it burns in hell… usually, I’ve just jumped off of the platform and am plummeting groundward at the time… but the ONE bit of good news is that IF you manage to kill the eye as you fall, it will NOT respawn. So take the shot if you get it. Did I mention that I HATE this particular eye?

OK. So WHEN the thing is dead, you will probably only have half your health or so. No prob. There is a secret stash of Wolf Beef in the pillar immediately below where Eye #1 was perched. You have to tilt the seesaw and jump on a moving screw to get it, but go for it. It’s your last chance to power-up before the boss. I made it a policy never to snag the treat until both of the eyes were out of commission for good.

A word on that weird cache of weapons and goodness sitting immediately under the Werewolf Meat pillar. There is, all told, a boomerang, a vial of holy water, a dagger, um… something else… and a shot multiplier stashed away there, and I’ll be buggered if I can figure out how to get ‘em. I’m just assuming it’s a wickedly evil jump from the seesaw that I could never make, but I’ve burned my entire time out trying and never achieved a crumb of success. I figure it’s just there for taunt value. For your own sanity, leave it alone.

Keep moving upwards, by tilting the platform and making your way to where The Unmentionable One was smugly perched. There will be a big dragon skull tower spewing fire at you. Don’t stress. Jump, whip. Wait for the fireballs, jump, whip. Then snatch the candle immediately above. Keep moseying right and there will be a platform where two large gears will fall down at you. The first isn’t a problem at all… just whip it when it falls and send it spiraling away from you and off the ledge. Then head up the stairs. A big gear will crash down right behind you and will skin your boot heel, but won’t hurt you as long as you don’t balk and go for the moneybag in the candle. Keep going up and grab another heart from a candle… jump over a silly little pit formed by two horizontal screws and STOP.

You’re now standing in front of a staircase that has a dragon skull pillar some distance away, right above you. Here’s what you do: Walk up the stairs (careful with the fire), and STOP when your whip gets level with the lower mouth on the pillar. A huge gear will come crashing down right in front of your nose. Whip it. Whip it good. It’ll roll harmlessly away, and then whip the fireballs that are coming at your head. Move on up the stairs, duck, and administer a beatdown to the tower of skull. Now, remark on the following statement well, eye-hunters. There is ONE more eye completing the unholy trinity in this part of the world. It is parked right above you and would like nothing better than to swoop down and ruin your entire day. Don’t allow this to happen. There IS a way that you can reliably lead this eye to a righteous, painful death. Walk as FAR right as you can (just past where the bone pillar used to be) and jump straight up. This gets the eye’s attention. Then fall on your knees and stay there. If you execute this move correctly, the eye will sort of float around confused-like and will slowly meander around behind your crouching form, thinking unkind thoughts and maneuvering into a position to strike. Don’t do something silly like stand up and try to buck the eye because you are secure in your PLAN, right? Stick to it. If you stay crouched long enough, the eye will float over your head and move to your right… perfect whipping position. When it is right where you want it, stand up, face right and unload with two quick whips. Crack crack, eee! If you stand up early, or make motions like you’re about to run, the eye will give chase and you will have to fight it normally WHILE dodging a humungous gear which is happily bouncing along in pursuit. Don’t be stupid. Go the tested and true way.

When Eye#3 is dead, jump up and get out of the path of the aforementioned gear which is even now bouncing along on a collision course with your personage. Smack some skeletons and make your way up to the final seesaw. There is (get this) a dragon skull tower spewing fire at you WHILE you’re trying to jump across on this wobbly, unstable contraption. Beating this fool is a three stage plan. Stage 1 is to jump right after a sortie of fireballs and just chill on the left-hand area of the platform. Wait. Another volley of fire will sail over your head. THAT is the cue to balance out the device. Jump in the middle and balance it as best you can. If the thing is perfectly level, YOU will be at the correct altitude to snap the pair of fireballs that’s coming for your head RIGHT NOW. After you defend yourself, run and jump right across so that you’re practically rubbing noses with the skeletal tower and just start whippin’ and screamin’. It’ll die. Then head up the stairs to face the WolfWoman.

Boss 5. The Bitch Wolf.

I’m not exaggerating to call this boss the Bitch Wolf. It was responsible for SERIOUS amounts of frustration on this end, and much pulling and tearing of hair, etc. Every time it sends you to the grave, you either have to start the whole level over again (if you must continue), or else back down to the bottom of block three where you immediately have to face that goddamn EYE again, which, believe me, is much, much worse.

. When you arrive at the top of the clock tower, you are greeted by a lonely, tousled haired brunette. This Kodak moment lasts about a second. Then with a tortured howl and a great rending of clothing, there stands before you a viscous greenish, purple-maned monstrosity that has a serious problem with your presence. That’ll teach you to assault castles without first checking your lunar calendar.

Hell hath no fury like a woman turned into a slavering werewolf.

Once you get this point through your skull you can go about keeping the large blocks of stone away from it. This wolfwoman is MAD. And I mean mad as HELL. The first thing she will start doing is leaping about feverishly and ripping (!) huge hunks of the local stonework out and chucking it at your head. That’s how mad she is.

Cowboys will want to take the silver bullet to this swirling dervish, but I say unto you, yea – that is a STUPID thing to do. Those of you who are eager beavers stand to get chewed up and spat out as Wolf Chow, posthaste. DO NOT MESS WITH SENIORITA WEREWOLF UNTIL SHE CALMS DOWN. This is the most basic point to understand about this fight. Otherwise, things will go very, very badly for you. The rage of the pissed-off creature is limitless, but her ammunition supply is not. Just get real used to running like a bugger away from wherever the heck she decides to leap, and jumping AWAY from the wolf whenever a big block of stone comes atcha. This is a knack it takes a few fights to perfect, but keep timing it, as it is the key. The second you decide to just go head-to-head with the wolf, the more rocks to the head you will take. It’s just set up that way. Trust me. You can’t jump, whip, and then dodge quickly enough because that wolf is erratic and dangerous and you don’t know right off where she’s going to pounce next. Watch and be PATIENT, Daniel-San.

After the wolf has hurled about 8 chunks of stone at you from the local stonework, she will run out of ammo, and will therefore do the sensible thing and start ripping the roman numerals from the clock face and chucking THOSE at you. KEEP dodging. Watch where she jumps and stays, and then get away from them. Your chance will come. The REAL cowboys among you will try and get a few smacks in when there are three or four numbers to go.. because at that point you can at least have a ROUGH idea of where the wolf is going to be next. When all 12 numbers are still in place though, it’s Russian Roulette and WAAAY too dangerous to be fronting like that. If you don’t believe me, try it. Once you’ve had enough of getting a cap peeled back on you, proceed to the grand finale.

OK, here’s where things tip in your favour. After the wolf has exhausted ALL the numerals and the 8 pieces of clock tower, she will fall to the ground and rip Three (3) last pieces of stonework at you. If you can dodge THOSE, then you’re ready to start giving some back. In total frustration at her inability to hit you, the Bitch Wolf will leap up and tear off that big heavy stone clock hand, and close for melee combat with it. Aha! Bad idea. That big stone hand is way too heavy to prance around with, and so she becomes, at last, a hittable target. THIS IS THE TIME to strike. Sorry, but that’s how long you have to wait. Until this point in time, the wolf is totally immune to any thrown weapons (she just ducks) and she’s too fast to fight effectively. Now, she’s slowed down by that huge clock hand, and won’t be jumping anywhere. The most she can do is sort of lunge at you swinging the heavy thing like a big bat, but your range is better than hers, and you can easily jump out of the way if she tries it. Dish out all that suppressed rage you’ve got going on. Throw axes or boomerangs. Go slap happy with the VK. She’ll go down likety-split, and you get to feel that twinge of remorse as the poor woman is transformed back into her old human self and collapses, spent, on the ground. A nice purple sheet floats down to modestly cover her nude form and whisk her away to Wolfy Heaven. You’ll be too busy celebrating to give much of a damn. At last… kiss that EVIL level, and that $*&%# EYE goodbye… you’re going to the valley of the dolls.

Let me just stress one last time for all you Lone Rangers… there is NO big advantage in trying to slap the wolf around until she calms down and rips off that big stone hand. I know, I know…it SEEMS like a good idea, but really you’re just making things harder for yourself, because you lessen your ability to dodge effectively. It’s NOT worth it to trade shot for shot, which is exactly what will happen if you try that sort of stunt, because she can take about twenty hits and you can take a big fat four. Don’t be dim. Cool those trigger fingers and win.

Level 6: Playpen of Doom.

OK. There are a lot of things about this game up until this point that make no sense. The weird mucus pillars make no sense. The Lounge music in level 3 made no sense. But this. These… dolls. They are seriously, SERIOUSLY messed. Either it’s a weird trip into Drac’s earlier experiment with THC alchemy, or you’ve stumbled into Alucard’s twisted little childhood toybox. Or maybe it’s just the Japanese being Japanese.

Anyway, this level earns muchos respect points for a number of reasons, despite the annoyance of the middle bit. It has some seriously cool music, and not ONE but (count ‘em) TWO different scores. I don’t know WHY they did this and had such crappy music on the clock tower level… Although I suspect it had something to do with that goddamn eye. Anyway, breathe a nice gulp of open air and head out onto the ramparts.

First thing’s first. After you descend that staircase at the beginning of the level you will see (besides the skeletal gargoyles floating around), a skeleton prancing around on the lefthand side of the wall. Above his head are two candlesticks. That second one is the big fat primary target number one for this level. It is the magic joybox that will make the rest of your journey bearable, the elusive time-stopping watch. If you still have the axe, use it to smoke skully from a distance, otherwise you’re going to have to do this really cool move where you leap down and land behind the skeleton, striking it in the head from behind as you soar through the air. The idea is to clear the platform, so it’s all clear to grab the watch. I found that the most effective way to actually DO this is to make two trips. On the first, you want to jump down, hit the skeleton in the air, (possibly using a downward-angled whipcrack… didn’t know you could do THAT, now didja? ;) ) Then, take out his buddy immediately below. Don’t get offed by the flying gargoyle skeletons. When they are dead, it’s safe to walk back up to the diving board and make a second crack at actually getting that precious stopwatch. Once you HAVE the watch, the idea is to keep it for the WHOLE level. If you let go of that thing at any point in time you are a silly loomis and you deserve what’s coming to you.

Ok. So you’ve got your hands on the trusty chronometer. Good. Use it immediately… or at least immediately enough that it freezes Skeleton #3 who is prowling around below you, and this should give you enough time to end him and then boogie downward as fast as you can. If you don’t freeze time here, it’s likely that you’ll take a hit or two in trying to sneak down and belt him. Also, it temporarily removes the threat of gargoyles.

Stairs are for chumps, don’t use them. Just let yourself fall from platform to platform. If you go fast, they gargoyles don’t actually have a chance to nail you. There is a hidden moneybag on the level with the big staircase going up, and those pointers among you can feel free to snatch it, although I personally do not.

When you arrive at the bottom, progress to the right and start making your way towards the big causeway thing. Hmm. That mysterious candle in the middle yields a boomerang… maybe you should take it?… Shake your head and perish such a foolish thought. You need that watch more than boomerangs. Trust me.

Hit the causeway. Hey, guess what? It immediately starts collapsing underneath you. That’s nice. Run right as fast as you can and try to stay ahead of the pieces as they collapse. Medusa heads will start harrying you. One from behind and the rest from in front… jump over them ALL… even that first one from the rear. If you stop to snap the whip, you’re going down with the landscape. The last pair is a duo of medusa heads, so time your jump closely. Then set foot on solid ground and progress… (shudder) into the Toybox.

Block 2. Toybox. It’s weird and wacky. Little clowns, balloons, and weird bat-outlines. And of course… the DOLLS. The emulator will likely do some pretty funky things, but don’t sweat it. Just because you can’t SEE the background doesn’t mean it’s not there. There is one staircase near the right-hand side of the room that you want to go up, and then progress left. Go up a little stair, and then left again and up again, to bring you up to the point where you can start seeing things again. You’ll already have noticed those purple bats… keep an eye out for them. The little clowns aren’t any big thang (no pun intended), and the balloons that will drift up from those wiggling chests can be dodged. After you ascend the third invisible stair you are going to have to start dealing with those demonic little blonde dolls.

A word on the dolls: They have a really sick intelligence, and will drift towards you murmuring something in Japanese. If you try and take a swipe at them with the Vampire Killer, most likely than not they will simply just dart away and chitter at you angrily for attempting such a naughty thing. The little bastards are HARD to hit. I found that there are two places where they have trouble dodging. One, when they are RIGHT at the farthest point of the whip, and another when they are RIGHT in front of your freakin’ face. Anything else, and they seem to have a knack for jellyfishing away. You’ll have to practice a bit to understand what I mean. Jumping and swiping at them usually works OK. Since they home in on you, the best way to deal is not to run, but to situate yourself slightly askew from their descent and at the last second jump right up in front of their little white faces and beat them like a bad stepchild while you’re in the air. They will make an accusing little squeal if you connect and immolate in a burst of flame. Damn things. Special weapons work OK, but you don’t HAVE any special weapons. You have the watch. Right? Right?

OK, so progress upwards. The idea is to jump frequently so that IF there are any dolls lurking above you, you can activate them one at a time. They aren’t PARTICULARLY dangerous in ones, but they become downright lethal in packs. Avoid this, and go slow.

In the actual valley of the dolls, there are NO weapons. Just hearts. If you somehow die and lose that watch you are going to have one mofo fight on your hands, and I’m NOT taffin’ with you. Try not to let that happen.

Move upwards slowly, cracking the dolls as they approach. Like I said, a bit of practice with these things will work wonders. If you have the watch, hit every candle you can, because hearts = love. If not, forget ‘em. There’s no weapons anyway and you don’t actually want to have one anyway in the next area (odd but true. Wait and see). Also, forget those weird blocks on the lefthand side that look like they should be breakable for treats. They aren’t. It just wastes your time.

Things will rapidly degenarate from one doll at a time to two.. and soon you will arrive at a platform near the left hand side of the screen where you jump up and HOLY CRAP! There are about a ZILLION dolls lying around… OK, so maybe six. But they come at you from every angle and they make this part of the level absolutely BRUTAL unless you have that watch. Pop the top on the stop and freeze the little freaks in mid pounce…. WHO’S LAUGHING NOW? Right. OK, while time is on your side, dispatch them quickly. If you’ve been conservative with the hearts and you’ve been picking up the fatties from the candlesticks, you should have maybe four or five pops with the watch to get you through this difficult area. After the mega-onslaught there is a backup wave of three or four dolls that will swoop from above. Freeze time here and deal with them too. Like I said, if you don’t have the watch in your possession (say you just COULDN’T pass up that boomerang earlier, or worse yet died and risen in at the block’s beginning) there’s not much that can be done. Make whatever rituals are necessary for your species and give it your best. Good luck.

If you deal with the reinforcements, you should be ready to move to the left and head up those stairs into the Hall of Mirrors. Smack that little clown just for fun. Oh, you bad, bad person, you.

Obviously, falling is Bad. The dolls WILL respawn, unlike the eye, so if you fall and land in a big cabbage patch of them, say goodnight. Try not to do this, OK? It just hurts.

Up the stairs is Block 3, otherwise known as the Hall of Mirrors… and there ARE mirrors too. Neat effect that wasn’t used nearly enough in any other Castlevania game – things are actually reflected! Nice. Now, listen closely young Jedi and I will relate the Secret of the Hall of Mirrors to you. NO POWERUPS. That’s right. Somewhere in this level is a knife and also a vial of holy water. Don’t get them. Do it empty handed and reap the benefits at Boss-Time.

Begin by just jumping along, whipping candles and admiring your chiseled profile in the mirrors. Watch your 12 for falling mirrors… they’re not lethal or anything, especially since you can just NOT walk into them.. but occasionally one can get past you and thunk you on the head, so be careful. Now, lookie here… Axe Knights.. Knew those boys’d show up sometime. The Axe Knights in THIS particular game are real pantywaists. Don’t … stress at ALL. Just duck. Their high-lobbed axes go sailing over your head no problem, and the lower ones are whip feed. Just duck and whip about ten times and they go down real smooth like. Also, occasionally you’ll get lucky and hit a shot at their head or their feet, at which point they will just keel over and die. Weird. Anyway, head on up those stairs when you see them, but get ready to back down them ASAP when you see that round, spinning mirror drop down. It’s go whizzing over your head at about hundred kilometers an hour, but won’t hurt you if you’ve remembered to keep your head down. Then continue on up and spoon out some Hurt on the upper axe knight. Snatch the hearts although you won’t be using them for anything. Stick to the high road here, as the low one is annoying with all the mirrors dropping and whatnot. Advance slowly, and don’t get clunked by a falling mirror. Polish off another axe knight and then jump down to finish off the one immediately below you. Don’t take the stairs until he’s dead, as you’re liable to get a serious case of Axe Foot. There is a tasty leg ‘o werewolf meat in the right-hand side of the big lump of bricks right after the posse of knights, so eat it if you’re feeling the urge. Do NOT grab the holy water or the knife as mentioned earlier, but feel free to have fun with the stopwatch if you’re still carrying it around.

The next part is so simple it seems suspicious. Just jump the round mirrors when they come at you, and leave the other ones to crash harmlessly into the Count’s nice new flooring. Ugh. Think of all the years of bad luck that boy’s gonna have. I guess that’s what’s responsible for those pesky Belmonts who keep coming back.

OK, mirrors are now behind you. Now you’ve just got those humungous big ones to admire yourself in and… CRASH!

Boss 6: Doppelganger:

Do your David Lynch voice for this. We all saw it coming a mile away with all those mirrors, right? Anyway yeah.. Doppelganger Simon is green and has an inordinately long Gene-Simmons-esque tongue and a big snaky whip that looks a lot like the Vampire Killer. He ALSO happens to have a big stash of whatever secret weapon you’re carrying around in your pocket, which is why you don’t have any. See? It’s much more annoying to fight this fool if he’s whipping daggers or chucking unholy water at you, so just Don’t Go There. You don’t need those kind of frills to ruin this guy’s day.

Unfortunately, Doppelganger Simon isn’t just big and green. He’s also about three times as tough as you are. You can take four hits, he can take about 12. If you do the math you realize that going toe-to-toe and coming out the victor just isn’t going to be happening, man. Fortunately, he didn’t jump through the looking glass with any brains to speak of – just a lot of vim that you can quickly use against him.

Fighting this dude can be as hard or as easy as you want to make it. There is a pattern that if followed correctly, will lead to doppelganger death without you so much as breaking a sweat. Here’s what you do. When he busts out, immediately hang a left and jump up onto that highest platform. He will come toward you, so jump in the air.. (he has a nasty tendency of leaping up and trying to get in that one last flick at your toes with his vampire-killer-killer). Now if he was SMART, he’d wait for you to come down and try and hit your feet again. But he’s not. What he will inevitably do is to try to get up on top of that platform with you, and you don’t want to be anywhere in that vicinity when he does. Now THIS part is hard to describe, and harder still to execute… What you have to do is when he’s leaping UP onto the platform, you want to be leaping OFF, away from him and into the center of the room. However, being the cool daddy-o that you are, when you are sufficiently airborne you want to twist your body to face back towards him, and unload a whip crack in the air, so that he connects with it as he’s trying to leap up onto the platform. This is hard to do, but you have to do it… it’s consistent, and it works. If you do it right, he will go "oof!" and recoil backwards onto that midrange platform at the room’s edge This will give you enough time to beat it over to the far right-hand side and do your trick again (only this time in MIRROR image… get it?). Let him come at you, and jump off the platform, and whip behind you when he tries to sneak up from your rear. Keep doing that. If you do it ten times in a row, he’ll die, and you’ll get the neat effect of his chest bursting open and spewing glass shards everywhere. Do it wrong, and you’re going to get to see him lick around with his tongue as he gobbles up your soul. (?). I figure this is another one of those recurring myths based on Japanese culture that I SHOULD know, but don’t.

The doppelganger killing trick is effective and it works. But it’s hard to do and requires some practice on your part to get it just right. Big mistakes are turning back too soon and landing back on the platform you started on (at which point he will whip yo’ ass, or more precisely your feet), or secondly letting him get anywhere NEAR above you. I didn’t realize until I fought this hombre that Simon could actually DO a downward and diagonal-downward whip, but I learned the technique fast because it was getting used on me, to GREAT effectiveness, I might add. Trying to fight this guy with special weapons is just painful. Don’t do it, because he’s a better shot than you are. Run fast, and watch your back, jack. Don’t even think of trying to beat him in a big whipping match. I had my clock CLEANED because I had full health and he had two bars left, and I thought I could be all brash-like and just go for the murder-kill. Nope. He’s that good. Your only hope is the technique that I’ve described… that is, you have to hit him as you jump away BEFORE he hits you. Then run away. Cowardly, perhaps. Tactical, I’d say… when he’s bleeding glass everywhere and rolling around in agony, you’ll be happy you played it safe. Fight smarter, not harder.


Level 7: Tales from the Crypt:

Somewhere, drifting over Lake Ontario, is a black, thick cloud of solid and malleable profanity, which drifts around like a blimp, scaring fishermen and depositing surprising substances in people’s rain gauges. It’s left over from my previous experiences with the Reaper-Crypt levels. If you’re anything like me, you ROUNDLY and eagerly curse the twisted minds that saw fit to stick Grimmy in his position as Head Warden, good buddy of, and last boss before, the Count. If I had a chalk line for every time the Reaper managed to decapitate me in single combat during CVI, I’d have enough chalk to easily be able to draw body outlines - sufficient to suggest a tommygun shootout at one of the Friendly Green Giant’s dinner parties. Oh yeah. Grimmy and I go waaay back. In a way, I have to sort of tip my hat to the Man with the Scythe. We have one of those Moriarty-style adversarial relationships…. (Did you SEE him in that top hat in Dracula X? SCARY MON.) However, that being said, there’s nothing more satisfying than mail-ordering his cowly little skull straight back to the netherworld in a shoebox, and that’s exactly what you’re going to do in this level.

First of all, yes. It even LOOKS like the crypt from CVI, which didn’t have the desired effect and just made me MAD rather than afraid. It opens, in good standardized form, with a bunch of skeletons meandering around chucking bones at you from two levels. See that annoying and rather calcified gentleman on the upper level? That’s Lenny Bone-Whippin’ Guy. He’ll dog you for the entirety of this section, and will.. er.. whip bones at you. Don’t take them to heart or any other part of your body. Advance onward while pummeling Igors and smashing his skeletal friends into Neolithic tools. After a sec, Skeletons will start leaping up from that Bone Pit immediately in front of you and just.. standing there. These are actually crafty skeleton bombs, and will explode, raining damaging bones everywhere, unless you whip them three times quickly. Keep moving right, and dodge Lenny’s bones. Now, see that enormous cage in front of you… no, not the one with all the poor prisoners milling around aimlessly behind it. The one with the huge hulking THING. It’s an ettin, and will leap out at you if you get near it. Don’t get spooked, just whip it five times from a distance and it’ll go down. (All sorts of creative little one-time-only things like that on this level). Whip an Igor and head up those far stairs for your appointed rendezvous with Leroy. Heh heh.. Sweeeeet. Watch those bones fly… Now you’ll progress along and whip a few more exploding skeletons before you eventually come face-to-skull with a rather enormous large clattering bone spider-golem thing. It will clatter around, getting in yo’ face until you whip it four times squarely in the noggin. After the third whip it’ll come charging at you, so be ready. Stand your ground, jump and whip. Don’t let it back you up to the point that those weird jumpin’ skeleton bombs get to show up again.

After you head up the stairs you come to a strange little room with another bunch of bony idiots prancing around. Try and take them out with the whip, and head up those stairs ASAP or you’ll cop a big hunk ‘o bone matter to the face from the hombre above. Grab the Phat Heart under the stairs. Now you’re going to have to come DOWN the right-hand stairs and you’re going to have to face a nasty little pit of bone skeletons, blood skeletons, and Igors. Chuck a few vials of that Holy stuff as you descend the stairs and watch as Boneapartes walk into them like bloomin’ stupid-heads. Now make a dash for that block door, trying not to get Igored in the process.

Block 2: OK, this one stars out dark, but don’t stress. Just walk right, and whip a few candlesticks for treats. Now, walk RIGHT up to the stone wall in front of your face, duck and turn around. See that Igor about to pounce from above? Just crack him in the heels as he jumps and put the little sucka to rout. NOW do the spike thing. Make sure you duck under the spiky platforms that only go half-way down. When you get through, there’s a perilous point coming up where an Igor will decide to leap down from behind you from a high perch again. Be ready. Nip out and snag the closest candle on your right. This will lure the sneaky pete out from his hiding place… but now go straight left, duck and crouch facing right, just like you did for the previous Igor, only in reverse. He’s come bounding out over your head, happy as a clam, and you can break his little shell with a well-timed snap of the Whip.

OK. NOW things get rather interesting. Yeah so there’s… uh… like, big Skeletons here? Jumping rope? Yep. Shake your head and continue. I find that if the Igor is dead the top route is the safest place to be, rather than trying to fool around with the blood skeletons below. If you can remember any of those little songs the girls in fourth grade used to sing in the schoolyard, belt them out as you hopscotch across the swingin’ bones. My-mama-saw-yo-mama…chillin’-wit-da-Count. Right. That bit of silliness aside, proceed downward. Don’t go straight for the sipke traps yet unless you have full health. There’s a werewolf chop in the blocks just under the second spike trap.

Obviously, the first spike trap is totally harmless UNLESS you do something STUPID like jump up into it. Don’t. The SECOND one is a bit fussier. You have to walk VERY slowly up to it… about three blocks away, the trap will spring and that Indy-style board with the nails in it will come flapping up from the floor, stopping right in front of your nose. As it retracts, you have to have to follow quick on its heels and leap over it, just as it settles back into position for the next round. This is rather tricky, and you might get clocked at least once in the process.

Now, with a tip of the hat to Poe, we have pendulums… if no pit. There are two, one which you have to duck under, and one which you can leap over. Smack that blood skeleton now and just chill for a sec. See that ENORMOUS swinging blade? That thing is HARD to fake. What you have to do is follow RIGHT, (and I mean RIGHT) behind it as it swings, and then, at the last second, duck on the far right and let it cruise slowly by over your head. More likely than not however, you are going to get a serious hair part from the thing, as it’s almost impossible to do this right while still dealing with the blood skeleton who’s worrying you from the left.

A couple of axe knights will now throw themselves in your path. Yawn. Duck and poke’em in the keds. Watch out for Igor who is palling around near the first one. Grab the axe in the candlestick behind the second one and head up the stairs.

Hmm. Okey dokey, now there is a long staircase leading up to a level with not Five, not Six, but SEVEN blood skeletons all meandering aimlessly around looking for the Living to chomp down on. Gah! This part is frustrating. Use the axe to jump up and chop the one immediately above your head. This should buy the necessary time to hotfoot it up those stairs before it reanimates. The idea here is to lure ALL of the bone skeletons over to the RIGHT hand side of the screen so that you can beat it down the stairs on the LEFT. But to do that you have to sort of leap right into the melee and get their attention, then flee eastward until they all follow you. Then, if you’re lucky, you can stand on the staircase and crack all seven… In a Single Blow! You brave tailor, you. OK, now if you were smart, you DIDN’T just whip through those blocks on your left to uncover the II multiplier. If you did, let it go, because man, it’s gone.

Ahhh. The next part is satisfying. I was seriously getting worried about the fact that I hadn’t seen Frankenstein’s monster anywhere in the game yet. Having a Castlevania with no Frank is like having your Frank without Chili. It’s just not right! Fortunately, our favourite hulking shambler is lounging around in chains right in amongst those weird laboratory looking apparatuses. Move up and watch as the neat electrical effects bust him out of those shackles and make him start stomping after you. Ahhh Boris. The debt the gaming world owes you is beyond measure… I mean, just THINK for a sec, people... In the actual book, the Monster is described as being "mansized, brown and leathery". Come ON. Where’s the BOLT IN THE NECK? Where’s the BIG HEAVY SHOES? Where’s the SQUARE HEAD? I love the Frankenstein archetype, and as I said earlier, seeing him make his appearance in the game just gives me that warm 100amp feeling in my tummy.

Well, the guys responsible for animating THIS particular incarnation of our Favourite Frankie seem to have been the selfsame dudes who brought us "Bloodlines", since the whole "mini-boss Frank with a big chain" thing has already been done. His chain whip is bigger, but we all know that size doesn’t matter. It’s how you swing it that counts.

Boogie on over to where that II multiplier was hiding, up near the elevated platform on the right as soon as you see those electrical thingies start a-twinklin’ Stay in that high perch and watch as Frank comes shuffling towards you swinging that chain about like a cat-on-a-string. Fortunately, he’s pretty dumb and also not that great a shot. One thing he HASN’T learned to do effectively, is swing OVER his head, although he’s not bad at up-on-an-angle. Remember that wacky trick that the Doppelganger in the last level taught you to do? That is, jumping straight up and whipping straight DOWN? Just stand over Frankie’s head and leap up in the air, whipping down through the platform and connecting solidly with that cement block he has parked on his shoulders. It takes a lot of pummeling, but Frank won’t react much. He’s too busy trying to figure out why he can’t seem to get that chain to QUITE reach up where you are. Make sure you stay right above him or else you might actually get nicked. After fizzling for a while, he’ll go down if you belt him enough. Sayonara Kemosabe. Until the next installment.

Move over to the left now, past all that weird electrical stuff (what ARE those things anyway?) and admire the Count’s premiere collection of shark teeth. OK, now you’re going to be heading up into the lab and weird fetus things are going to be jumping out of the jars and ramming around like angry homunculi. They can be a pain but you can smoke them easily enough if you follow this simple strategy. You want to get ALL of them out of their jars as quickly as possible, so head up the stairs. Dodge those weird disc thingies that they’re going to throw athca. Now pick off the two little squeakers on top, and make sure there’s three running about like Hottentots below you in that little room. Don’t go down the stairs, but instead, walk back to the right and fall off the ledge, bringing you back to Frank’s level. Now those little mad hatters are going to be dancing around in that room still, so walk up to the left-hand wall, and duck. They’ll come screaming at you but don’t forget that the Vampire Killer can effectively go through concrete. Snap their heads off through the wall, and when all three of them are goneski, stand up, brush yourself off, and head into Block 3. ‘Nuff said.

Block 3 is kinda short, but there are a few important rules to follow if you want to stand a chance of beating Grimmy who is sniggering away at the end of the level and cracking his knucklebones in anticipation. DON’T hit the candlesticks in this part of the level UNLESS you already have III shot boomerangs. Walk forward and snap that Bone Dragon Column… (It’ll take seven hits if you’ve died and had to start at the beginning of the block with your leather whip.. remember no candles yet.) Do that twice so you get both bone dragons. Now progress to the left, whip that red boy and grab the boomerang. That is going to be your weapon du jour for going up against Grimmy and you’re going to need to be able to hurl a MESS of them if you think you’re going to survive. Now that you have that thing, backtrack and whip it at the candlesticks that you so sagely restrained yourself from nabbing earlier. The extra "kills" on the candlesticks will register, and a II multiplier should fall in your lap before too long. Once you’ve backtracked you’ll have to kill those Skull Pillars again, but big deal. Extra boomerangs are worth the effort.

Head on up those stairs to your left and if you can, try and round up both blood skeletons on the left side of the pillar. If you CAN’T, just whip the hell out of it and try not to take more than two hits from the red boys as they stomp on your head. OK, now that it’s dead, progress to the top and fight those red skeletons on an equal footing. Keep moving right, using that boomerang on everything in sight (including the candles) in an attempt to coax out a III multiplier out of somewhere. In the far right hand wall on the top level lies a hunka hunka werewolf meat, so nab it to heal that damage that you probably took from the blood skeletons earlier on.

Now you move on up the stairs into a… picturesque sunset landscape? Waaaait a second. This doesn’t SOUND like Grimmy’s style to ME. He usually goes for that bleached stone and lots ‘o skulls motif… Oh, wait. It’s just a big PAINTING of a sunset. Heh heh. Nice effect konami guys. I’m mightily impressed at this whole level in general.. I mean, the bone spiders and the ettins and skipping skeletons and Frank and everything… It makes me feel special. And this art gallery is just over-the-top cool. Kudos. Watch as the paint slowly decomposes as you get closer to Death himself. The artwork starts doing crazy MC Escher type stuff, and screaming faces, etc begin to materialize from the canvases. Wave to the drowning people in the Raft of the Meduse. Hi guys!

OK. Toast Axe Boy and as many flying medusa heads as you can until you get the III multiplier that you need. Then progress onward snatching hearts from the remaining candlesticks. DO NOT grab that pocketwatch or you will HATE IT and Death will once again toss you out with the trash. Once that weird nebulous black and purple swirly thing in the black canvas congeals into Grimmy, you’re going to have to FIGHT! (Street Fighter II voice.)

Boss 7: Grimmy.

Ah yes. Hello. It’s YOU, isn’t it.

If you knew Grimmy, like I knew Grimmy…. Oh, Oh, Oh what a PAIN in the ASSNECK. Grr. Fortunately, you have the thumping power of three triple shot boomers in your back pocket (or you’re very, very stupid). Everyone who knows Grimsby knows his Achilles heel when it comes to those particular cross-shaped pieces of goodness, so get ready for the big toss. Grim will materialize on the right hand side of the screen and proceed to do exactly what he always does, namely summon a huge mess of whirling scythes that come at you in the air and proceed to cuisinart you into submission. As I mentioned earlier, I suffered MASSIVE indignities at the hands of those sickles as a younger man when Castlevania I came out, and I still have wild shrieking nightmares occasionally where I shoot up in bed, shooing away the little scythes buzzing like cherubs around my head. Usually a glass of water will calm me down in that case, but in THIS case, you have to calm Grimmy down with a couple of well-lobbed boomerangs to the midriff. Fortunately, he is exceptionally weak to these things in this particular installment, and they cut through him nicely, making little chunk-chunk-chunk noises and raking health from his blasted evilness like a scythe through… well... Just try and hand out as much punishment as you can before those sickles start chopping you up into little bits, OK? You will notice soon enough that Grim has learned a few new tricks over the last little while, one is actually chucking his scythe at you like he does in CVIV, and the other is summoning a weird vacuum in the middle of the room which will suck you towards it and immobilize you while the sickles go chop chop chop. To avoid this, stay away from the center of the screen… (I like the little right-hand trough myself, but the other one works allright too). Just fill the sky with boomerangs and do your best not to connect with the spinning badness or Grimmy himself. If you’re quick and marginally lucky, he’ll evaporate soon enough with a pissed-off sounding scream (Adios, Muchacho). and you will be free to progress to the final stage. Still though… It’s Grim. You just KNOW you’re going to be seeing HIS smilin’ face again before too much longer. Until Next Time, Grimsby. Next Time. Maybe you’ll get lucky.

Level 8: Breakfast of Champions:

Here we go! That’s the Belmont Theme from CVIV in the background, of course… Don’t worry about the fact that the screen is black. It will do that an upsetting number of times in this level, so just ignore it. See those candles in front of you? Whip ‘em. Snag that holy water. It’s going to be a hot time in the ol’ town tonite!

This is it. The biggie fries. The last level. It looks like you’ve managed to kick your way straight into Drac’s living room somehow… or at least his lobby. Here we see a tastefully arranged display of art and weaponry.. (most of which will try to kill you), some nice pillars, lots of good deep wood in the baroque style… Ahhh. Time to torch it all.

OK, so for the first upsetting few blocks of the level you’re going to have to face down a serious amount of animated armour, that will stomp from their tastefully arranged spot in the décor to come at yo’ punk-ass with a big halberd – or worse. This happens immediately, so jump up and whip that holy water straight onto the head of the homey with the big chopper. He’ll take a pile of hits but… what? He doesn’t DIE? These things are no-foolin’. Guys with halberds take no less than seven (7!) whips to kill, and they are EVERYWHERE in this place. Use the water on them whenever the chance arises. There are PILES of weapons scattered about level 8 so don’t be shy about swinging them around. Hearts are plentiful and you’ll go through a gamut of goodies before THIS rendezvous is complete. Oddly enough, shot multipliers are almost so prevalent that you can walk along picking them up off the ground like it was a clambake. Love it! Who stuffed all the powerups in here?

After Halberd Boy you’re going to face a volley of arrows from crossbow wielding suits. Now, this would be SUPER difficult if it wasn’t for the fact that EVEN WHEN THEY CROUCH you can still duck the shots from the bowmen. I know this makes no sense. Usually when THEY crouch, you want to jump. But that’s not how it is here. Every time anyone fires a arrow at you, standing or sitting, git yer head down. You’ll be safe.

With that in mind, advance on the next guy who is kneeling and smugly plugging arrows across the room. The armour has a pattern to its shots… It will shoot two single volleys of arrows, and on the THIRD time will squeeze off two in rapid succession. This is standard for any armour you run across, so keep it in mind. You have to count the shots whenever you deal with these things… Just pretend they’re John Wayne in some kind of western and you’re checkin’ to see how many bullets are left in that ol’ six-shooter.

You’ll have to shave two more archers in a tag-team… this time one standing, one crouching. Remember, keep low and slowly advance on them between the barrages until you are in a position to whip their kneecaps off. Next, there’s another halberd boy. Jump, throw water and whip like a madman when you land. It’ll be so busy being surprised (and getting hit from that burnin’ blue flame) that it will die before it can use that big thing on you. The next fool who is crouching behind some stairs shooting at you is the biggest non-threat in the game. You can walk right up to him without even ducking and just paste him in the jaw with the business end of the VK. Grab the boo-tay and if you’re inclined, the 15 hearts or so scattered around in the local candlesticks. Then head up the stairs.

OK, so this NEXT place is an area where you have the option to go either right or left again.. the branchings will eventually rendezvous together in the main hall. I prefer going LEFT because there is some meat to grab and occasionally that comes in handy. Anyway, the area starts and you’re jumping up on some platforms… as soon as you drop down on the far side of the platform, a crazy suit waving a sword and shield is going to come CHARGING at you fast, from the right. These guys are surprising, but they’re not difficult. Forget about trying to hit them in the shield. Instead, be a neighborhood sniper and snap them in the feet. Killing swordsmen is a fine, fun art. They won’t advance on you if they think they’re going to get their kneecaps whipped, so the only way to lure them into snap range is to stand up and wave your arms around. They’ll charge, and when they’re close enough, quickly drop to your knees and get one in under that shield. If you can connect, it only takes one hit. Don’t be startled by that initial charge.

Okay. So next comes this sort of tricky spot right after the swordsmen where you are faced with a crossbowman who you can’t get at because there is a big fool with a halberd guarding him. Here’s what you do. As soon as you see the dynamic duo, scream banzai and leap straight at them, tossing a vial of holy water in the air as you do. When you come down, you will be RIGHT in front of the guy with the halberd, but he’s so stunned from the blue flame licking at his feet that you can slash right through him and paste the kneeling archer with the tip of the VK. Keep whipping until the big guy goes down. Being less than brash here usually means you get shot at least once, as you try and run away from the big guy with the axe.

OK. Well, weapon change #1. There’s a boomerang in that candle, so grab it and go up. Now here you can go either LEFT or RIGHT as I said earlier. I go left, as I said, because of the meat-potential in the next room. Going RIGHT takes you further along the hallway… you get to see an impressive collection of shields on the wall, and then you move up a staircase. Up the staircase is a big crazy muchacho who’s waving a morningstar around and would love nothing better than to spike you with it. I THINK there might be some of the herb over there too… I don’t know. I only went there once… Didn’t enjoy it much. Interesting thing to note though is that if you go RIGHT, you get the chance to poke your head in a walled-off chapel that you’d otherwise just have to walk on by. Breaking the left wall in the room with the morningstar guy will take you to it, although search me if I can find anything to do in there. There’s Jesus. Yep. On the cross. Yep. Why are vampires always so Catholic before they kick off? Is it asking too much to have at least ONE Buddhist Vampire? Maybe the lack of the concept of an afterlife is sort of detrimental to the idea of "undeath", who knows. Anyway. After you say your prayers, leave. I kept expecting some secret treat to pop up out of the ground here, but it didn’t happen.

Going LEFT though at the boomerang candle means you climb the stairs and have to fight a room full of goons again. No prob… just haul yourself up the steps and duck so you don’t cop a crossbow bolt in the eye. Whip out the archer accosting you, and then see to his flail-slingin’ buddy on the next platform. Use those boomerangs to good effect… Just stand there and throw boomers at the flail guy’s feet until he goes down (five hits). If you want that meat I was talkin’ about it’s in the far right wall, but you might have to kill some fools to get it. You’ll notice that swordsman who skidded out angrily beneath you while you were fighting the first archer? Well start with him. Drop off the platform and whip him in the legs before he has a chance to back up and swing that thing. Then deal with Axe Boy… slightly harder since you don’t have the holy water anymore. Now, deal with the third swordsman and the wolf beef is yours. In the candle right in front of the meat there is a dagger. If you want to use it, go ahead. It really doesn’t make much of a differeance.. although I’ve found that it’s marginally better for taking out the goons in the next room, so you might want to upgrade. I TOLD you there was a lot of weapon-switching going on.

Once you head up the stairs here you are in the Great Hall which is also where you’ll end up if you decided to go right earlier on. This is a nasty place to be. Whip that candle and collect whatever prize is in there, but watch out. Every chandelier except the first one will come crashing down on your head if you try to run under it. You MUST get good at faking them out because you won’t stand a chance at surviving this next part if you can’t dodge them. Just walk slowly underneath them, and when they creak down towards you, slam it into reverse and run away before you become a pancake.

Oh good. You’ll notice that the big crashing chandelier has now set the entire castle ablaze. Those suits shuffling toward you certainly don’t give a damn… but you need to get out of there pronto, Tonto.

These flaming knights are real pains. They can’t be hurt at all (either in the legs or whatever) UNLESS they are in mid-swing. You don’t WANT them to be in mid-swing because that generally means that you’re about to get swung. Your options are either a) time your whip perfectly so that you can get them as they reach back to clobber you (hard, but a necessary skill to learn), or stand back and knife them at a distance with the dagger. This would seem like a better option, but if you’re really playing to win you’re conserving all the hearts you can because you KNOW you’re going to need them in block 3. Shhhh. Foreshadowing. Just move along the burning floor at a good clip, but not fast enough that you become a chandelier doily. Also, a chunk of burning roof will also try to fall on you, so be aware. The idea is just to make it to the end, by any means. If you get clunked, use the second of free invincibility to make a dive for the door at the end… It’s hard and you’ll be doing it a lot before you get it right. To complicate things, some other knights will come up from behind you and start causing you trouble. When they swing, get ready to jump in the air because that usually means a big sheet of flame is about to sear along the ground scorching anything that’s in its path (i.e. you). Just get out of there! If you make it to the end of the hall, that’s your restart point, should you die. Banzai!

The NEXT part is evil. Not because it’s hard, but because the emulator kicks out and doesn’t display the background.. (Rrr!) I jumped off the edge of the cliff SO many times before I realized that there was a staircase hidden in the background that I couldn’t see. Ah, well… That candle above you is an axe. Get it if you like… If you still have the boomerangs, you probably want to be keeping them instead.

Go UP the hidden stair. Do NOT jump past that last candle as you WILL fall down and go splat. When you’re up on the top level, walk forward until the background starts being visible again. OK, everyone remember THIS stage from CV I and III? It’s the Humungous Bats On The Ramparts bit, and sho’nuff, there are said humungous bats. Walk just forward enough that bat 1’s wing starts to be seen. When he swoops at you, run backward as fast as you can… don’t worry.. He’ll ALMOST nab you, and then will just suddenly stop where you used to be standing. Whip him six times and collect the 3000 points. Easy. Next, jump over the hole and run. Keep running… A big bat will swoop up from underneath you but if you’re moving quickly, you can do a jump and he’ll sail right under you. Run until you can turn around and belt this one out of existence too.

Be VERY careful with that huge hole in the ramparts. It’s a doozy but you have to jump it. Just like getting the axe in level 5, make sure you’re practically tumbling into the abyss before you hit that jump button.

OK, now THIS part is fun. Jump quickly and whip the candle and collect that mighty pocketwatch. THIS is why you’ve been so stingy with the hearts up until this point. If you’re really damn lucky you can ride this watch right through to the end of the WHOLE level and to the Count… but you need to have the ammo. Walk forward (ignore the large bat swooping in behind you), until you have bat problems on both sides of you. Pop the watch and while time is frozen, hit that big ugly bat on the left six times (forget about the right hand one) You should JUST about have enough time to do that pesky mammal before the watch runs out.. When he dies, run hell-for-leather for the end of the bridge. There will be one more bat but you can jump him when he swoops up at you. Don’t forget the Biggie Heart as you sail off that last platform. Whipping that candle means an extra five seconds of stopped time for you. Leap into the big grinning skull-head-door-thing and Go! Go! Go! Only one more block left….

Block 3. Well. Here we are. You’ve grounded Frankenstein. You’ve taken the wax strips to the Wolf Woman. You’ve laughed in the face of Grimmy and sent him bawling back to Mother Goose. But you haven’t seen the LAST trick that Drac’s got up his sleeve. Oh nonono. It’s a good one. Drac has a plan more diabolical than anything seen so far (except that eye from level 5) waiting for you in the upper reaches of his castle.


French maids.

French NINJA maids.

You heard me. Block 3 is the haunt of the French Ninja Maids From Hell, and I swear these things have got to be the Commandos of Drac’s army. They are serious BAD VOODOO and will cause you plenty of trouble and strife. I hope you brought that watch with lots of hearts to spare, because if not, you’re in for some baaad, bad women who will stop at nothing to toss you out with the dust bunnies.

You see that relaxed pose that they’re standing in when you enter the room? It’s because they Just Don’t Care. These maids know they bad. If you die here, you have to face them down sans time-stopping watch and it will NOT be pretty. I actually made it through without the watch, but it was HARD. You’ve been warned.

There is no good way to deal with these things. They’re unpredictable, deadly, and fast. If you have a really long whip you might be able to catch them on the end of it, but if you DIE, you won’t have that luxury. Word: Do NOT bother stopping time until the maids come forward and start flipping around. Otherwise, they’re sort of invincible… you can’t actually hurt them while they’re lounging around in the background being bad. When active, they immediately leap away from you, summersault up in the air, and hurl about a zillion knives/shuriken/fork-thingies at your head. It’s a big splayed star, but if you manage to avoid the hurt, you’re not good – just lucky. I found that jumping a lot helps marginally. It seems to confuse them.

Also compounding your problems are the panthers who have returned all the way from from block 1 in the very first stage. They skulk around with these maids, and will pounce on you, seemingly from nowhere. I don’t know WHY, but I had MASSIVE problems with the panthers. I just didn’t see them until they were already on me… too busy with the maids, I guess.

Walk along the bottom hallway, taking out maids (yeah.) if you can. In the middle there is a panther, so don’t get jumped. Be ready. Near the end of the hall you will have a section where there is a maid jumping around above you, hurling knives down. You can’t get at her, but you can trick her into falling down to your level. Walk right up until the point where that gap in the floor above is on the top-left of the screen... don’t show any floor bricks on the far left. The maid will leap left (attempting to cross the gap) but will find no flooring and so will come crashing down on your level, on top of that raised area. Whip her in the feet when she does… also, heads up for the maid who will be plummeting from the sky along with her.

Jumping over that raised area is just brutal. If there’s an irate maid on the far side you’re just going to have to try and lure her out. One thing about these maids… if you smack them, sometimes they just die – but sometimes they just DON’T. And when they don’t what happens is they turn into these crazy ZOMBIE NINJA MAIDS and levitate up in the air hurling blue energy at you that will explode when they connect with the floor into little heat-seekers that WILL cook your goose faster than a military pressure-oven. (And you thought they were bad BEFORE). If one of the maids DOES go ballistic, you can do nothing except dive at her, whipping madly -and hope that you can take her out before she starts chucking blue crap. Compounding the agony is the panther that’s skulking on the other side of that raised area. Without some sort of special weapon, all you can do is jump up on the platform and then jump and whip downwards on an angle as he pounces for you… there’s no way you’re jumping OVER him. Good hunting – you get one shot so make it count.

Once he’s dead, you can go up on the top ledge and snag a boomerang. But don’t be daft. IF you have the watch and have enough hearts to use it, KEEP IT.

Now you have to go back the way you came. If you have the boomerang, a good trick that works is to throw it at the left side of the screen, jump it as it comes back, and then follow it along, letting it sweep up in front of you. If you time it right, you can use this technique to get past the next two maids who are guarding the stairs. Watch out for maids plummeting from the sky. This is turning into a serious Jackie Chan action movie.

OK Up the stair is the LAST ROOM before Drac, but getting through it will take everything you’ve got. It contains a grand total of TWO ZOMBIE NINJA MAIDS and three practically invisible panthers. This might not sound like a whole lot, but after taking the three hits you no doubt have already, it might as well be an entire freakin’ undead army. You can’t afford to even get a scratch from anything here. If you have boomers, jump up and whip them crazily to your left. Try to intercept those blue thingies before they can spread. These ZNMs will take two hits each before they go down. Do NOT forget about the panthers who will be gunning for you. Duck and take them out when they spring. If you’ve somehow managed to keep the watch from way back at the Bat Bridge, cackle maniacally and pop as may time stops as you can while unleashing the Fury.

If the dust settles and you’re still breathing, walk along the room and while you’re at it, sweep all those trashy knickknacks from the fireplace mantle. Let the goddamn maid clean it up. Yeah, money, yeah.

THE FINAL FIGHT: Drac’s Roost.


OOOh. Pretty. Check out those neat effects on the purple sky swirling away from you in the background. Enjoy it while it lasts because every OTHER time you come here, the emulator will screw up and you won’t be able to see it. :(

From this point onwards, Castlevania once again resumes the slow, oroberous-eating-its-own-tail weird, ritualized kabulki-esque James Bond drama of Man Vs. Dracula that we all know so well. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Dracula is going to do exactly what he always does, and you are going to do exactly what YOU always do. If you want originality, go and buy Thief:The Dark Project.

Real Castlevania fans… (and you HAVE to be one just to a) even think of playing this obscure game and b) get this far anyway) don’t do it for the innovation. It’s not about innovation. They don’t do it for the points. They don’t do it for the glory. They do it just because it’s Castlevania, and That’s What Castlevania People Do. It’s a physical manifestation of Zen so profound and subtle that it surpasses mere words. If you know why you have no choice but to download Akumajo Dracula X68000 and fight with a stubborn emulator, play such a maddeningly hard game, and arrive at a point so rehashed and ritualized that you could foresee it coming long ago, which has already happened, and will CONTINUE to happen as long as there are Castlevanias and people to play them, then you Understand. This part is for you.

Progress up the stairs. Witness the full moon looming, as it always does, swollen and pale in the night sky. Feel the wind whipping around you as you climb that last set of stairs. You ARE Simon Belmont, Vampire Killer. And this is Dracula. And he is going to die.

Of course, the Boomerang is your friend. It’s in the first candle. Grip it’s wooden, pointy ends… oh yeah baby. Yeah. Throw it. Watch it scythe its way through the candles and come back. Exhaust the goodness in the vestibule candles but do not go into Dracula’s chamber. Backtrack, head down the steps and once you leave the screen, head UP again. Look – the candles have respawned! Crack them again and collect your booty. Repeat this process until you have a) Triple shot boomerangs (use the ‘rang on the candles to make the multipliers drop), b) the Silly Whip and c) At least 50 hearts. That should be enough ammo to spike Drac good.

Proceed into the antechamber to face your nemesis. There are four candles. Whip them all and collect everything except the holy water. Let that particular flask fester and disappear. This is done to prevent you from accidentally nabbing it in the heat of battle… The torches will spew plumes of purple flame and in a blaze of light, Dracula will warp in and take up his customary position in the throne.

"Mr. Tepes, I presume?"

Drac will calmly quaff a goblet of Chateau de Sanguine and give you a Look. Then he tosses the glass to shatter on the floor. It’s On.

We all know the drill. Dracula will warp around the room in his customary pillar of light, and begin hurling fireballs at you. The onslaught starts small, but as you do more damage to the Man, more and more fireballs get hurled until there is a sheet of burning hurt coming out of there that would put the Spread Gun in Contra to shame. Ignore it. You can take him out easily if you follow these simple instructions.

As any experienced Dracula Hunter knows, everything depends on timing. In this installment, Dracula is so enormously tall that you have quite a bit of duck-and-cover room under those fireballs when he actually hurls them. Exploit that. After doing this for a while, I came to realize that the secret is in the pillar of light. If you time your jump so that you push the leap button EXACTLY as the last sliver of light from the warp-in fades away, you will have enough time to leap, strike, and land before the fireballs connect with you. If you try and mess overly with that pattern, expect to get hurt. Drac CAN actually throw his projectiles on an angle… he just tends NOT to because you’re always in the air when it comes time to fire. Remember, watch the pillar of light, and leap when it disappears completely. Duck when you land. That’s it.

If you’re the type, you can chuck some boomerangs around and try to make them connect with Dracula’s head… Now, I STARTED out doing this, because I’ve ALWAYS done that in Castlevania games, but I had to eventually acquiesce to the fact that it was just Not Working this time. There’s no real REASON why it shouldn’t work… It’s just like the Werewolf in level 5. If you’re an eager beaver, all your jumping and dodging is going to cause more trouble than it’s worth. It will mess with your timing, and you will NOT be ready to deal with Dracula effectively when he warps in. It’s the difference between scrambling and diving to make the catch and having a pop-fly hit straight to you. Maybe it’s just me, who knows. All I can say is that when I tried to get fancy I got a cap peeled back every time. I was slightly off the mark, or I was not where I should be… I was worried about the boomerangs and not my health. It’s just NOT worth it, IMHO. If you play it cool, you will get through without a single scratch. It’ll take longer, and you’ll FEEL like you should be doing more, but just relax. Sit. Wait. Remember the tortoise and the hare. If you CAN get this trick to work, more power to you. But I prefer the water-dropping-on-stone-slab style of combat rather than the sledgehammer-striking-stone-and-bashing-chips-everywhere style. Drip, drip, drip and eventually you wear a hole right through him. Full health in 1 minute beats ¼ health in 45 seconds.

After your last whip connects squarely with his head, there is a satisfying scrunch, an explosion of blood, and Drac’s head goes FLYING backwards (Frowning, natch.) To land with a splat on the ground. Gobs of blood erupt from the body and go wobbling around the room, floating mystically. He couldn’t… he WOULDN’T… NO!!!! He’s not REALLY dead? NO WAY!!! Ohhhhh the unexpectedness of it all!

Duh. You know, one of these games I want Konami to come clean with the whole "Big Blue Demon" thing. I mean, who IS this demon? Why does he keep popping out of Dracula’s head? Is DRACULA really a demon? I thought he was a guy who was just seriously into some pretty dark torture in a fairly involved way. Is this Demon some sort of cover-up ploy? Was it a Faustian bargain? How come Drac always looks the same but the demons all look different? Is it the SAME demon? Are they vaguely related familial-networks of demons who have it In for Dracula for some reason? Why are they always blue? So may questions…

Anyway. Castlevania I, III, X, Bloodlines, X for the Japanese System, Gameboy versions… (You can’t tell if they’re blue or not on the gameboy).. And now THIS.

As big blue demons go, this one is more like the original CV demon than any of the other ones.. He’s not three stories tall like the one from CV III, and he doesn’t have a mouth in his groin like the one from Bloodlines. Research leads me to believe that they are, in fact, DIFFERENT demons who have made some kind of weird bet amongst themselves to see which one can last the longest in Dracula’s body before getting Sent Home by some Belmont or other. I don’t know what Drac’s personal feelings on the matter are. Maybe he has no choice. I think it’s rather like having the Government come along and say they want to put a freeway through your living room. You might not like it, but then again, what are you going to DO? The demons don’t seem inclined to let Drac DO anything except warp around and throw fireballs in a sadly predictable way when he’s NOT being a demon, and I think this would probably annoy ME if I was Dracula.

I think this fact in itself must amuse the demons to no end. Every time Drac’s body is destroyed and the demon’s physical form is subsequently purged from the earth, I picture the soul of said demon floating slowly down through the crust of the earth to resume its place around the card table. All the other blue demons grin and give high-fives to their returning fellow. "How’d it go Phil?" "Aw, you know. Pretty Good. I mean I got in a few good stomps and stuff… " "Didja try turning into a huge colossus and shooting lasers from your hands this time?" "Nah. Itchy did that last time. I thought I’d just sort of grow a big pair of wings and kinda fly around the room shooting big waves of energy." Demon posse nods appreciatively amongst themselves. "Hmm. Good plan. What happened?" Demon shrugs. "Dunno. I guess he brought those damn boomerangs with him again… I was really hoping it’d be axes." Demons make sympathetic clucking noises. "How was Dracula?" "Oh, you know. Same old. Kind of mad, I guess." Demons giggle amongst themselves. "Aw well. Good try man. Good try. That was… what? Six months? Six months and four days?… Mark Phil down for six months and four days on the Reign Of Terror Board. Pull up a chair, Phil… it’s your turn to deal."

OK. So in this instance, you have a Big Blue Demon. Let’s forget about the Bet for the time being and just work on how to smoke him. Not too much subtlety involved. You run to the side of the room, whip boomerangs in the air, and then hope he doesn’t spew a whole lotta fire in your general direction. This one likes to hop quite a lot, and you should probably run under him if it looks like he’s about to hop on top of you. He has a few attacks… the most direct being stomping on your head (tacky, but effective), and also breathing fire in an attempt to crisp you into Simon Strips. He’s big, he’s bad and he’s tough. Fortunately you have the forces of good on your side and about 50 hearts worth of boomerangs that says Phil’s not breaking the great record of 286 Terror Days that was set by Wormwort back in 1506. You’re a Vampire Killer… you know what to do. Let’s end this dog-and-pony show and go home.

When Phil’s number is finally up, he will disappear back to the poker game and you will get a really nifty effect of the castle proper collapsing down around you… It’s quite surreal, really. Look at those little dust motes fall… Wow… Neat-o. Grab that final Orb. (What ARE those orbs anyway)? And where were the MUMMIES?

Ahhhhh. The obligatory Cliff Scene. Kind of a nice effect on the water there. Stand Tall and Feel Cool. You have just done what only a small, elite crew of Vampire Hunters have ever done… Finish Castlevania X68000… arguably the most obscure, difficult, and OVERLOOKED great little game in the grand epic that is the Castlevania series. You know, you’d THINK that Drac would eventually stop building his fortresses out of that cheap and EZ-Build bargain basement concrete that they’re selling down at Home Hardware, but then again maybe he doesn’t have as much choice in the matter as we thought… I’m still waiting for "Castlevania: The Big One" Where Drac invades the streets and bars of modern day Los Angeles and in the game’s ending, the whole STATE slides off into the pacific. Now THAT’D be fun. Think about it. Skeletonz ‘n da hood? Grimmy on rollerblades? A nice, low-fat piece of Werewolf Sushi instead of that heavy meat-on-a-stick thing? Simon could throw a nerf boomerang, or maybe pick up a glock instead of that silly dagger. There would still be room for the Herb. Come on guys… Isn’t Drac due for a ressurection ‘round about the late ‘90s?

Cue credits. Hey, look! This is back in the early days when Simon was still going by that silly Belmondo pseudonym. Who did he think he was foolin’ anyways?

Well, that’s it. It’s over. Lights come up, grab your coat.

That’s the end of the Dracula X68000 walkthrough. I hope you had a good time strolling along through the subtleties of this great little game. It’s been a treat. I’m not an archivist by trade, and I don’t do this sort of thing often.


You know, it’s weird. I didn’t set out to write a 35 page manifesto on some little game so obscure that most people won’t ever hear of it, much less play it. But I love the series… So much of everything else had been done already, and I wanted to give something back and stick my two cents worth of support in for the throng of appreciative Vampire Hunters who, even in their daily lives, can’t walk by a leather whip in a tack shop without grinning secretly to themselves and picturing it connecting squarely with the head of some zombie Freak… The document is my gift to the community out there... Welcome to it. As a kid I built a chain whip and had it in the basement. Never COULD swing the damn thing effectively. I don’t have a website, nor will I be creating one soon, so if you want to post this and spread it around, be my guest.

Thanks to Konami for making such ripper games, and for the WWWeb of Vampire Hunters who still remember how good Vampire Killer sounded in its 8 bit glory days back in the mid ‘80s. Same Grimmy, Same Count, Same Frankie. In an iconless world like our where constants rise and fade with the depressing regularity of the Backstreet Boys, it’s good to know that should Dracula ever REALLY emerge as a palpable force in our midst, that there will be a staunch resistance composed of stalwart Vampire Hunters like me who will march against him, chains in hand. The pocketwatches might be Indiglo, and that… er.. ‘special’ water might be held in Coke Bottles, but when he pokes his ugly head up out of the shadows, I’ll see you on the frontlines, buckaroos. Just remember to back off Grimmy when we catch up with him. He’s mine.