Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.
Fans of Castlevania already have the option to play the first game on Virtual Console in either of two forms: the NES version or the Super NES remake. Both are excellent games and should be in your collection. But our lust for Castlevania cannot be satiated. The best-- and hardest-- version of Castlevania has yet to appear on the Virtual Console.
Why the game hasn't been announced for Virtual Console yet:
Computer gaming in Japan followed a different path from the US. In the west, we grew up playing adventure games and Prince of Persia, until the ridiculous 3D hardware boom hit and we all started playing first-person shooters. Japanese gamers played NES-style games (in fact, Metal Gear, among others, actually got its start as an MSX game) and arcade ports on their computers. We missed out entirely on superior versions of many of our favorite games.
The Sharp X68000 is, like the MSX, a popular Japanese computer standard that just didn't make it out of Japan. And as a result, its games didn't make it either. Unlike the MSX, there hasn't been the tiniest peep about seeing any of its content on the Virtual Console in any region. We'll have to wait for some MSX games to come out, we suspect, before anyone thinks of offering more computer games.
Why we think it should be on the Virtual Console:
People who got into Castlevania at Symphony of the Night think that the series is about graceful, gothy dudes, agile movements, vast numbers of weapons and items, and near-freeform exploration of large environments. That is an incorrect conception of the entire series. The original Castlevanias-- basically Castlevania and Castlevania III, and to a degree Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, are defined by their limitations. You, as a very beefy Belmont in a very tough-looking leather skirt, have a very limited set of tools-- whipping directly forward (with a half-second delay, of course), a nearly-uncontrollable jump, and four subweapons that you can't count on for boss fights, because you'll die before you get there anyway. You have to learn to make use of these tools to navigate a series of sharply-designed, Real Castlevania games don't have save points right in front of boss rooms, because they don't have save points. We love the new-style 'Vanias, but we miss the old style.
Castlevania on the X68000 is the best specimen of the classic, constrained pre-Metroidvania game. Unlike Super Castlevania IV, it didn't clog up the formula with a bunch of moves and functionality (which is all fun, but makes the game easier). It's basically Castlevania with nice 16-bit graphics and a bunch of new levels. It's got the hardest clock tower ever. You can decide how you feel about that. It got an updated port (with uncharacteristically awful Ayami Kojima character designs) on the Playstation in the form of Castlevania Chronicles, but even that was in 2001, and it was on the Playstation. We want it now, on the system we're talking about now!