If we were following any logical system here, Castlevania III should already be out; its predecessors and follower are all present on the Virtual Console, and if we want to look at the timeline for the series, it actually takes place before these other games. One (that one being me) might argue that it is an essentially title and the fact that it has been overlooked is a travesty. But if you're not a Castlevania fiend from the old school, you might be wondering just what the fuss is all about.
Castlevania III is a starting point for a lot of things in the series, including the basic story. The championing of the Belmont family and the conflict with Dracula has its major roots here (though this isn't the earliest title in the timeline). But it's important for other reasons, as well: after Castlevania II took the series away from the platforming and sidescrolling action of the original, Castlevania III brought it back, and added a number of incredible new features.
With Castlevania III, you got the chance to choose your own adventure; at an early point in the game, you have the option of deciding how to proceed. And this isn't just a question of direction -- you've got the option of companions, or spirit helpers, (Sypha Belnades, Grant DaNasty, and the infamous Alucard), and the choices you make here (and later) determine how the game unfolds. It was a fantastic touch that added a whole new level of replayability, and collecting the different endings is a wonderful experience. Using each of the companions and capitalizing on their unique skills added a lot of depth and dimension to what could have been a very simple game.
Of course, you also have series mainstays, such as beautiful (for the time) graphics, and a wonderful soundtrack. The latter isn't quite as strong as that in Castlevania II, but it's still far and away the better soundtrack when compared to many other NES titles. But that's all just gravy; where this particular title really shines is in the aforementioned gameplay. Even now, the game stands the test of time in difficulty and amount of content, and would be a near must-buy for the Virtual Console.
Finally, this game is being adapted into an actually exciting project, and one that Paul W.S. Anderson isn't going anywhere near: a direct-to-DVD animated film adapted by Warren Ellis. But since that film is still in the beginning stages, let's hope no one is waiting for its release before we see this game on the Virtual Console. There are a lot of games we'd like to see added, but this one falls firmly into the category of games we need, and with a quickness.
Virtually Overlooked is a weekly feature that spotlights games that aren't yet on the Virtual Console, but should be. While it is usually written by retro-nut JC Fletcher, this week, Alisha Karabinus whipped him into submission, stuffed a pork chop (from behind a brick, naturally) into his mouth, and hijacked the column. Interested in seeing our other recommendations? You may peruse past editions here.