Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was first released for the Famicom in 1987 in Japan, followed by the NES in 1988 in North America. The game was developed and published by Konami and continues the story from the franchise’s debut title, Castlevania.
Like a number of sequels released for the NES, Simon’s Quest varies from both its predecessor and what its sequel would ultimately become. Like The Legend of Zelda II: Adventure of Link and Super Mario Bros. 2, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest carries the essence of what made the original game unique while trying out ideas that were unconventional or unexpected based on the original game.
In Simon’s Quest, the player controls Simon Belmont, the protagonist of Castlevania. Here, Simon picks up some time after the first game’s story and is traveling the countryside of Transylvania in order to lay Dracula to rest once and for all. Following the final fight in Castlevania, Simon is inflicted by a curse and in order to remove it and stop the Count, he must collect five of Dracula’s body parts in order to reassemble the fallen vampire and slay him once again.
The game begins in a town and players familiar with the original title may feel inclined to use Simon’s whip to attack the closest moving thing. Doing so will prove useless, as Simon is facing not ghouls nor demons, but random townspeople who are offering advice, lies, and items.
In order to progress through the game, the player must decipher the intentionally vague clues and hints given to Simon throughout his journey in order to obtain the items necessary to find each of Dracula’s body parts. Some of these items are necessary for finding secrets within the world, such as the Holy Water, which allows the player to break away walls in the game. Other items are general upgrades, particularly for Simon’s whip.
One noticeable difference that players will soon realize is the use of hearts in the game. While the first game utilized hearts as a way for Simon to use his secondary weapons like the Holy Water, the second game does not require hearts for all secondary weapons. Hearts in this game are primarily used for the purchase of items, and are found by defeating random enemies throughout the world.
Another difference is the introduction of the day and night cycle in the game, notable for its famous line signifying the transition of time, “What a horrible night to have a curse.” During the night, the game will replace characters inside of towns with enemy characters that drop a larger amount of hearts when killed. During the day, enemies are only found inside of dungeons or along paths outside of towns.
Simon’s Quest is also unique for its use of a time tracking system. The game has an internal clock that logs the amount of time the player takes to complete the story. Depending on the final time, the player will view one of three varying endings. Oddly enough, the game ending shown for beating the game in the fastest time is not the best ending outcome. This has been speculated as an error in localization, but there has yet to be a definitive answer on why the endings are so strange.
One continuing theme that survived the evolution to its sequel is the level of quality found within Castlevania’s music. The original game contains some of the eras most memorable sounds, and is arguably the first truly great video game soundtrack. Simon’s Quest carries the legacy by introducing even more fantastic compositions and debuting one of the series’ most notable themes, “Bloody Tears.”
While many associate the Metroid franchise with Castlevania, particularly after the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the roots of the series’ similarities begin in Simon’s Quest. The open exploration of the world where Simon can only advance once a particular item has been obtained lends itself entirely to the Metroid style of game progression.
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest has since been released on Nintendo’s Virtual Console service, appearing on each iteration of the platform; Wii, Wii U, and 3DS. Because the game can be confusing, challenging, and some characters blatantly lie, it is recommended that a first-time player take advantage of a guide while playing through. While it isn’t impossible to complete the game without one, it may take significantly longer to figure out just what to do and where to do it.
[editor’s note: this article was originally posted on March 4, 2015]