Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (Game Boy, 1991)


This game is so much better than the previous one that it's mind-boggling. If I'd gotten this as a kid, I'd have had a total ball with it and would probably have it up there with stuff like Metroid II now. I know we were all hoping for Belmont Pachinko for the next game, but this'll have to do.

If you're just joining us, both this game and Castlevania Adventure take place before the original Castlevania and have this Christopher Belmont guy. After the previous game Christopher celebrated his win over Dracula by doing it with some poor woman, and they had a son named Soleil (mistranslated in the version I'm playing as Soleiyu). Now it's 15 years later and...

...Dracula is trying to be reborn, but he needs a vessel to inhabit. He targets Soleil for this purpose.

So basically Soleil is Dracula's Anchor Baby?

So now Christopher has to find him and rescue him from Dracula's clutches. It seems like they were setting Soleil up to be the next big Belmont in future games, but as far as I know...nothing came of this whatsoever. It's too bad because Soleil is a really cool name and I'm sure he would have been a bad-ass.

There's a stage select right from the get-go here and all four stages are cool ideas. They're all castles with different kind of elemental themes: Crystal, Cloud, Plant, Rock.

The stage select music is pretty good too. Yeah, I would have loved this as a kid.


It came along too late to land in the Game Boy Player's Guide, but it got some real nice NP coverage. There's a password system so you don't have to start at the beginning every time you play, AND you have infinite lives, AND it always starts you right back at the checkpoint you left off on. Don't need to go way back on a game over. I'm playing on the collection version (Switch) so I've got save states, but I don't actually need them at all.

Here's the layout of the castles. Note the verbiage Nintendo Power uses, which is always interesting. Here they're doing their creepy, occult style. "The armored Iron Doll is waiting."

Toad would have a field day reading this, whenever he gets done murdering harlots and possessing rats. Or whatever it is that Toad does on weekends.

Like the previous game, you can power up the whip until it throws fireballs. Unlike that game, you don't lose it every time you get hit, so it's actually useful now!

I vividly remember reading this coverage as a kid. It's always been a little odd to me how they put a random illustration in the middle of that square in the lower left. It doesn't correlate to that part of the level in any way. They just didn't want a blank space there for some reason.

Rock Castle is the one that looks the most basic, but has the nastiest enemies. All of these are pretty normal Castlevania levels, while sticking to their elemental themes with the terrain.

Weird how Kumulo and Nimbler are the bosses of Plant Castle and not Cloud Castle, because they're named after types of clouds.

They only show the first half of Dracula's Castle and leave the rest to your imagination, like they usually did in game coverage.

First one I pick is Crystal Castle, but I also stayed on the stage select for like a week before I decided. This one has crystal knights and lots of crystals on the walls. Culex should burst in here and just start taking everything.

The game itself plays just like every other Castlevania game. Specifically it plays just like the previous game, with the same slow walking speed and inability to change directions in midair. So it isn't perfect. They took that engine and made a much better game around it, at least.

Christopher is beset upon by Sahagin. "Our time has come!" they screech in 8-bit beeps and bloops before being one-shotted.

This next part would have been baffling without NP. You have to climb down this rope while a spike wall closes in, and it always crushes you. There's no way Christopher's slow ass can get out of the way in time.

But wait! Hold down the A button and Down and you'll slide down the rope super-fast, which I don't think was in the previous game.

Nice backgrounds here. These crystal blocks fall apart the longer you stand on them, like something out of Mega Man.

The boss here is this sorcerer guy who drops lightning bolts, and it's probably the most annoying boss in the game... until I discover that standing against the right edge of the screen makes all his attacks miss. Just stand here and jump and whip and he literally can't hit you. How'd they miss this in testing?

Next up is the Cloud Castle, probably my least-favorite level. There isn't much to this one except lots and lots (and lots) of spikes.

We get more spike walls and ropes! This game is all about spike walls and ropes. The good news is that most of the spikes aren't instant-death. The bad news is that even when they're not, they usually knock you into a pit.

The Merman is basically a miniboss that appears in a couple of levels and jumps around the room throwing swords. I usually just run past him while he jumps around like a maniac and let him tire himself out.

Here's ::checks notes:: Angel Mummy. I brought the axe and just wailed on them with that. Good time to mention that this game has two special weapons: Axe and Holy Water. At pretty much all times I wanted the Axe, because so often you've got enemies attacking from above. The Holy Water by comparison isn't useful at all in this game (with one exception) and I avoided it.

Next up is...Plant Castle, which is very plant-y.

This introduces the mechanic of having spiders descend and create ropes behind them, which can be used like normal ropes. Pretty cool idea...until they climb back up and get you.

The rolling eyeball enemies from the previous game make a return, but here they're more of a stage hazard that rolls out indefinitely.

Kumulo and Nimbler are a really cool boss design, probably the most memorable thing in the game.

Once again the axe is clutch for this fight.

That just leaves Rock Castle, home of WWE Superstar The Rock.

This level is home to these...things that leap out of holes in the wall and jump all over you. Once they're loose they're hard to hit and usually rack up a lot of damage, so the key is to hit them at their spawn points (where they lurk for several seconds before leaping to attack). With the fireball this can be done at a distance.

This stage also likes to turn out the lights entirely every time you clear a screen of candles. Not sure why more 'Vania levels don't do that, it makes sense.

Boss here is Iron Doll, another really good boss design. This guy loses armor as the fight goes on, making him faster. This also means he takes more damage, though.

Nintendo Power advises using the ropes to jump over him in armored form, then basically wailing away in un-armored form when he takes more damage.

This strategy worked for me. Most importantly, they suggested only whipping twice before dodging out of the way, which is just about how much time you've got between his swings. And right there, they've given away the secret to all the Souls games: Only hit the boss once or twice, then back away. Yep, that's the secret. Do that and all of a sudden those games are just regular action RPGs. The #1 reason people die in Souls games, or think they're super hard, is because they try to get as many hits on bosses (or even regular foes) as they can, like you would in a normal game. Nope, you stick and move, like Ali. The #2 reason people think Souls games are super hard is probably because they don't know what leveling up is. Anyway, back to this game:

Finish the four castles and Dracula's Castle rises out of the lake. I was wondering where the hell this thing was gonna fit on the stage select.

Final level has some really nice backgrounds. They went above and beyond with this one.

Toughest new enemy here is this grim reaper guy who throws scythes that boomerang back either high or low. Like the Mario/Zelda enemies of the era that'd do the same thing. Also it hits you really hard.

However the biggest menace in this stage is Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS. These bastards swarm up and furiously peck.

Nothing like reaching a boss door with one HP left, considering the door functions as a checkpoint and you're safe.

The first of the three "fortress bosses" as it were is the Bone Dragon, which is the most obnoxious fight in the game. Not the hardest, at all, just the most obnoxious. It slithers in and out of the walls while the screen auto scrolls. The auto scrolling is really the issue here, and creates a situation where you're frequently trapped and can't avoid taking damage.

Like this. It happens a lot, even if you plan ahead, and it's actually pretty infuriating.

The key is to get way ahead of the screen-scroll like this, and then manage to stay ahead of it. The fight is still a total PITA though.

Next stage has these rope courses where you have to hop from rope to rope as they alternate moving up and down. It's the same as the hacking minigame from Terminator Resistance.

...which I had to get really good at while playing that game, so this is no problem.

Reach the end, and...who? Dracula?


Soleil attacks by Sieg Heiling and throwing swords.

He's also got a whip, since he's next in line of the vampire hunter lineage. This is the hardest fight in the game, and it took me like 20 tries. It's also the one place where Holy Water seemed to be the tool of choice, since he mostly runs along the ground. It's just a matter of figuring out the pattern, what the safe spots are for his attacks, and then just following all of that perfectly. Christopher's movement speed is too slow for any kind of on-the-fly improv during a fight.

After that (don't worry, Soleil isn't dead, he just got knocked back to his senses) there's one final stage, but it's really just a bridge with some powerups on it...and these skeleton statues. Whoever made the backgrounds in this game really did a lot with this hardware.

Dracula himself is another total PITA of a fight. He sends out this big rotating circle of spheres that's a total hassle to dodge.


Ya know, this game was at its best during the initial four stages. The fortress levels/bosses are a bit annoying at times.

Christopher and Soleil escape, and Dracula's Castle collapses back into Hell or whatever it is that it does every time. It'll be back.

Wait what? Combined power? Soleil didn't do shite! Hell he actively got in my way and was the toughest boss in the game! Combined power, my ass!

In other news, here's what I said about this game in the 1000 list:

#254 Castlevania 2: Belmont's Revenge (Game Boy) – Fall 2006

Huge improvement over the previous game in the series to say the least. It uses the same slow game engine, but a few design tweaks make all the difference. You don't lose your weapon powerups when you get hit like you did in Castlevania Adventure, so your powerups actually persist and get to be useful. It also adds special weapons like throwing axes, which were glaringly absent from the first game. Add in level design that actually makes sense with these controls (compared to the awful level design in the first game) and a stage select, and you have a game actually worthy of the 'Vania pedigree. This is the best of the three Game Boy 'Vanias by a country mile.

Also, it's a little bit on the intangible side, but the game also has a lot of heart and soul. Like you can tell they really put a lot into this one. The only real downside to it is that the game is really, really hard. However it's hard in that normal 'Vania way where it's tough but fair and you can keep trying until you get it. Rather than the previous game which was full of cheap deaths. This one absolutely annihilates its predecessor. Unfortunately the third and final Game Boy 'Vania is more like the first one than the second, but it is what it is and it's passable.

One more thing to note about this game, which punched well above its weight and put the other two Game Boy CVs to shame: The music is fantastic. I mean really, really good. Here are the two best tracks, IMO:

Cloud Castle theme - This might be an original composition for this game, unsure. It's actually good enough to plug headphones into the Game Boy and listen to while walking around, which is... pretty rare on that system.

Plant Castle theme - This is a recurring theme in the series, and it's so, so good. Especially the beginning. That beginning, damn.

Other Castlevania Posts

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