A horrible night to have a curse in generalCastlevania Chronicles is a remake/reissue of the Sharp X68000 version of Castlevania. X68000 Castlevania had previously never been released in America, and that was just as well, as X68000 Castlevania was the hardest game to ever be released. This was a situation where the designers took a game that was already difficult (Castlevania), massaged it until it was longer and harder, and then made it burst with a continual “arcade loop” of repeating levels where the difficulty gradually escalated. You were expected to beat the game eight times! And it was already plenty difficult the first time!

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any documentation on exactly what gets “more difficult” in each loop of X68000 Castlevania. Additionally, while the official Castlevania Chronicles Arrange Mode has easy, normal, and hard modes, it similarly does very little to explain what is actually different between each version. And, since the original, 2-D Castlevanias have always been particularly difficult, and even “easy mode” or “Help Me” is always a bear to beat, let’s take a look at possibilities for good difficulty changes versus bad difficulty changes. Maybe some of these came into play with Castlevania Chronicles?


Good Difficulty
I know that guyThis is an easy one! Bosses in videogames are predominantly pattern puzzles. Giant Bat has three different attacks, and once you learn how to avoid those attacks, you can mount a counteroffensive. As you get better at recognizing their abilities, you can find the myriad of openings, and you can then fell that bad boy inside of ten seconds. An obvious way to make this process easier is limit the number of patterns a boss can have: if they only have one attack, you only have to learn one attack. And give ‘em seventeen different options on the highest difficulty. Could not be any more simple.

Bad Difficulty
While adding a number of complicated patterns to a boss fight is a great plan, try to avoid patterns that outright make the boss indestructible. This seems to be the domain of a couple of “modern day platformers”, and it is never enjoyable to simply dodge over and over again while some giant dragon flashes and thrashes around invincibly. A good boss should telegraph some opportunities to get your hits in, not turn into the Turbo Tunnel. Include some give and take! Not just take! That makes for a terrible working relationship. You’re giving bosses a bad name!

Does Castlevania Chronicles Care?
Evidently not, as the bosses across CC do not change their wily ways regardless of difficulty. Or, if they do change, I didn’t notice it on multiple playthroughs…


Good Difficulty
Rotating alongSpeaking of setbacks, a common issue in Castlevania and many other platformers is knockback. Quite simply, when you are hit by an enemy, you are “knocked back”. When this happens on flat land, it is annoying. When you are teetering over a single-block platform and desperately trying to survive a merman onslaught, it is instantly deadly. Under “easy” circumstances, knockback should be limited or outright eliminated, as knockback basically defeats the purpose of a health bar. That fish fireball is only supposed to take off an eighth of your health. If it kills you outright because you happened to be standing in the wrong spot, you are going to learn the wrong lesson about… uh… standing. Moving? Something like that.

Bad Difficulty
Just make sure that any knockback modification that occurs happens universally. There have been a few rare instances where knockback has been maintained for a stationary character, but reduced while jumping, dashing, or performing some other movement. And, while the concept there is great (“hit while jumping” is the number one cause of dead Belmonts) it defeats the purpose of an “Easy Mode”, as it teaches the wrong lessons. If you learn that the best way to soak an errant projectile is to jump just before impact, then you are going to have a horrific time when that crutch has been removed. Attempting to scale such an adjustment is going to get vampire killers killed.

Does Castlevania Chronicles Care?
Knockback seems to be the main difference between Classic and Arrange Mode. While there does not seem to be any variation between difficulty levels once you are actually playing the versions, Classic Mode has significant knockback, and Arrange Mode has only “owie, but moving on” knockback. It makes a big difference in some notable areas (the skeleton dragon boss fought on a tiny raft is practically a puppy with minimal knockback).

Level Design

Good Design
Needs more guardrailsHere’s one that 2000s-era Mega Man titles knew how to get right: add some baby blocks. Oftentimes, the most difficult platforming problems are challenging because they require absolute precision. You must know exactly how far your protagonist jumps, because if you take it on faith, you are going to wind up in the drink. However, add a few baby blocks to make your destination a little wider, and things suddenly become much more comfortable. It also means that the designers can take a more focused look at their levels, as carefully considered bumper locations require a full understanding of exactly where they would be useful. It is a great choice for the player and the designer!

Bad Design
Never skip entire levels. Look, we get it, the clocktower is always a bear, and it is hard to find a way to make that onslaught of medusa heads appropriate for an Easy Mode. But when you remove entire levels, you are diminishing the experience of the player. And just because someone doesn’t want to play on Make Your Mama Cry mode doesn’t mean they should be locked out of fun content. NES games were notorious for tying the entire latter half of a game to difficulty selection, but even modern titles will lock out of a super boss unless you want to play the whole game again in the most difficult mode available. And that’s just mean! A congratulations screen or star on your save file is one thing, but blocking playing a game in a game is wrong.

Does Castlevania Chronicles Care?
Looks like you can play the whole game regardless of version or difficulty. I guess you are locked out of the endless loop in Arrange mode. Does that count? There are no bumpers anywhere, though.


Good Design
White waterHow you defend yourself against incoming threats is essential to any action game. If there is a fireball sailing your way, and you are already on unsteady ground, you may get yourself killed just trying to avoid the hit. Or, if you want to make things easier, allow the player to banish that projectile with a simple flick of the whip. And not all projectiles have to be created equally! Maybe a blast from a bone statue is easily defeated, but a boss’ hadouken is going to have to be properly parried. Make all the projectiles invincible on hard mode. Or include a “block” ability of varying adaptability. There are options here.

Bad Design
Don’t just make the projectiles faster. That is an option, but it is easily the most boring option available. The thing that shoots fireballs is going to shoot a fireball! We get it! Making said projectile move faster sounds more difficult (you need better reaction time!), but in practice, it just means you spend way too much time dodging the exact same thing as it fires off more often. Faster projectiles just mean a boring hallway becomes boring-er.

Does Castlevania Chronicles Care?
Another swing and a miss. Projectiles are 100% important to Castlevania Chronicles in all versions, but there does not seem to be any difference between them among versions and difficulties. The best we have are some randomly spawning, very fast bats on higher difficulty levels.

Sub Weapons

Good Design
This has nothing to do with anything, but I like itAn Easy Mode is all about allowing for mistakes with less significant consequences. With that in mind, why not let the player truly find the useful situations for using those flexible items. I cannot be the only person on Earth that played any given old school platformer with his hearts/energy/ammo close to the chest, because I had a general phobia I would run up against a boss that absolutely required my full stock of throwing axes. But that experience would have been dramatically different if I could do a run with unlimited (or just majorly boosted) ammunition, and I was allowed to experiment without a fear of being skewered by my own excess.

Bad Design
But much like excluding levels in Easy Mode, do not completely abolish certain items in Hard Mode. A “naked run” or other restriction that limits your protagonist to insufficient options is not a fun challenge, it is a sign that the game is not designed around the traditionally available tools. Dropping the invincible potion or your own projectile initially seems like an appropriate trial, but less choices simply means less to do. And you want more to do! It’s a game! Everybody wants more from their games! It’s how you have fun!

Does Castlevania Chronicles Care?
I would like to play Castlevania Chronicles just once with L/R switching sub weapons, and unlimited hearts. I want to see exactly where holy water is useful, and if it remotely corresponds to where you can actually find holy water in a candle. But, alas, CC does not factor sub weapons into its difficulty calculations.

Random Monsters

Good Difficulty
I hate these stairsHere’s an idea for your next easy mode: It is 2023, why not let monsters die forever? The worst part of any given Castlevania game is taking it slow and steady and clearing every screen of monsters as meticulously as possible… and then they just respawn the minute you scroll the screen away. What was even the point of that?! So why not take easy mode, and let monsters die forever. On the easiest difficulty, they could even stay dead after you respawn. You took the time to clear out this hallway once, but then failed to an errant falling platform? Great! Now you just have to leisurely stroll back to your old rival. Makes it a lot easier to focus on your new issue at hand.

Bad Difficulty
Do not simply add more health to the bad guys. It is one thing to make everything a one-whip kill on easy mode, but making the most fragile skeleton hearty enough to withstand a hundred strikes does not make the game harder. It simply makes the whole experience last longer. An extra hit or two is one thing, but far too many games make their basic encounters take as long as a boss on higher difficulty levels, and that adds nothing. Either make them invincible so “clearing a room” is impossible, or keep the pacing you would see on any other difficulty level. The world is not ready for a flea man that soaks a holy water and keeps coming.

Does Castlevania Chronicles Care?
It doesn’t happen immediately, but both versions of CC ramp up random enemy health on higher difficulty levels. As early as the third stage, you are dealing with killer, killer caterpillars and statues that take forever to crumble. Castlevania Chronicles knows a thing or two about difficulty and making a game easier, but that doesn’t mean it gets everything right…

SBC #13 Simon Belmont & Castlevania Chronicles

Simon Belmont in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Let's smash some vampires

  • He any Good? Give me that whip smash all day long. I love Simon’s range and power like my own children (I have no children). Simon has the moveset that everyone always expected, and, if I am being honest, he is probably my favorite newcomer for Ultimate. This cannot be a coincidence…
  • That final smash work? Grand Cross having its whole “scene” is nice, but it would be better if it just appeared without the movie. Something closer to Ness’s Star Storm would be more appropriate to Richter’s original item crash.
  • The background work? Dracula’s Castle is the only place for a Belmont to reside. It is also a weird shape with the collapsing staircase and “gutter” in the center. The Castlevania boss monsters are awesome and cinematic, though maybe they could have an actual impact on the proceedings? Regardless, any excuse for more Castlevania music is appreciated.
  • Classic Mode: “Smash-vania” includes such “monsters” as Bayonetta, Dark Pit, and the greatest monster of all: man (Richter). And I guess we have Dracula, too. What is a man, anyway?
  • Smash Trivia: Simon Belmont is technically the final Smasher to be introduced with an echo character… who was introduced simultaneously with the OG Belmont. And this is all very good, but where’s Trevor? Get a family reunion going!
  • Lookin' Brown

  • Amiibo Corner: The long whip is great (and ribbed for Dracula’s pleasure). When you really start looking at it, you realize this vampire slayer has been rocking bare legs and a tiara for a long time. The purple in the breastplate is cool. It is so nice this statue is not completely brown.
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? Smash Bros vividly remembers the “real” Castlevania 1, but not so much the redheaded Simon that fought a stained-glass golem. Any references to Castlevania Chronicles are strictly grandfathered in.

Simon Belmont in Castlevania Chronicles

  • GrossSystem: Do we consider the X68000 version a real thing that was available in 1993, or do we just look at the Playstation 2001 release? And do we ever stop to consider the only reason we saw this was that people were begging Konami for more Castlevania goodness after Symphony of the Night?
  • Number of players: No matter which mode you choose, you are still sticking to one Simon.
  • A fresh start: Both the X68000 “animated” opening and the extremely late 90’s Playstation 1 opening movies are embarrassing for different reasons. Please skip both of them, and fast forward to Simon standing at Dracula’s front gate. Do not pass go, do not ever look at the terrible spiders.
  • Favorite Boss: The Clock Tower has a very memorable fight against a werewolf that turns out to be a wolf-woman. What a twist! However, I would much rather fight the Doppelganger of the Floating Corridor, as I am always down for a good mirror match. We are not even going to acknowledge the generic wizard that appears in level three.
  • Favorite Sub Weapon: There are two versions of this game: one where you get an herb drop off a zombie early in the first level, and one where you don’t. If you have an herb, this becomes a trial where you are constantly deliberating between spending hearts for health, and how long you can last without dropping into a pit. If you never see an herb, it is a normal Castlevania game. But that little plant makes all the difference.
  • Apropos of Nothing: Because I created this a while back, and I have not talked about a Castlevania game recently, please enjoy this image.
    This is real

    If you do not understand what you are looking at, congratulations, you do not have brain worms.
  • Did you know? The Playstation does not have an internal clock, so there is no way to replicate the way the original clocktower level had clocks properly based on the time in the real world. However, you can overcome this issue with a secret options menu that can only be unlocked with the Konami code. This should go down in history as the single most useless instance of the Konami code since that time it blew you the heck up in Gradius 3.
  • Would I play again: Probably. This is an excellent way to experience classic Castlevania gameplay, and, despite the difficulty, it does gradually escalate over the first few levels. This is not an I Wanna Be the Guy situation where you are being wholesale murdered on the first screen. That said, if I am playing a Castlevania game, it is probably going to be one of the metroidvania titles, so no guarantees.

What’s next? Mr. Game and Watch certainly has to be in a game or two, right? Game is right there in his name! So let’s play some! Please look forward to it!

No, seriously

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