Akumajou Dracula (originally translated as Vampire Killer) was released in 1986 by Konami, becoming the first in the series of action games known as Castlevania internationally. You play as Simon Belmont, a hero born into a long bloodline of heroic vampire hunters and destined to destroy the evil Count Dracula and his Translyvanian minions.
Over the nearly 25 years the series has been going there have been constant tweeks and changes, so much so that if you have only experienced the more modern interations then you are in for a rude awakening here. At its black heart Akumajou Dracula continues the tradition of other 8-bit Famicom side-scroller, meaning the goal is to get from one end of the stage to the other without dying. The Japanese version has the ability to save your game unlike the American version where you had to start your game from scratch every time you played – a little advantage to those of us who pick up the title locally.
Simon`s main weapon for getting across Transylvania is his trusty whip, “Vampire Killer”. Along the way though Simon can found sub-weapons (that at the time was a very popular feature in Famicom games) that provide a secondary attack function to battling enemies easier. The Axe for example, swings upwards in an arc motion giving you a better chance of killing enemies that are above your platforming level. There is also a knife, a boomerang, a stopwatch that freezes everything on screen and holy water. Holy water is my favorite since it helps deals with enemies by stunning whoever is around you. Vampire Killer is unique for early Castlevania games, containing several features not seen in the following titles. To progress, you need to acquire “skeleton keys” that have to be picked up within the levels, in order to open doors to other rooms.
Other keys open up treasure chests with useful items, such as shields for protection and speed boosts. Handy Merchants can also be found along the way (and mostly by breaking open walls with the whip), selling items to the player. Akumajou Dracula also begins another Castlevania trait, its difficulty level. It is a VERY difficult game requiring some extreme level of patience – especially for those that again are only used to friendlier 3D fare. Once you do complete the game though you watch Dracula`s castle fall alongside the end credits. The credits themselves don`t actually list anyone who worked on the game. Instead they list the characters in the game and have fake names as actors giving you the feeling once again you just finished a movie. For those who want to check the action but can’t be bothered to pick up the game, Youtube be your answer: