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Welcome friends, to my third edition of the Retro Games: Overrated/Underrated Voting poll. In our first two editions/threads we looked at Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Shadows of the Empire (Both being N64 games).

Today we won't break tradition and as such the game in question is none other than the often maligned and yet fondly remembered (by some) 1999's Castlevania 64.

Where to start? Well I didn't play Castlevania 64 right at launch (January 1999) instead I got a copy of the game a few months later in May. In those early days of the internet I approached the game only with the knowledge of Gamepro and EGM's reviews (As I was subscribed to the magazines) which were both extremely positive.

Gamepro I believed had given the game a 4.5/5.0 and the usually strict EGM had given the title scores of 9.0, 9.0, 9.0, 8.0. In other words ...say what you will about Castlevania 64, and its special Edition titled 'Legacy of Darkness' (released at the latter part of that year) at least back in in January/February 1999 professional reviewers were impressed by the game.

Now, context is important in many things in life, and in gaming it is no different. In January 1999 the gaming world was just a few months removed from the release of Ocarina of Time (the holy grail of video games) so the fact that Castlevania 64 was viewed in a positive light back then, so close to the shadow of the much greater game in Ocarina is telling.

Quite frankly right from the title screen the music captivated me, and the imagery of the castle was epic and foreboding. The first level was very atmospheric, and the graphic quality while a step below Nintendo's ultimate masterpiece, was still about as good as console 3-D games got in the late 90's before the american arrival of the Dreamcast. I was immersed in the game from the get go. It was an eerie, satisfying adventure, full of mystery and in addition it featured a decent storyline for both protagonists Reinhardt and Carrie.

Perhaps the most enduring memory for me, was the many times I died by the hand (Or should I say mechanical wood cutting saw) held by the Frankenstein like creature that along with two terrifying hounds chased me through a garden maze. The anxiety and genuine frustration of that particular level really stuck with me. The bad endings, and the good endings, the fact that with out a guide or foreword it would take multiple play throughs to see everything there was to see in the game made sure I spent the whole summer holed up playing, and enjoying every second of it.

Back to the visuals, the character models in the game at that point in time were pretty fantastic, aside from Zelda OoT, I can't really recall a game during that era that had models that were so satisfying to the eye. The environments captured the mood perfectly and the artwork was flawless. The day and night cycle while not as jaw dropping as OoT's ( though to be honest C64 joins pretty much every other game ever made after OoT in that regard) looked fantastic and actually affected certain goals and NPCs routines. I had such fond memories of the game, that later during the mid 00's I got a hold of a Legacy of Darkness copy and played the game again to the end credits. Legacy of Darkness added a few character quest lines and Hi-Res support provided you had the 4mb ram pack (Tip: Avoid Hi-Res mode at all costs it will kill the frame rate).

Both games of course also shared the same flaws. The precision, and fast gameplay of its 2-D predecessors was replaced by clunky 3rdperson action combat and even clunkier platforming sections which turned long time fans of the series off. Even in comparison to other 3-D games of the era like OoT, Castlevania 64's controls just felt sluggish and they lacked the precision that the series was known for in 2-D. Poor Controls in both battle and platforming were the game's major drawbacks in my opinion and perhaps it is the reason why some of you might feel that game was a disappointment.

I understand that as an early 3-D game Castlevania 64 has aged poorly in most eyes, but I like to rate games for what they bring to the table at their respective release dates ( I believe it is the only way you can properly and justly rate retro games ) and Castlevania 64 while not necessarily a great game back in 1999, was for the most part a great experience and a very good game. I think it was justly rated by EGM Magazine ( a 9.0 was the score I would have given the game then) and I think in retrospective the game has been underrated because of how poorly it aged ( in most circles) and just the general dislike that most fans of the series have for the 3D iterations of the game series.

What are your thoughts? I look forward to reading your memories of the game!

Turok Dinosaur Hunter thread:

Shadows of the Empire thread:

Last edited by SammyGiireal - on 13 February 2020