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Castlevania is the first entry of the long-running Castlevania series, known as Akumajō Dracula (Demon Castle Dracula) in Japan.
The player controls Simon Belmont, the latest in a long line of vampire hunters. The Belmonts have kept the peace of Transylvania for centuries by destroying the evil Count Dracula. Dracula, being a sore loser, has risen again to terrorize the countryside of Transylvania with the help of his minions to draw Simon out for revenge. Vowing to end his reign once and for all, Simon takes up the "Vampire Killer" whip, his family's Ancestral Weapon, and sets forth for Castlevania.
One month after the game was first released in Japan on the Famicom Disk System, a version of the game was released for the MSX2. This version was released in Europe under the title Vampire Killer prior to the NES version. This version featured similar graphics and the same general sequence of levels and bosses, but had numerous major (and minor) gameplay differences, including required exploration of stages to find the key necessary to open the door at the end of every non-boss stage.
Castlevania and Vampire Killer provide examples of:
- Above the Ruins: The ending.
- Animated Armor: The Axe Knights.
- Anti-Frustration Features: Using a continue takes you back to the start of the area, unless you died to Dracula or by falling through the stairs leading up to his room, in which case you start back at the stairs instead. (Vampire Killer lacks continues, though.)
- Barbarian Hero: Simon Belmont
- Bat Out of Hell: The first boss is a giant bat with a wingspan as long as your whip.
- Continuing Is Painful: Should Simon die at any time, he'll lose his subweapon and double/triple shot, go back to the leather whip and his heart counter is reduced to 5.
- Clock Tower: Stage 17. The gears aren't moving, though.
- Cutscene Power to the Max: At the beginning of the fourth area, Simon falls down a hole several times deeper than is possible to survive in-game.
- Credits Gag: The credits to the NES version play on the names of famous Universal and Hammer actors.
- Degraded Boss: The first boss, a giant bat, pops up as a trio of three enemies very late in the game.
- Dem Bones: Including Skeledragons.
- Difficulty Spike: Thought the first half of the game was relatively easy? Well, let that absurdly long fall into the fourth area represent your imminent fall from gaming grace.
- Dracula: Well, obviously.
- Dual Boss: Two mummies.
- Dungeon Shop: Many of these in Vampire Killer.
- Fish People
- Flip Screen Scrolling: Vertically, and also horizontally in Vampire Killer.
- Flunky Boss: Frankenstein's Monster is accompanied by the invincible Igor.
- Four Is Death: Starting with Stage 12 (the end of the fourth area), any given attack will do 4 Hit Points of damage to Simon, which is also 1/4 of a full life bar.
- The Goomba: Zombies are the first enemy type, moving along the ground and dying in one hit.
- The Grim Reaper: One of the bosses, and what a boss!
- Holy Hand Grenade: Literally when it comes to the Holy Water.
- Jump Physics: Your jumps can't be controlled, which only adds to the difficulty.
- Magical Mystery Doors: Stage 12 in Vampire Killer.
- Monster Mash: Vampires, of course, plus mummies, Frankenstein's monster, some gillmen, hunchback dwarves, assorted zombies, skeletons, ghosts, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
- Nintendo Hard: One of the prime examples. First, Simon, besides being unable to jump to save his life, can't control which direction he jumps, and his whip has a delayed reaction for when its used, not to mention it can only be shot left or right. Second, the enemies are more often than not too fast to easily hit or put in a place where they can easily get the advantage over you--not to mention, Simon is knocked back when he takes damage, which makes it very easy for him to fall into a pit. Late in the game, enemies also become strong enough to where taking so much as four hits is enough to bring you down. Also, when you die, Simon will lose his subweapon and double/triple shot, go back to the leather whip and his heart counter is reduced to 5. Oh, and no password or save feature--the game must be beaten in one sitting--fortunately, the game is gracious enough to give you infinite continues. Finally, the bosses, when fought without subweapons, can be downright grueling to beat--standout examples including Frankenstein and Igor, Death, and Dracula himself.
- Off with His Head: When you beat the first phase of Dracula, the final hit sends his head flying clean off!
- One-Winged Angel: Dracula becomes a beefy devil-like creature (or, in Vampire Killer, an enormous living portrait of one) after you "kill" his humanoid form. May be the Ur Example of this trope for video games.
- Monstrosity Equals Weakness: Many players, particularly veterans, find this phase of the battle to be easier than the first phase.
- Recurring Riff: "Vampire Killer," perhaps the theme for the entire series.
- Rewarding Vandalism: You get most of your power ups by whipping candles.
- Shout-Out: One of the bonus items you can get in the NES version is an Easter Island Head.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Simon's last name is "Belmondo" in the credits of the NES version.
- Teleport Spam: This combined with Collision Damage makes Dracula an evil final boss.
- Timed Mission: Levels have timers. Averted in Vampire Killer.
- Warmup Boss: The Giant Bat.
- Whip It Good: The Vampire Killer, your main means of offense.