Super Castlevania IV was an amazing work then and is still a great playthrough even now.
Castlevania had been among those consistently great series during the days of NES and SNES, as they introduced something different with each sequel. These were games I never hesitated to pick up when they hit shelves, and the second I saw Super Castlevania IV I remember coming into it with very high expectations. Unfortunately many people I knew got to the point where they avoided these games and it was solely for their unforgiving difficulty. Super Castlevania IV for the SNES was no exception as it brought that hard as steel challenge to the table.
This fourth game in the franchise which was released in 1991 is a retelling of the original game. It once again follows vampire hunter Simon Belmont as he attempts to invade Count Dracula's castle and destroy the vampire with his magical whip. This won't be an easy task as Dracula's minions are up to the task in defending their master.
Super Castlevania IV is a linear action platformer that definitely delivers the goods on the action. The enemies are creative and plenty based on many monsters of myth, such as the Mummy, Frankenstein, Medusa, Grim Reaper, and several others. It attempts to cover all ground with these various monsters and the game feels quite ambitious. Simon is well armed with his whip that can be upgraded into a chained ball mace, plus he now has the ability to swing in all directions which is very useful, in addition twirl the whip around in a small circle which always felt quite useless to be honest. It's an extremely fun primary weapon to play with though, and it can humble many a creature. The secondary weapons that once again come into play enhance the overall gameplay with some being very fun to use, such as the boomerang crucifix and even the arc-throwing axe. These weapons seem to have their moments of use, but I along with many other players always found the crucifix to be the best all around weapon, as it makes short work of just about everyone in the game.
While the combat is tight, the plat-forming is something else and late in the game it puts Simon's skills to the test as he uses his whip to swing from one post to another or simply try to gain higher ground on moving platforms. The stage designs are indeed brilliant and I can't recall them having a same like feel. The first four stages are without a doubt the easiest as these focus on simply getting to the main part of the castle. I always saw these stages as introducing the player to what the game may have in store later, and once it hits that fifth stage or so; this game literally shows no mercy as it goes for the throat.
There are some unfair advantages such as Simon taking a hit from flying creatures that will send him back to a cheap death, and in the process losing your cool upgraded weapons forcing you to get them again; but I can't say that the game is truly frustrating though. The boss battles have lots of moments of sheer coolness. The waltzing spirits always stood out to me catching me by complete surprise. The Grim Reaper is still a total bad ass along with the Mummy holding his own. The boss battles can be tough, but they are really hard if there's no powerful secondary weapon to use. I'm not sure if I ever beat the Mummy without a secondary weapon.
The backgrounds were indeed awesome back then and they look good now. Each section has a personality of its own with some being done quite brilliantly along with a nice BGM backing everything up. Some of my favorite stages consist of the swamp showing off the SNES' graphics ability with the moving water. The giant clock is simply amazing, and the collapsing bridge still gives me chills. I definitely love the Room of Close Associates capturing that sinister vibe as if this is it, because you know the final battle is coming.
In closing, with its superior control set up and fluidity to go along with its total package. I believe Super Castlevania IV is as close to a perfect platformer a game like this could get back then. The unforgiving difficulty just doesn't seem like much of a flaw for me. I did die plenty of deaths when I first played this on release date, and I found it quite hard recently but I still can't stop enjoying this game after so many years. I highly recommend giving this a shot if action platformers are your thing.
The Good: Nice update to the original, rough challenge, cool bosses, great stage design, awesome soundtrack
The Bad: Unforgiving difficulty that can lead to cheap deaths