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Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse came out in 1990 for the NES. It's the last Castlevania game on the console, and it sure went out with a bang. While getting back to its platformer roots, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse still maintains some of the adventure elements of the second game, as well as giving players cool additions like multiple characters, paths and endings.
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Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse takes place several hundred years before Castlevania. You play as Trevor Belmont, Simon Belmont's ancestor. After the Belmonts got kicked out of Wallachia, Dracula tries to take over Europe with his dark forces, causing the church to invite Trevor back (to slay Dracula, of course). Accompanying Trevor are a few other characters that you meet along the way, among them a young priestess, a pirate and Dracula's own son.
The cool thing about the storyline is that the course you take through the game alters the course of the story.Which characters you have join your party, and who you have with you at the end, will effect the outcome of the game to some extent. That is pretty advanced for an NES game.
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Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is a platformer. Unlike some of the new Castlevania games, you really don't have any inventory (although you can collect different weapons to use for a short time). The levels are similar to the first Castlevania. You have to jump and whip your way through Dracula's castle (15 stages) while collecting power ups and defeating bosses. However, now you get to choose which path you want to take, the high or the low.
The high path is generally easier, so if you are playing for the first time go that route for sure. Unless you are sure you want the challenge. Along each route you will meet the other characters who will join you (one of them is optional). Once they join you, you can choose which you want to play with or go it alone. You can even switch between them with the Wii mote version of select.
The controls are classic NES with the Wii mote. D-pad is movement while the 1 and 2 are B and A. Trevor can only jump and use a weapon, although his companions can do more. Sometimes the controls feel unresponsive and a bit slow, but I think that's the original game and not the emulation.
Also, each level is timed, like the original, so you have something extra to keep an eye on. Oh, and saves are done with passwords, fun fun!
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Graphics and Sound
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse looks better than the previous two Castlevania games. The backgrounds are slightly more detailed and the enemies are a bit better in design. Unfortunately, Trevor dresses like He-man meets Conan the Barbarian still (now we know where Simon got his impeccable taste in fashion!), but that's more of a personal gripe than anything else. However, for an NES game from 1990, the graphics aren't that much of an improvement.
Sound wise Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is pretty good. The music in the US version is supposedly not as detailed as in the Japanese version, but it suits the game just fine. It's not ground breaking, but I can live with it.
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I think Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is the most fun of all the NES era Castlevania games. It gives the player plenty of options while still being a solid platformer. The difficulty is just right, after the extraordinarily hard Castlevania II. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse does present a challenge, but it's the good kind of challenge. Also, with the inclusion of multiple endings and paths, the re-play value is quite high.
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If you are going to get one NES era Castlevania for the VC, get Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. It's only 500 Wii points and it is the best of the bunch. And once you finished it, you can play it again. What are you waiting for? Grab your whip and get cracking!