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After a horrid start with The Castlevania Adventure Konami got their act together on the Game Boy platform and released Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (known as Dracula Densetsu 2 - Legend of Dracula 2 in Japan) in 1991. Once again players are cast as Christopher Belmont as he fights against the evil Dracula. However, this time, as they say, it's personal. Dracula has possessed Chris's son, Soleiyu. If Chris hopes to get his son back from the perils of evil, he'll have to fight his way through the four castles in the land in order to raise Dracula's castle from beneath the ground. Passwords record progress, thank goodness, and the other problems from the first title have been corrected. This is the game that The Castlevania Adventure should have been.

Christopher can perform the standard Castlevania selection of moves. His primary weapon is the whip, and the whip can be powered up to have a longer striking range and is only powered down when Chris takes a hit from certain enemies. Candles dot the passageways and, as usual, they can be whipped to drop useful items. Also available to Chris are the ax and the holy water that can be used at the cost of one heart per use provided he finds the weapons first. The annoying jumps from the previous game have also been scaled down, making leaps of faith a thing of the past.

As mentioned earlier there are four castles that Chris must clear before he can enter Dracula's castle. Each castle is based on a theme: crystal, rock, plant, and air. The order in which Chris proceeds is up to the player, but all four must be cleared. Each castle has its own set of specific hazards, such as ropes attached to mechanical pulleys, leaping mudmen, or spikes that shoot out from the walls. The ropes from the first game are back, but Chris can now slide down the ropes at double his normal descent speed. At the end of each castle is a boss that has its own unique weak point and life meter. After clearing all four castles Dracula's castle rises, opening the way for Chris to save his son from evil.

The graphics are sharper than The Castlevania Adventure and the audio is a step up, but for the most part the game is a standard second-generation Game Boy game. The control is tighter than the first game as well (mainly because Chris no longer slogs along; he can now walk at a reasonable pace). There is some minor slowdown when too many enemies fill the screen, but the designers were careful not to create too many situations where enemies can gather in large numbers. Most of the gameplay involves avoiding hazards, in fact.

Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge was a must-have Game Boy game back in the day, and I feel it's aged rather well. It's still just as enjoyable today as it was years ago and should be easily available at the usual used game locations and online auctions. The game sold well in its day and was a success for Konami, which in turn led to the release of the only Super Game Boy Castlevania game: Castlevania Legends.


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