Super Castlevania IV.
My sweating hands grip the controller; my wavering thumb presses start. I’m off to slay the unslayable, defeat the indefatigable, and overcome the insurmountable. Like so many other sojourns, this will end in the Voivode’s fall; Dracula will crumble beneath the Vampire Killer. I’ll take on the minions of evil, the imps of the devil, the specters of suffering. This night, I will butcher the beast.
Like Van Helsing on groundhog day, I do this every year... without fail. It is, in many ways, an undying tradition. My own folklore.
I usually wait until the leafs metamorphose before dragging out my SNES, hooking it up, and popping in the never younger Super Castlevania IV cartridge. But this year, the ripe, humid heat of summer loitered into the soothing breath of fall and snuffed it out. Like the fiend, it sucked the verve from the season. I knew it was time. I knew it must be done. And I did it. And just as Dracula, engulfed in that white light, disintegrated, so did, it seemed, everything that had made that hot, clammy October an aberration.
Super Castlevania IV embodies the zeitgeist of nostalgia. I’m sure of it. Yes, I’ve written about the Duke and Commander Keen, Fox McCloud, Ken and Ryu and how all of them – and many more that I have yet to write of – formed my collective gaming psyche. But throughout the years, and through my vacillation regarding the love and nostalgia for those aforementioned gaming monoliths, one thing has remained forever constant: my adoration for Super Castlevania IV.
Even at my most frustrated, most inconsolable moments with the game, I've never once thought the game pedantic or overwrought, its story outmoded or trite; there’s something endearing about it all, something within its horror that is relaxing, something within its very existence that I cannot escape.
Every journey through the game is like fumbling through some obtuse, mossy moor at twilight. I’ve mapped it and learned its undulations through thorough research, yet, when the wind howls and the dark descends, I go rigid like the dated, yet endearing Simon Belmont, the titular vampire slayer. I tremor, lose my mind, go mad. But who wouldn't when staring into the macabre maw of an otherworldly inferno?