Release: December 22, 1989 | Developer: Konami | Publisher: Konami
Stripping out the more bizarre and aimless RPG elements of the second Akumajou Dracula game, Konami gave the series a spectacular 8-bit swansong with the near flawless third entry in the storied series.
Released as Akumajou Densetsu in Japan, and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse in North America and Europe, this third entry is actually a prequel to the original game and builds upon that games basic gameplay.
The third game features everything that made the original a classic and builds on that successful formula. Gone is the confusing open world layout and rudimentary RPG elements of the second game. The third entry in Konami’s storied series goes back to its linear action platforming roots with a larger and more fleshed out world, recruitable secondary characters and branching pathways.
Being the final Dracula game on the Family Computer, Konami managed to deliver an instant classic with this brilliant third entry. Akumajou Densetsu’s impact and influence can be felt all the way through to the Japan-only PC Engine-exclusive masterpiece Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo and it’s direct sequel Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
There are several key differences which make the Japanese release of Akumajou Densetsu a more attractive choice for Castlevania fanatics. Due to Nintendo of America’s draconian manufacturing practices of the era, Konami exclusive sound chips were left out of the game’s international release. While certainly excellent and a landmark soundtrack in its own right, the Japanese release actually has a richer more atmospheric soundtrack because of this. The soundtrack for the game, in general, is so well regarded that it recently received a vinyl release via Mondo. This double-LP actually contains both the Japanese and international versions of Akumajou Densetsu’s tracks, leaving no stone unturned.
There are also scant graphical differences again thanks to Nintendo of America’s policies. Surprisingly some crosses were allowed to remain in the North American release, while many nude statues were covered. The sprite for Medusa was even altered, removing her “bare” breasts entirely.
Put all of these pieces together and you have a true classic; a game as beautiful visually as it is to listen to and one of the rare cases where a sequel no only improves upon the preceding games in every possible way but completely overshadows them.