Castlevania 3 begins great.
The graphics - shocks of lightning, moss covered churches - make this game a visual tour guide of Transylvania. The music fulfills - perhaps even surpasses - the high standard the Castlevania series is known for. And then the game begins. The style of play is similar to almost all other Castlevania games - enhanced from the first chapter, and a solid enough base for other Castlevania games to build on for another decade (and beyond). By the time I made it to the first boss - a skeletal knight, animated to swing his sword and block your strokes with his shield - I was in game play nirvana.
The game picks up from there. The second stage may be the greatest clocktower in the Castlevania series, hollowly imitated by others (Dracula X, Castlevania 4) but Castlevania 3 made the first impression, an impression so strong nothing could overcome it. Moving gears you'll ride on, swinging pendulums over hectic pits: You'll see these in later games, but they were first, and best, here. The second boss is as great as the first. After beating him, he transmorgrifies to a character you can play as - a pirate that can cling to walls, run like a maniac, has jumping control as smooth as Mario, and can reach secret areas - brilliant!
The game continues in this vein for some time, getting better and better, raising the stakes with each subsequent boss fight, and adding new features - such as multiple paths through the game. There are other characters who you can play as - and this is where my nerves start to fail, and my praise is cut short.
Alucard, the son of Dracula, is a boss part-way through the game. He attacks much like Dracula from the first game: teleporting around the battlefield, shooting fireballs when he forms. Once beaten, he can replace the pirate as your optional character to play as. He can turn into a bat and fly around the whole screen - an attribute I sorely wished every game protagonist possessed. Since he so clearly outclassed the pirate, I gave the pirate the boot and welcomed Alucard to my team.
Imagine this: You reach a room with mummies that appear out of nowhere, hurling bandages at you with an intensity only a moldering egyptian could muster. Well, forget them, I'm just gonna turn into a bat and fly the hell out of there. So, I fly away and made it to the door that ends the level. Get this, though: The door doesn't open. I kept pressing left to try to go through the door, but once the stage's time limit expired, I had to conclude that the bat just couldn't go through the door. Or, at least I concluded that after trying (and running out of time) twenty more times. After checking other possibilities - that the game glitched up, that my controller spontaneously stopped working once I reached the door - I was impelled to the only conclusion possible: Castlevania 3 is biased against bats.
I know what you might be thinking: That it is unrealistic for a bat to open a door, and Castlevnia 3 is merely showcasing that realism. I don't think so. A bat could easily grip the door handle with its wings and then use its weight to spin it around. I experimented by closing a bat in a locked room and waiting for it to get out. Okay, it didn't get out. I was planning on putting a whole bunch of bats in there and waiting a few generations for Natural Selection to kick in and evolve those bad boys to be able to open doors, but I decided that the game playing public needed my opinion on Castlevania 3 NOW. So I just tapped bat's wings to the door handle. It still didn't turn, but then I put a little tiny backpack on the bat's back, and it added enough weight to give the bat enough torque to turn the knob 15 degrees. I think my point has been proven. And don't forget, Alucard is, like, a human in bat form, so whatever a bat wearing a little backpack with wings taped to a doorknob can do, Alucard could probably do.
Maybe I could let slide Konami's prejudices that bats are not able-bodied if the doors in Castlevania 3 at least had handi-capped motorized doors, as required by law, to allow bats passage. Maybe I wouldn't care about Konami's blatant and disgusting bias against bats if I wasn't a bat farmer, who has bats for some of his best friends, and whose life was even saved by bats, when, in danger of starvation, I ate a few. Maybe I could get over this flaw of Castlevania 3 and enjoy the rest of the game, if only I didn't insist on going through every door from now on in bat form, preventing me from seeing the rest of the game. I wrote a letter to Konami upbraiding them for their bigotry against bats, and filled the envelope with three pounds of bat guano. Surprisingly, they haven't recalled their hate-filled game... or even replied. They at least could have returned the guano. It makes good fertilizer.
So, in many ways, Castlevania 3 is a great game. But only in enough ways to be half great.
Score: 5 / 10