Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
Konami / Nintendo Entertainment System (1988)
The first Castlevania game was one of my favorites when I was a kid, and it's still something that I play once in a while to this day. I can't say that I've played its sequel quite as often, but it's a game that brings back a lot of happy childhood memories.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest was released 35 years ago this week. I either received it as a Christmas present a few weeks later or at some point in 1989. I can't remember exactly when I got it, but I know that I had it for at least a few months before I moved in with my maternal grandparents in March 1990. My grandmother on my mother's side was known by her many grandchildren as Mom Mom, and she's probably the only member of my family who enjoyed playing video games as much as I did. When I moved in with her, we spent countless hours playing Nintendo in a little room on the second floor. One of the games that she especially enjoyed was Simon's Quest. When I see this game, I can almost hear Mom Mom yelling at the television every time the game stopped to say what a horrible night it was to have a curse.
It's a pretty complicated game for its time, with traps and misdirections throughout the story that are just flat out unfair. In fact, it's virtually impossible to finish the game without a walkthrough because the things that you have to do to advance through the story are so random that I can't imagine anybody guessing it right. This game was the subject of the first video published by the Angry Video Game Nerd, and let me tell you, every complaint he has about this game is 100% accurate. However, despite it's many flaws, I still had fun playing it.
The cover of the first Nintendo Power magazine that I had when I was a kid had Castlevania II on the cover. It's probably the goriest cover that they ever published. It looks like the kind of thing that a high school hair metal band would use for an album cover. Simon Belmont & The Gory Details does have a nice ring to it.
The Castlevania II article is above, but the entire magazine is available to download and read for free at RetroMags. Their scans are a lot larger and more clear than these, so if you're interested in learning more about the way that the game was promoted in the months leading up to its release in the United States, be sure to check it out.
If you were a kid back then and you wanted a little more Castlevania II reading material than a magazine could provide, there was a children's novel published in 1990 by Scholastic. It's part of a series of books called Worlds Of Power, each of which are loosely based on a video game. It's not exactly a novelization of the story told in the video game; it's a story about a kid with an overactive imagination who is playing the game, and it has hints for the actual game hidden throughout the story. It's one of the strangest pieces of children's literature that I've ever seen. You can read it on Archive.org or listen to a fan recorded audiobook of it on YouTube.
One thing that you can't get on Archive.org or YouTube is the free Worlds Of Power trading card that was included in each book, so here it is. It's not exactly a T206 Honus Wagner or anything, but they do pop up on eBay from time to time and sell for a ridiculous amount of money.
Kids back in the day could experience a heavily stripped down version of Simon's Quest on its Tiger Electronics Handheld LCD adaptation. It's debatable if there's enough going on here to call this a video game, but they were still a fun toy to play with, if only for a few minutes at a time.
The easiest way to play Simon's Quest today for folks who don't own the original hardware is to download the Castlevania Anniversary Collection on Nintendo Switch. It includes eight classic games from the Castlevania series, and it's on sale on the Nintendo eShop for the rest of today and tomorrow for $3.99. That works out to about 50 cents a game, which isn't too shabby when you consider that Simon's Quest sold for about $50 when it was first released.