Main Player Mechanics

Basic Movements
Fighting Techniques
Other Controls
To move left: Directional pad left
To move right: Directional pad right
To crouch: Directional pad downward
To climb up stairs: Directional pad up
To climb down stairs: Directional pad down
To attack: "B"
To jump up: "A"
To jump left or right: "A" plus directional pad left/right
To throw mystic weapons: Directional pad up + "B"
To pause the game: "Start"
(Select button is not used.)

Your hero is the trusty Simon Belmont, star of this NES classic and several remakes and ports of it. In any form, Castlevania has never been known for its great play control, and flirting your way around its many mechanical flaws will be a necessary component to success. Simon is a rather clunky fellow, in that regard, and he walks at a quick pace to compensate for lack of overall mobility. His crouching ability is good for ducking down to get in a better shot on smaller enemies or ducking out the way of projectiles thrown forward by bone pillars, axe knights or fishmen. If enemy contact is made while he's standing, moving or ducking, he'll be knocked back about the length of a single block.

Simon's main problem will show its face again and again as he works his way up and down staircases. In order to use a stairway, you must place yourself exactly within a two-block length of the first step and push upward; to climb down, you must place yourself on the block that the step rests directly over and push downward. There are two types of staircases when it comes to traveling downward: Those that are embedded into the middle of platforms/blocks, and those that are placed to the right or left of a block, forming a cliff. You must always remember to push downward in the latter case, since most deaths occur when players accidentally walk right off a cliff and plunge to their death. Fortunately, Simon will not be knocked off of staircases by enemy contact, as he'll simple freeze momentarily and sustain the proper amount of damage.
Stairs near a cliff
Within a platform

As for jumping: Since Simon can walk only at a set pace, there's no momentum that can be built up for his jumps, which clear only a 2-block radius, both horizontally and vertically. However, Simon can just clear a 3-block-long gap if he jumps from the very edge of the block that rests near the cliff. Depending on if the intended platform is elevated higher or lower, this changes slightly; you lose something on vertical jumps to higher platforms, but you can naturally cover more ground for jumps to lower platforms. Simon has no control over his jumps once they're executed, so you must commit to the action; if any enemy contact is made during this time, Simonn will be knocked back, potentially down into a pit.
Hope for no fishmen

There are only two different types of terrain you'll travel across during your adventure: Blocks (which we call "bricks" or "bricksets" while in the game) and moving platforms. To get onto a moving platform, you'll have to study its movement and jump at the right time to land safely; this is made tougher if flying enemies are about. Once on a moving platform, you'll have to do the same calculation in order to jump to safety (in this regard, Castlevania is much more tame than its sequels).

Regular bricks
Moving Platforms

These will be your basic movements as you traverse six levels, each of which is broken up into three "stages" by the doors and entrances that divide them. You begin each level with three lives in stock, and you can build on this base. Dying during the course of a level will result in lost ground, as Simon will be placed back at an unmarked checkpoint (usually after a stage-dividing door). If all lives are lost, though, you'll have to restart the level from its beginning by using a continue (except on the final level, where you can restart from the castle keep stairway)--this is no real worry, because continues are unlimited. Each level has its own countdown clock (a varying time limit) that you must to take into account; you'll have anywhere from 300 ticks and up to complete each level; failure to clear a level in this time will result in the loss of a life. Each tick of the game clock is equal to roughly one second on a conventional clock, so there's little time to waste.

Health Meters

What rests atop the screen near the top right are two energy meters, each comprised of 16 bars, the top of which (marked, of course, by "PLAYER") measures how much Simon has left in the ol' Belmont tank. While Simon's is always in effect, the one labeled "ENEMY" only comes into play when you reach the stages' bosses.
You can early on survive a fair amount of hits from enemies, but the pain will increase as you get deeper into the game

How Simon loses energy is subject to where he is in the game. Early on, where the challenge isn't all that great, Simon will lose 2 bars of energy for any type of enemy contact. As you get deeper in, to the game's middle portion, Simon will begin losing 3 bars for each hit. Finally, when you start to reach the final levels, you'll begin losing 4 energy bars for each hit, which will become the mandatory amount of damage you'll suffer for the rest of the game. In essence, you can take 4 hits at this point, so your mechanical skills will come into play as you dodge projectiles and weave your way past sometimes-questionably-placed enemies.

Note, though, that there are some exceptions to the rule. Simply walking into a spike trap, as seen on the game's second stage, is enough to kill Simon in one shot. And if Simon falls off of a cliff and thus into an abyss or water trap, it's instant death, as your energy meter will drain completely and you'll be forced to start over from the beginning of the level (or at Konami's "check points" that mark the start of each separate "stage"). Also, you'll have to take into account the time restraint put on each level; if you let the game clock drain to 0, it will also result in an instant death.

The boss meter works a bit differently: While almost all bosses take the same amount of damage, however tougher they are than the last, they're more difficult to conquer with just the whip. So in the greater instance, you'll have to depend on your sub-weapons; unlike the whip, each sub-weapon will damage the boss in its own unique way. If you find the right combination of moves and weapons, you'll be able to drain a boss' meter more quickly.

Points System

Above the energy meters is your point-total. While there's no reward for attaining the highest score you can muster, the points you earn will attest to how much of a master you truly are, and, most importantly, you'll receive free lives for reaching certain plateaus: A free life for 20,000 points, and an additional life for every 50,000 after that. The bulk of your point-total will be attributed to the enemies you defeat, with the tougher, more annoying enemies being worth more; you can also earn points by destroying their projectiles. Here is what you can earn:

Vampire Bat
The Mummies
Bone Pillar
& Igor
Axe Knight
Grim Reaper
Medusa Head
Red Skeleton
Dracula Forms
Phantom Bat

There are other ways to earn points, too. You can collect three kinds of money bags from candles: Red are worth 100, blue are worth 400 and white are worth 700. Also, you can collect the hidden treasures, which range anywhere from 1,000-10,000 points. Plus you can collect a double- or triple-shot when you don't have a sub-weapon equipped (or you have just the stopwatch) to earn 700 points.

Additionally, your performance per stage will earn you even more points. After collecting the crystals left behind by the defeated boss creatures, your heart-total and time remaining will also translate into points: Every remaining heart in your inventory is worth 100 points, and each second of the time remaining on the clock is worth 10. If you're wondering whether the points for destroying Dracula are actually meaningful, they do carry over to the game's second, more difficult quest, which is where free lives will really be worth it.

Weapon Attributes

At his most basic Simon has only a leather whip in hand, and it can be powered up twice using morning star symbols. To find one morning star symbol, you can to start simply whip a non-designated candle, which will drop a morning star symbol simply by your possession of the default 5 hears; the second power-up will appear after you've collected at least 8 more hearts.

You're confined to swinging the whip only one way--forward, while standing or ducking, but you're never truly at a disadvantage or thus limited. While the leather whip is a fairly weak weapon, it has enough juice to take out most weaker enemies in one shot--but it's too short (covering only a 2-block length) to be of much use, as you'll have to be real close to enemies in order to harm them. This is never a good thing, later in the game, when you'll be forced to stay within proximity of the more powerful enemies. Powering up the whip once will transform it into a short chain whip, which lends you double the strength. However, its range is still short, and it's still not an ideal weapon. If you power it up once more, it retains its strength but extends into a longer form (which covers a 3-block length); this will allow you to stay at a distance, fight off hordes and their projectiles, and plunk enemies by sometimes swinging through walls.

And at your command are the five mystic sub-weapons that you can collect by whipping candles or killing enemies. When you collect a sub-weapon, it'll appear in your inventory, in a box atop the screen. Each unique weapon is powered by the hearts from your collected your heart-total: The dagger, the axe, the boomerang and holy water cost 1 heart, and use the stopwatch costs 5. (Note: If you collect another sub-weapon while one is already equipped, the new one will simply replace it.)

The dagger will quickly fly straight forward and stop only when it hits an enemy or leaves the screen. It's the weakest of the five sub-weapons and useless against multiple enemies.
Holy water will fall to the ground in an arc and break open, whence its liquid will dissolve. The burning effect will linger, and enemies who walk over it will be trapped in its net.
The boomerang has fair speed and much power. When you throw it, it'll travel a 9-block length and return to you; in doing so, it'll strike enemies while both coming and going.
The axe is the slowest weapon, but it's the most powerful. It's thrown in a high arc (a 6-block length horizontally and vertically), and it can be used to strike enemies above and below.
The stopwatch cannot harm enemies, but it can stop time (including the game clock) and freeze most enemies in their tracks. During this time, they're vulnerable to your whip.

There are also magical items that can be snared, but these exist only to temporarily enhance the gameplay. These will be of great importance under differing circumstances. All items (including the above sub-weapons, in this case) can be found in candles or by killing enemies.

Small hearts are the most recurring item, and they'll add 1 to your heart-total.
Money bags will add to your point-total in different variants. Hidden money bags have much more worth.
The big hearts add 5 to your total, and they're sometimes hidden well (in walls or in far-off candles).
This will allow to throw two of your current sub-weapon at a time--until you collect another weapon.
Morning stars will power up the whip two levels; they appear after a certain heart-totals are attained.
This allows you to throw three of your current weapon in succession, thus maximizing its power.
Invisibility potions will render you invulnerable for about 10 seconds. Enemies cannot be hurt by this.
Pot roasts restore six bars of energy. These can only be found by breaking bricks in certain places.
The rare rosary beads will cause a temporary flash that'll destroy all on-screen enemies
When you defeat a boss, a crystal is left behind. It clears the stage of all evil and revives all of your energy.

On a special note: To receive double- and triple-shots, you'll have to do some work with your sub-weapons. Simply score 12 hits with your current weapon and a regular-heart candle will instead drop the enhancer. Destroying two enemies at once counts as four hits, and destroying three enemies at once will account for all 12 needed hits. You can work different combinations to get to 12. Also, any additional enemies killed in attaining the double-shot counts towards the next enhancer--the triple-shot.

The game's programmers made it so that every candle in the game is allocated a certain item, and you'll always find the same thing in each; however, you can change this under certain circumstances: (1) If you've collected enough hearts to earn a whip power-up, a morning star will be in place of a small heart in a regular-heart candle. (2) Damaging or destroying enough enemies with a sub-weapon will result in double- or triple-shots doing the same. (3) If you strike a candle that holds a sub-weapon that you currently hold, a small heart will appear in its place. (4) If you strike a candle that holds a money bag at the right time, all of the following regular-heart candles will instead contain money bags (this ends when you whip a candle that contains a non-small-heart item).

Items dropped by enemies, instead, are random. Normally, you'll receive nothing for killing an enemy, but there are instances where they'll drop an item or a sub-weapon. Even at their most stubborn, enemies will become part of the chain of events that lands you morning stars and double- and triple-shots. The hearts collected from candles and enemies do not carry over to the next level, as they count only toward the point-total calculated after a boss' defeat; when you begin the next stage, you'll have only the default 5 hearts.

Enemy AI

Let's be honest: The minor enemies in Castlevania are for the most part stupid; they're mostly oblivious to what's going on around them. But despite their primitive artificial intelligence, each of these pesky foes plays well its own role in slowing down your progress and making you react in ways of which you may not have wanted. Part of being a Castlevania master is learning how to work your way around their attacks (which include their patterns, their weaponry and their frequency) and goad them into your own. There are four basic enemy types you'll come across: Marchers, Stationaries, Reactors and Seekers.

Marchers (Zombies, Knights, Fishmen, Eagles and Red Skeletons): These are enemies placed in areas where their job is to simply move back and forth. In essence, these are more obstacles than they are enemies. Some marchers can switch direction on a dime, so it's important not to walk closely behind them.

Stationaries (Leopards, Hunchbacks, Bone Pillars, Bone Dragons and Phantom Bats): These are enemies that are placed in certain positions, and they're programmed to react when you get close. The advantage you have is that you can stand far away so that they don't react, and, especially, you can plan an attack or get a cheap kill by launching a far-reaching sub-weapon. For others, you can find safe spots and manipulate their range deficiency.

Reactors (Skeletons and Axe Knights): These are the smartest enemies you'll face. Reactors always stay at a distance relative to your own, where they can hurl their projectiles while remaining safe. They'll back off constantly as you get close; conversely, they'll come forward to give chase if you back up. You can goad reactors into your attacks (such as throwing holy water onto the ground) by throwing forward a weapon and then backing up; in such instances, enemies will blindly walk forward and directly into the attack. If enemies are placed on platforms above, you can use this type of positioning to force them left or right so that they won't bother you as you climb up.
At first, the skeleton is atop the platform, and it'll jump in a way to avoid coming near
If you move away, the skeleton will run and jump toward you -- notice that it stays at the same distance

Seekers (Vampire Bats, Medusa Heads, Ravens and Ghosts): Seekers are those annoying enemies that appear, sometimes out of nowhere, and give chase in obvious patterns. In the case of bats and Medusa heads, they come in streams at timed intervals (3 seconds apart for medusa heads, and 8 seconds for bats). Seekers also have the innate ability to pass through walls and floors. Learn their flight-patterns, and you'll begin to understand how to react to their on-screen presence.

The bosses are another story. Each boss has its own patterns and methods of attack, but each is equal in terms of stamina (sans Dracula, who utilizes every single bar of energy, and Igor, who's not really a boss); the deciding factor in your battles with them will be how much damage you can sustain at the time. As such, all of the bosses (again, except Dracula and Igor) are susceptible to the whip and the striking sub-weapons in the same way; only two of the bosses can be slowed down by the stopwatch--the Phantom Bat and Medusa--but all of them will easily fall prey to the holy water trick, this time including Dracula's second form.
She's toast