SUPER CASTLEVANIA IV / Konami / SNES
The early releases for the SNES all seemed to be on a particular mission - to show off the Mode 7 capabilities of the system, the parallax background scrolling, and the beefy sound chip's ability to render nice-sounding synthesized strings. Super Castlevania 4 is no exception to this program. Not to say it's a hardware demo, though -- it's a very good game, albeit one that feels like it was originally planned out with the NES in mind and then just given an upgraded coat of graphical effects and music for the new system.
This game is sort of unique in the Castlevania series and even kind of odd - it has a generally slow pace, even slower than that of the NES games. It's also a little on the easier and more forgiving side. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, especially after the controller-chucking difficulty of the NES outings. All Castlevania games are moody but the pace makes this one feel particularly so, along with the very nice baroque/jazz fusion soundtrack. Intended as a sort of retelling of the first Castlevania game, Simon is his usual stiff self, but now can whip up or down and also dangle the whip by holding down the attack button, which can then be flailed about in all directions to block projectiles and hit enemies from ledges above or below. Overall the gameplay is smooth and fluid, and is a positive evolutionary step between the stiff NES original games and the more sophisticated play of the later 16- and 32-bit titles.
The only complaints are that there is possibly just a bit too little game here - too short and a little too easy at times (though later levels and bosses are pretty challenging). Games that leave you wanting more are certainly better than games that disappoint you, though. On the whole I think Super CV4 is a good one and is one of my personal favs in the Castlevania series.
* Gameplay Video