Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, the second Gameboy entry in the series, builds on the foundation of Castlevania: The Adventure. By both refining its unique mechanics and taking more elements from the NES games, Konami created a solid and enjoyable portable Castlevania experience.
As in its predecessor, Castlevania II features two whip upgrades, the second of which allows you to shoot fireballs. However, only one type of enemy will now cause your whip to lose its upgrades, and two subweapons (the axe and holy water) have been added as well. You have more combat options, even while the game is somewhat less combat-focused than its predecessor. These options come in handy most often during the extremelly well thought-out and enjoyable boss battles. You are often rewarded with better offense if you can complete a stage without continuing, but you’re always given enough to get by.
The highlight of Castlevania II is its level design. You can choose to complete the first four levels in any order, and each has a very different feel. The game makes excellent use of the ropes that debuted in the original Gameboy Castlevania, adding fun wrinkles like pulley systems with multiple moving ropes. The result is the closest thing to a platforming challenge that you’re liable to find in a Castlevania game. Other cool innovations, such as using candles for light as well as to hold items, do a good job of riffing on what you would normally expect.
This is a challenging game, but a password system allows you to continue even if you turn the system off. The ability to try other stages if one is giving you problems also makes the game feel a lot more playable. The difficulty is nothing to scoff at, but it’s never unfair or arbitrary.
All told, I would consider Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge a hidden gem of the series. It’s not the longest game, but it’s a lot of fun, and I imagine many people skipped it due to the mediocrity of its prequel. If you like the slow-paced, NES-style Castlevania gameplay, this is a game you owe it to yourself to check out.