The year is 1476, and Count Dracula has started to ravage Europe with an army of monsters. His sole purpose is to exterminate mankind, extracting his vengeance upon humanity after the death of his beloved wife Lisa, mistakenly executed as a witch for preparing medicine to help the sick.
The Belmont family of vampire hunters, once exiled from Wallachia, are called into action by the Church. They feared the Belmonts' "super-human" power, but with Dracula menacing to swallow Europe in darkness, they are left with no choice but to call Trevor Belmont, current wielder of the Vampire Killer whip. Joining Trevor in his mission to defeat Dracula are three new characters: Sypha Belnades, a young priestess with poor physical attack power but powerful magic spells at her disposal; Grant DaNasty, a pirate with the ability to climb on walls and change direction in mid-jump (a rare ability in earlier games of the series); and Alucard, Dracula's son, a dhampir with the ability to shoot fireballs and transform into a bat.
Trevor and his companions cross the Transylvanian countryside, defeat Dracula's minions, and eventually defeat the Count himself. Once his father is defeated, Alucard goes into a self-induced slumber, unable to cope with having fought his father. Moreover, he realized that his own power could pose a potential threat to the world. However, he would awaken in the late-eighteenth century when feeling the absence of a Belmont when Dracula was revived by the dark priest Shaft. Grant DaNasty oversees the reconstruction of Wallachia after the battle is finished. Trevor Belmont and Sypha Belnades end up getting married once peace is restored in the region (according to the Castlevania Time Line included with Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin).
Alucard appears in several subsequent Castlevania games, as do Sypha's distant relatives (Carrie Fernandez, Charlotte Aulin, and Yoko Belnades).
Castlevania III plays like a mixture of its predecessors. The levels are laid out in a very linear fashion much like the first game and candles contain different weapons and powerups that the player can use. However, the game differs from Castlevania in that after finishing certain levels, the player is allowed to choose where they would like to go next. This gives it some of the elements of Castlevania II, allowing the player to choose the route they take towards Dracula.
Trevor can be accompanied by only one of his companions at a time, and the player can switch between Trevor and his ally with the "select" button. Both Trevor and whoever is accompanying him share the same health meter. The ending of the game differs depending on which companion Trevor has with him at the time, or if he does not take another character with him at all.
The game also featured an improved password system that used icons placed onto a 4x4 grid instead of lengthy letter and number passwords.
Castlevania III was the first game to use Konami's VRC6 chip, which is included in the cartridge to provide the console more capabilities. The VRC6 chip primarily added three audio channels to the system—allowing the game to use six audio channels—as well as provide smoother animation for sprites. The game's audio programmer, Hidenori Maezawa, assisted in the chip's creation. The North American release replaced the VRC6 with Nintendo's Memory Management Controller (MMC) chip, specifically the MMC5 model. The MMC5 chip lacked the extra audio channels, and the game's music had to be downgraded to comply with the NES's standard three channels.
Besides just the different name in Japan, Akumajō Densetsu, the Japanese version has several other differences. Most notably, the original Japanese version contained a specialized "VRC6" music microprocessor chip which was removed in the North American and European releases. This chip added two extra pulse-wave channels and a saw-wave channel to the system's initial set of five channels. The majority of the music combines the channels to imitate the sound of a synthesized string section. See: Multi-Memory Controller. The reason for this removal was that the western versions of the NES didn't have the ability to support external sound chips, so the game was re-programmed for the western releases. Some of the percussion instruments were also slightly changed, even though the low-quality PCM channel was no less capable without the VRC6 mapper.
Other changes differed in the gameplay or graphics. Instead of using a stabbing dagger, Grant throws daggers as his main attack. Some enemies do less damage in the Japanese version, and had their sprites changed for the Western releases. Some instances of nudity on the enemies were also censored. The Japanese version had slightly different backgrounds in many stages, and had special effects not seen in the North American and European releases, also due to the lack of the special mapper chip found in the Japanese cartridge (which was manufactured not by Nintendo, but by Konami itself).
The North American and PAL versions have several hidden features that can be accessed by entering a certain name for the player, which include starting the game with 10 lives as well as when restarting after a game over, the option to start the game with any of the three spirit partners, and to access the second, more difficult quest. These features are not present in the Japanese version.
Reception and legacy
In 2005's Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, the game featured Trevor Belmont as a playable character.
Many of the sprites in Super Castlevania IV are based on those used in Castlevania III. Some gameplay characteristics (such as the ability to stand on top of the spike traps) were carried over as well.
An animated Dracula's Curse movie is in development, and may be split into three parts. It is being written by Warren Ellis, with art direction by James Jean.