Haunted Castle is a Castlevania game produced for arcades. This game is known in Japan as Akumajō Dracula. It was released there in February, 1988, and on September 22th, 1988 in North America.
In 2006 Hamster™ ported Haunted Castle to the PlayStation 2 as part of their Oretachi Gēsen Zoku series.
- "Count Dracula sleeps for a long hundred of years. During this time, peace exists at the village and Dracula is nothing but a mere legend.
However, one day a young couple named Simon and Serena were celebrating their wedding at the village's church.
The couple were enveloped with happiness, as the wedding bells rang, their future seemed blessed...
Suddenly, the empty sky was covered with dark clouds and with a rolling thunder that shook the earth, Dracula has once again awakened. Asking for the beautiful girl's blood, he flew down during the middle of the wedding and suddenly took the bride with him.
Now in order to save Serena, Simon heads to the demon castle."
- —Official Help Video description for Haunted Castle.
Haunted Castle is the first game in the series which once again adopted a play-style similar to that of the original Famicom and NES games, with Vampire Killer for MSX and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest diverging from this formula with RPG elements like leveling up and more open-ended design.
Thus roughly following the template of the original game, Haunted Castle is made up of six linear stages; each with a characteristic focus - through graveyards and underground caverns, leading through the castle hallway and basement, ending in a confrontation with Count Dracula.
A lot of the enemy selections are taken from the Famicom/NES games, notably examples including hopping hunchbacks and the standard arsenal of undead enemies like skeletons and zombies. On the other hand, some features that were unique to the series at that point were included as well: a wall which breaks apart brick by brick and attacks the player, a glass knight which jumps out of a window, and so on.
The weapon upgrade system has been altered from Castlevania since, contrary to that game, there are no candles. Instead, hearts and weapons are distributed by defeated enemies. The stronger weapons are a chain (morning star) and a sword, both of which were exceptional at the time, as weapon upgrades before were only more powerful versions of the whip instead.
Several unique sub-weapons were introduced in Haunted Castle as well: dynamite and torches taking the place of holy water but with a similar function, and a boomerang which acts like the cross from Castlevania. A unique weapon is the cross, which shoots out little cross-shaped rays. The timer (stopwatch) returns with the exact same function as before.
The game must be completed in one life. However, the player is given the option of adding additional energy to the health meter instead of continuing, although this is limited.
Several different ROM sets with varying difficulties exist. The American set is labeled "M" and is considered the most difficult of all of them, with enemies being able to reduce the player's life meter to half in the first stage and fewer item drops. The Japanese set, named "K", is relatively easier.
The soundtrack was composed by Kenichi Matsubara who was also a staff member on Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. "Bloody Tears" and "Game Over" from Simon's Quest make a reappearance. Many songs have been remixed in later games. "Cross Your Heart" is rearranged in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles and is included as a bonus track, as well as in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin where it plays in the Dark Academy. "Lullaby sent to the Devil", which plays during the high score screen, has been used in Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth as the theme that plays during the second stage. "Can't Wait Until the Night" has been combined with "Heart of Fire" from Castlevania to form Julius Belmont's theme from Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. "Clocktower Fear" returns in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, playing in the Mine of Judgment, where it's mistakenly referred to as "Basement Melody".
When Konami's arcade development team planned a horror action game, they wanted to give the game a Gothic atmosphere, and therefore decided to take inspiration from the original Akumajō Dracula which was a big hit on the Famicom. This resulted in a unique Castlevania game being planned and developed for arcades.
Haunted Castle was specifically made for the arcades and it is not a port. Due to complicated mechanics posing a problem in arcade games, it was decided the game should be different from the previous two Castlevania games.
At some point during the development period, which was around 6 months, the game was in bad shape, quality and schedule-wise. Reportedly, the project was short-staffed. The head of Konami ordered people who were working on a completely different project, called Hot Chase, to help out with the project, one of which was Masaaki Kukino.
For a single month, all the artists of that team were assigned to Haunted Castle. That specific month was put to use in order to complete the unfinished stages and characters, and to improve the quality of the player and enemy sprites, as well as their effects and attacks. The schedule left no room for any big additions or changes. However, the concept of the crumbling bridge in the last stage was conceived during that stage of development.
Kukino later said in an interview that time for debugging was needed, which resulted in the staff having no more time to make changes to the balancing. However, at that time all the staff members from Hot Chase had returned to their own project already.
Haunted Castle was not considered a success in arcades by Konami. 
Criticism includes the main character being rather large when compared to other Castlevania games' characters, and thus an easy target for enemy and obstacle hits, poor hit-detection, and most prominently the game's difficulty. 
Haunted Castle has been cited as being one of the most difficult Castlevania games in existence.  Reasons for this are said to be an overwhelming amount of enemies attacking the player, and the limited amount of continues the game allows. 
The version of Haunted Castle from the Oretachi Gēsen Zoku series is an emulated version of the arcade original. Included as bonus material were a mini-CD with the game's soundtrack and a mini-DVD with a music video and half of an instructional playing video. This port was not released outside of Japan.
- Haunted Castle at the Castlevania Fan Wiki.
|Simon Belmont - Selena - Dracula|
|Wicked Mermaid - Skeleton Dragon Creature - Giant - Giant Rock Creature - Frankenstein's Monster|
|Graveyard - Cave - Banquet Room - Basement - Clock Tower - Vampire's Room|
|Konami Game Music Collection Volume 1 - Oretachi Gēsen Zoku: Akumajō Dracula|
Konami Game Music: Classic Castlevania
|Konami Best Selection Help Video|
|Bestiary - Inventory|