An 8-bit action platformer with full of ambience and supernatural monsters, Master of Darkness sought to deliver the Gothic horror that Master System owners were craving. At first glance, you could be forgiven for assuming that Konami had found a clever legal loophole and released one of their titles on Sega’s console. Castle-who-now? Dig a little deeper, though, and you will start to find some differences.
This game did not try very hard to hide its inspiration. You will immediately recognise many of the trappings from Konami’s classic franchise, from the sub-weapons to the stairs. There are even some upgrades, such as the size of the sprites and the wider colour palette. However, Master of Darkness simply doesn’t play as well as Castlevania. The level design isn’t as interesting and your player sprite is too big to avoid enemies. The pace of the game is also inconsistent, lacking Castlevania’s brilliant level design and the rhythm that the player settles into as a result. None of this means that Master of Darkness is a bad game, but it certainly isn’t a patch on the franchise it is trying to emulate.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.