Milon’s Secret Castle has a reputation that I don’t think it deserves. Sure, the game was obtuse, the clues you received were vague, and it was pretty wide open as far as exploration goes. That being said, wasn’t pretty much any NES game released around 1986/1987, vague and obtuse? Deadly Towers, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, do any of those games ring any bells? Maybe not Deadly Towers. I don’t think I know anyone who enjoyed that game.
Having gone through this game a few times over the last couple of years, I can say I actually enjoy this game. Once you get past the first room or two, and understand how the game works, the game becomes much more enjoyable. When you defeat the first boss, you’ll have infinite continues (hold left on the d-pad, and press start). Once everything falls into place, the game can be beaten in about two, maybe three hours, assuming you don’t go into a game over loop.
The game revolves around exploring the different rooms in the castle, and making it up to the top floor. The goal in each room is to collect money, find a key, and find the exit. Some rooms will have a hidden shop, in which you can buy items like, spring shoes, a vest to protect you against fire, and even an item that will make you float when you jump, and you’ll descend from your fall more slowly as well (I don’t really like that item). However, outside the castle is where things can get interesting. One of the things you’ll initially discover, is that you can only go through certain doors. Once you get the Saw, and the Hammer, things open up a little bit more. The Saw will allow you to open doors with bars on them, and the Hammer will allow you to break down walls. Granted, there’s only a few places where the hammer will reveal a hidden area, making it a little useless. But the saw will be useful for the rest of the game.
If there’s one thing this game has. It’s floating eyeballs
Once you get the saw, and move up to the third floor, that’s where things become a little complicated. It’s on this floor, where there isn’t a linear path to take. Luckily, the rooms aren’t very big. So you can mow down the enemies, collect money, and try another room. Once you get enough money to buy the sword, and the shoes that allow you to jump higher, you’re pretty much set. Go into the tower on the right, grab the extinguisher after defeating a boss, and clear the other rooms after that. Both the tower on the left, and a fireplace will have another room you’ll enter after fighting the bosses, in which you’ll collect the scepter and the crown, and then you’ll be allowed access to the fourth floor (after fighting another boss, of course)
Enter the fireplace to fight the first of 4 bosses on the third floor
If there’s one thing I don’t like about the third floor, it’s the fact that you fight four out of the seven bosses here. Not that any of them are all that difficult, but the rooms you enter to get to them are. The main complaint that I have about this, is that once you die, you’re back on the first floor with little health. Which means, you’ll restore your health meter by fighting the respawning enemies, and then climb all the way back up. Again, this isn’t difficult, but if you happen to die a lot (which you will), you’ll tire of the process pretty quickly. At the same time however, you’ll really start to nail down the patterns the bosses have, and they’ll become much easier. It’s really just getting to the bosses lair, with a reasonable amount of health that’s the hard part.
It looks innocent enough…
Once you’re ready to clear the third floor, you’ll fight what really should be the final boss. This guy takes 72 hits before he’s defeated. In this particular playthrough, I died about 10 times before I finally finished him off (getting hit zero times, I might add). The challenge for me wasn’t really his pattern, it’s getting used to having the higher jump, and having another item that allows you to float. Getting the timing down with those items, is extremely difficult, but it’s pretty awesome to jump up to the top of the room and avoid all of the bosses projectiles. I’ll admit, it felt pretty satisfying bringing down the hardest boss, with items that I feel make these fights much harder.
Would’ve been a pretty cool final boss. Too bad there’s one more.
The final room on the fourth floor is a little bit of a letdown, considering all you had to go through to get in there. Basically, it’s broken down into four different colored rooms, and you need to find the room the final boss is in. Each section is exactly the same. Same enemies, same block placement, and the same “final boss” at the top of each room. The catch is that only one of the rooms contains the actual final boss. In all of the other rooms, the boss is a fake. If you’ve gone through this game more than once, you’ll know exactly what room you need to be in, and finish the game in about 3 minutes. That’s it. There’s no real boss fight at the end. In fact, the fight consists of the villain bouncing around in the room, and you fire at him. That’s it. No final form, no purple fireballs, nothing.
Overall, I still really like this game. It has parts that I wish I could skip over, but it’s still pretty fun to play if you can look past some of it’s flaws. I don’t feel as though this game is a classic, but I don’t feel that it deserves the bad rap it gets either. Games, especially platformers, were still plenty rough around the edges.
I’d suggest giving this game a try if you’re looking for something different from Mega Man, or Super Mario Bros. For people who aren’t really fans of some of the more obscure NES platformers, you could probably just move on by, but I still think you’re missing out.