Super Castlevania IV added the 8-way whip style which has yet to be brought back. So I have to disagree when you say it was a step back.
The 8 way whip was definitely a step forward for the action platformer style, but I thought both the return to straight up action platformer and the step back away from the multiple characters of 3 were steps backwards for the series.
I actually beat this game for the first time about a year ago. WTF was wrong with me?
Nothing at all. I'm sure if you like the action castlevanias it held up well.
Am I the only one who hated Simon's Quest. I know it paved the way for the Metroidvania formula but it was such an annoying & tedious game. Unlike the original & Castlevania III, this did not age well. I never beat it nor do I wish to.
No, there are definitely other people who didn't like the change in direction even when it was new. I liked it a lot, but it was definitely rough around the edges because it tried so much new stuff, but was very underdeveloped. (The crappy hint translations didn't help either). I don't imagine it aged well as the adventure genre continued to evolve considerably over the years and it probably now pales in comparison, but in 1988 it was one of the best forays into action adventure that had been produced. I would not be surprised at all to hear the straight action titles held up better.
You should look up the NES game 8 Eyes if you like the NES castlevanias and haven't tried it.