I’ve said it a million times already, I’ll say it once more, this gen will forever be known as the gen of comebacks. Remakes, remasters, and compilations of hit games, have collectively landed thick and fast this gen. Some good, some bad, and some pretty pointless. Despite Konami’s lack of movement on the console front as of late, they’ve recently announced not one, not two, but three anniversary collections; Arcade Classics, Castlevania, and Contra – the former two having already been released, with Castlevania dropping this very week.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection stuffs eight classics into one affordable compilation. There’s Castlevania (NES), Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES), Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES), Super Castlevania IV (SNES), Castlevania: The Adventure (GB), Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (GB), Castlevania: Bloodlines (GEN), and Kid Dracula. The latter of which was originally released for the Family Computer in Japan in 1990, but has now been localized in English for this very occasion. When all is said and done, it’s not a bad package.
Outside of the games, you’re also getting access to a Bonus Book, a comprehensive history of the series that spans dozens and dozens of pages. There’s concept art, presentations for the titles included, interviews, research reports, and design archives. Plenty to keep the die-hard fans entertained for a good while yet to come. Let’s face it, in regards to Castlevania, this is as good as you’re going to get from Konami for the foreseeable future. Word on the street suggests that they’re working on a new game in the series, but I wont hold my breath.
You’ll access all of the games via a clean and concise menu, and there’s a small range of options that you can take to to spruce things up a bit. Each game comes with an over-menu (accessible via tapping LT) that allows you to tweak a few settings. Here, you can save/load your progress at any point in the game. You can also alter the display settings, allowing you to adjust the aspect ratio and color filter for each game included. This tends to include what you would expect from a bundle comeback; scanlines, dot matrix, original state, and so on.
On top of that, you can toggle frame artwork, allowing you to wrap your game in a cabinet-like presentation with Castlevania-themed artwork, it’s rather striking. When you’re done toying around with the settings, you’re good to go. The Castlevania Anniversary Collection doesn’t go out of its way to be anything other than a collection of classic comebacks. You’ll pick a game and simply dive on in. The ability to save and load a game state at the drop of a hat will remove a degree of difficulty, which is something these games are known for.
Each of the games behave and respond exactly as they should, making for a very refined experience of decent quality. I wont waste your time going over the premise of any game. They’ve been out for decades, and it would be pointless of me to critique them individually. If you’ve played a classic Castlevania game, you’ll know what you’re getting into. If not, and you’re looking to visit to the series’ roots, you’re in for a treat. Just be mindful that these games come with issues that consist with their era; stiff movement chief among them.
I wont lie, it took me quite a bit of time to overlook how patient I must have been growing up as I observed myself falling off the same damn platform, time and time again, simply because the playable characters don’t like to move and jump in unity. Still, and once again, this a product of their age and little else. What we have here are several comebacks that are more than worthy of your time and attention. In regards to the gameplay mechanics, there’s not that much difference across most of the game’s in this collection, save a few.
The first game was more of a side-scrolling action game than anything else. Gameplay typically sees you taking on the role of a game’s respective protagonist and moving through a variety of screens as you whip your way through hordes of undead foes. You’ll enjoy some secondary weaponry, most of which are projectile, but for the most part, it’s you and your uncanny ability to melee like a champ. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is where Castlevania took a new turn, but the series does dip back to the format of its first outing on and off.
Simon’s Quest dropped the basic structure of its predecessor for something more in-depth and nonlinear; a world map, RPG elements, NPCs, a day and night cycle, and more besides. Considering that this technology was present on the NES speaks volumes of its intricacy. Though despite its altered framework, the crux of play remained the same. You’re still whipping your way through beasts and freakishly tough bosses like there’s no tomorrow. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, the last of the NES games on show, returned to series’ roots.
Here, it’s back to platforming goodness, but, the game retains the nonlinear play of its immediate predecessor; allowing players to choose branching paths and chase multiple endings. Much like Dracula’s Curse, Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: Bloodlines both retain the platformer-specific vibe, seeing you move through a range of levels as you defeat enemies and collect gems to power special weapons. With these being 16-bit installations, they’re the best looking, most detailed games in the entire collection, if hit and miss.
Naturally, there’s some more gameplay complexity here, such as being able to attack in multiple directions, grander enemy and boss variations, and a somewhat longer length. I cant say the same for the Game Boy additions; Castlevania: The Adventure and Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge. Whilst its nice to have the ability to apply a screen filter to give some color, the gameplay across both of these games are the least fun of the lot. Sure, for a nostalgic hit you cant at all go wrong, but I cant say I found much enjoyment on this front.
Still, they play just as they should, and to judge them on their age would be a injustice. Finally, this leads us to Kid Dracula. This is, without a shred of doubt, the easiest and most bonkers game in the collection. It’s a hoot, don’t misunderstand me, but if you’re picking up this collection exclusives to test out this game, I wouldn’t come with the expectation of a challenge. Furthermore, it’s very cutesy, which pretty much goes against the identity of the series. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see it included and shows Konami put some thought here.
When all is said and done, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a worthy investment, especially if you’re a fan of the series. The collection includes most of the classics, and although I personally would have swapped out a couple of games for a few others, or even included them in addition, there’s a heap of value present. The games haven’t aged well at all, both in terms of visual presentation and functionality. This will be easier to overlook for returning fans, but not so much for those that pick this up through curiosity above all else.
Performance-wise, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary outside of the odd visual blemish, but in truth, I couldn’t tell whether this was an issue specific to the original version, or a problem born through the porting process. Still, it happens very infrequently that it’s fairly easy to forgive. The bottom line here is that you’re getting what you pay for. Every instance of play and every feature is present and accounted for; including the password systems that come as standard in the majority of the Castlevania titles on offer.
What’s more, Konami have stated that we’ll be getting the Japanese versions of all of these games in the near future through a post-launch patch, which will put this in line with the likes of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection. That, in my opinion at least, only further bolsters how much of a step up this collection is in comparison to Konami’s recently released Arcade Classics. Overlooking a few roughs in the midst of its many diamonds, and especially for long term fans of the franchise, this collection is a must have, warts and all.
Despite that these games have aged about as well as leather in a desert, and overlooking a few omissions, Konami’s Castlevania Anniversary Collection is well worth the investment if you’re a fan of the series, or, are curious about the franchise’s roots. Throw in the fact that this compilation will soon see the addition of the Japanese versions for each title included, picking this up truly is a no brainer.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.