Castlevania Anniversary Collection
For Konami’s 50th Anniversary, Castlevania has its origin story retold with a collection of fondly remembered classics and long lost oddities.
Just in case the word Castlevania is meaningless to you, let me lay down what most of them are like. They are long-running series of side-scrolling action adventure games where typically you play as one of the Belmonts, who are a family of vampire hunters extraordinaire. The Belmonts get called upon time and again to suppress Dracula’s latest machinations at covering all the lands in darkness. In this early years collection the games play in a linear or branching style, but later would develop to be less linear and more explorative, giving birth to half of the now famous ‘metroidvania’ genre title.
This collection has eight titles, listed below:
Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest (NES)
Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse (NES)
Kid Dracula (Famicom)
Castlevania: The Adventure (Game Boy)
Castlevania 2: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy)
Super Castlevania 4 (SNES)
Castlevania Bloodlines (Sega Mega Drive)
It’s a joy to have all these together in one place, especially since Kid Dracula hasn’t come West before (and I didn’t even know counted as a Castlevania game, if I’m honest). And if eight games wasn’t fan service enough, Konami have revealed they will be adding the Japanese variants of the games (some recognised to be superior, e.g. Castlevania 3) via a free update soon. It’s not confirmed whether this means we’ll get the Western version of Castlevania Bloodlines (called Castlevania: The New Generation). This name changing (and much more) was part of a trend of infantilising the western versions; replacing blood with water (eat your heart out, Jesus), or removing religious iconography and other pre-reformation horrors (in case a kid from Iowa accidentally saw a crucifix). Having the OG, uncensored releases will be a treat for those who haven’t imported them.
Classic games and retro revivals are the Switch’s bread and butter. The console is already rich with metroidvanias and side scrolling games, and their DNA stretches back to the very games in this collection. Luckily the emulation isn’t going to get in the way here: it’s all crisp and clean and only as glitchy as the original games. And, as per usual these days, there’s a wealth of display options. You can play in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, or sharpen everything up with the ‘pixel perfect’ mode. And if you like filling the screen, even at the cost of your eyes and gameplay, you can go 16:9. CRT filters are also present, so you can relive those moments of playing from your pillow fort and squinting at a 14” TV. The two Game Boy games get their own special display options too, such as a sepia filter. Across the collection, you can add one save state per game, so you don’t have to rely on trying to restore your gaming patience from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Allowing only one save state per game seems a little cruel, but then these are quite cruel games anyway. Overall, it’s a relief there’s no emulation crisis here, and I expect fans to be very pleased.
The collection adds an eBook, amusingly called ‘The History Of Castlevania: Book Of The Crescent Moon’. Unfortunately, it’s basically a PDF. It would’ve been nice to have this in a different format, as no-one wants to scroll and zoom around a document on their Switch; we get enough of that at work. The content is good and interesting though. The other slightly disappointing aspect is the game selection menu. It does the job but seems a bit utilitarian. Still, if a disappointing menu and ebook are the biggest gripes, we’ve basically come away unscathed.
The games vary in quality. The three NES games and the SNES game are fondly remembered and still enjoyable, if you don’t mind occasionally falling through a staircase. I’ve only briefly played the Game Boy games, of which the second one seems the better of the two. And I haven’t yet played Bloodlines or Kid Dracula, except to open them to check they work nicely. Many slightly annoying features of older games are still present, of course, but if you’re used to them already, you won’t mind too much. I’ll still need a guide for Simon’s Quest. But, the important thing is the games are here and they’re still fun and work well. What more do you need?
I can only salute this collection. I think it’s wonderful for the early years of such an iconic franchise to be given such a comprehensive representation on a modern device, and a portable to boot. And for £15.99 there’s a lot of game here. Now, please release more collections; they will sell like hot cakes. I would love the GBA and DS trilogies, and of course Symphony Of The Night. We still love you Konami; we’re waiting.
Game: Castlevania Anniversary Collection
Release date: 16/05/2019