I love the Castlevania series from Konami. From the moment I played the first game on the Nintendo Entertainment System I was hooked. The game created a genre and set a standard for side scrolling games in design, visuals, and of course, the music. To celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, Konami has released a collection of almost a decades worth of Castlevania titles for current generation consoles. What a horrible night to have a curse. Grab your whip and get retro with the Castlevania Anniversary Collection!
These kind of collections have been done in the past and I’m always interested to see how developers handle compiling and essentially emulating these titles. For me, the inclusion of special features is always welcome when revisiting retro titles, mainly a save state feature, because I always forget how brutally hard some of these older titles were. We take features like autosave for granted these days, but back in the ’80s, developers purposely made games as difficult as possible it seems.
Thankfully Konami delivered some nice features to the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. There are a couple different backgrounds to choose and various screen adjustments if you prefer scan-lines or color with the Gameboy games. The aforementioned save state ability is there, allowing players to save their game and reload at any time. Personally I used this feature a ton, saving before attempting a tough section. Purists may call this cheating, I call it quality of life improvements.
Fans of the series will enjoy the included 80-page digital book containing all kinds of history, tips, game info, interviews, design sketches, and even a timeline of the Belmont family. I spent a good amount of time reading this before even touching any of the games in Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Speaking of the games, lets go over them.
One of the more challenging games in the era of 8-bit, the original Castlevania released in 1987 in North America and was a must buy for fledgling NES owners. The fantastic score was unlike anything we had heard before in a console game. The large bosses and addictive gameplay kept us all coming back. I was actually able to beat this game for the first time thanks to the save state feature!
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)
A year after the first game, for the holiday season of 1988, Konami released the follow-up to Castlevania. Many gamers were thrown by the change to a more open world, an irritating day and night system, and horrible text translations that just confused us more than helped with the many cryptic secrets the game held.
While at the time I loved the amazing soundtrack and open world, I suffered through the various problems with this game because I had Nintendo Power and knew about all the secrets. Years later it was pointed out to me how bad this game was and I have to agree, this is the weakest of the NES entries by far.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES)
It would be two years later but the series returned to it’s more classic side scrolling roots but this time in a challenging prequel. Players could take various routes and play as different characters. The is also the first game to feature Alucard, the Son of Dracula, who would feature heavily in the lore in later games and even the Netflix animated series. The music in this game is amazing for the 8-bit era. Castlevania III pushed what the system could do. I am still trying to beat this game, even with save state.
Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
In 1991 the world got the first “next-gen” Castlevania game. Basically a remake of the first game, this time taking advantage of the improved 16-bit graphics and sound of the SNES, Super Castlevania IV is my favorite game in this collection. The music is a mix of old and new and still holds up today. While noticeably less difficult than previous games in the series, the ability to whip in any direction felt so right and the controls are spot on. This game alone makes purchasing the Castlevania Anniversary Collection a must.
Castlevania: The Adventure (Game Boy)
There isn’t much to say about this first Game Boy outing. Released at the end of 1989, it introduces Christopher Belmont, an ancestor of Simon. Sluggish controls hamper the game to this day. The only innovation worth mentioning is the ability to launch projectiles when at the maximum whip upgrade. The music is decent but nothing compared to the sequel.
Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy)
Two years later we saw this sequel on the Game Boy and what a difference it made! I honestly had never played this game, as a kid I avoided it because of how bad the first one was. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself not to miss this game. Everything is improved this time, from the story, to the graphics, and especially the gameplay. The music is absolutely amazing for a Game Boy game. Of all the games in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, this one surprised me the most.
Castlevania: Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)
Castlevania: Bloodlines is the only exclusive Castlevania game to come to a Sega system in North America. Released in 1994, this was a game that came along near the end of the 16-bit era and I missed it back then. The game has you pick from two different characters, John Morris or his friend Eric Lecarde. The setting is the most recent in the Castlevania timeline, taking place in 1917. I had a blast playing this game for the first time and if you missed it too, now is your chance to finally play this amazing title.
Kid Dracula (Famicom)
Kid Dracula, or Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun, was originally released for the Famicom in Japan back in 1990. This is the first time it has been translated and released in North America. Set thousands of years in the future, Dracula’s son wakes up and starts on a quest to defeat the demon Galamoth. The game is a sort of parody of the series, with a cute main character and enemies. As you progress Kid Dracula will acquire new abilities after defeating bosses, very reminiscent of the Mega Man series. It reminded me of that series as well in the way it plays, having a charged attack and limited jumping ability.
This was the game I played first when I received Castlevania Anniversary Collection, and it was a blast, until level 7. Jumping is very sluggish and by the time you get to level 7’s upward platforming, it becomes a frustrating mess. Even with unlimited lives provided by the save state feature, I eventually gave up. Still, fans will want to experience this game and the first few levels are fantastic, the bosses are hilarious. I was also impressed with the soundtrack.
Overall, I really enjoyed Castlevania Anniversary Collection. New players will get to experience early entries to this fantastic series and old folks like me can finally play missed games and relive these classics. My biggest complaint would be the lack of trophies. Players only get a bronze for completing each game and a measly gold for completing ALL of them.
If you manage to defeat all of these games, you deserve a platinum, damnit! Also a rewind ability would have been welcome instead of constantly reloading save states, it’s minor but something other collections have included. If you are a fan of the Castlevania series, or just looking to experience the early games for the first time, this is the perfect opportunity to own some of the best titles of that era.