This week’s Retro Rewind brings you Castlevania Anniversary Collection for Xbox One. This time the collection includes classic games from one of the most beloved sagas. As well as others that will be a surprise for fans who at the time could not try them. Castlevania Anniversary Collection brings us the best and worst of Castlevania. Although many of the games are still good today, I cannot say the same for others.
Simon Belmont Wants to Free Us From Dracula’s Curse
Castlevania Anniversary Collection begins by introducing us to the games that are part of the original tetralogy. This saga consist of: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Super Castlevania IV. Despite being the original saga and the one that introduced us to what Castlevania is, it hasn’t aged as well. With the exception of Super Castlevania IV, which is still a marvel to this day.
The Transylvanian adventure begins with Castlevania, a linear action game released in 1986 for NES. It introduces us to one of the most iconic protagonists of the saga: Simon Belmont. Legendary vampire hunter who will enter the castle of Dracula to free us from his curse. Castlevania presents us the basis of what the saga will be from now on. The protagonist must advance through levels, located in the castle of Dracula. Destroy all the enemies that are in our path thanks to Vampire Killer, legendary whip that will accompany the Belmont.
Despite this, the years have not been quite good for Castlevania. And it is very possible that it will be quite frustrating for current players. Control is rough and Belmont doesn’t respond to our movements as fast as we’d like, making the fighting quite unfair. In addition Vampire Killer is imprecise and it will cost us quite a bit to hit the enemies that we find. Although we also cannot treat Castlevania unfairly. Yes, it is true that it weighs years, but it is also true that it dates back to 1986 and we cannot ask for miracles. Castlevania offers what the games offered at that time, something that we can not blame in the middle of 2019.
The Curse of Being Simon Belmont
Simon Belmont regains his prominence in Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (1987, NES). Far from having gotten rid of Dracula, Simon is the victim of a curse that affects not only him, but all the people of Veros. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest introduces changes from the previous game, including RPG elements, more varied weapons, and a day-night cycle that will affect the entire town. Despite these interesting changes, which would already begin to lead the way towards the metroidvania genre, Castlevania II is not a playable wonder either.
We will begin our adventure in the village and we won’t have too much help to know where to go. Nobody will tell us anything. So it’s very likely that we’ll take a path that we shouldn’t, with impossible enemies, and we’ll be destroyed in just a minute. The day-night cycle implies that human characters will transform into monsters during the night, something that we must manage and take into account in our adventure. The exploration will also be a bit heavy for us, because the maps are very similar to each other.
The collection presents Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (1989). This is the game that is probably the most familiar to you right now, because it is the title on which Netflix has based to create it’s animation series. This time, the protagonist is not Simon Belmont, but his ancestor Trevor. The introductory scene, rich with details, indicates that it is a much more ambitious game than the previous ones and with interesting technical and animation changes. A drawback for some, the “Japanese-style” including having the A and X commands reversed, complicates the gameplay for some players from the start.
Super Castlevania IV
With Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse the original trilogy ends, because Super Castlevania IV was a remake of the first original game. And it’s precisely with Super Castlevania IV when I started to really enjoy Castlevania. This was the first game of the next generation of consoles and it shows. Super Castlevania IV offers an impressive leap at a technical, artistic and above all playable level, making it one of the best games in the collection on its own merits. In addition to being, for many, the second best game in the series, being only surpassed by Symphony of The Night.
In this remake, we’ll meet again with our friend Simon Belmont, who must stop Dracula and the chaos in which he intends to plunge the world, after having awakened from his lethargy. The resources offered by the 16-bit generation are palpable as soon as we start our adventure, because Super Castlevania IV is the same, but much better.
Simon’s control is much more precise and fluid than in previous ones and the battles will be more balanced. We will also meet classic and new enemies, which will remain throughout the saga; bone-throwing skeletons, floating eyes, or rock-spitting dragon skull totems. The stages also offer more freedom, dynamism and more possibilities of movement; We will be able to swing with chains, avoid boards with spikes and advance through the already typical room, but much more refined than in previous versions. It also helps that the controls are the same as Western players are used to now.
Ultimately, Super Castlevania IV was, is, and probably always will be a playable wonder. Konami put all the meat on the grill with this title and it shows, because it has aged like wine. Now they make you want to replay it and recall the sensations of yesteryear. If with the previous three the collection loses some momentum, Super Castlevania IV makes it worth taking over.
Christopher Belmont and His Adventure in Game Boy Endure the type
From Super Castlevania IV we turn to the duo of games starring Christopher Belmont: The Castlevania Adventure (1989) and Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge. Christopher is a descendant of Trevor Belmont, but ancestor of Simon. What places these two games among the previously mentioned. Again, the protagonist Belmont will have to destroy the Prince of Darkness. The Castlevania Adventure features significantly fewer elements than previous games. For example, we will not have secondary weapons and the character will be slower than that of the NES versions. But we are facing a game that is playable much more attractive than these. Control is fairly fluid and Christopher’s responsiveness is far better executed than that of Simon and Trevor.
The saga improves significantly in its second part, located 15 years later. In which Christopher will have to rescue his son Soleil from the hands of the Transylvanian Count. Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge introduces variety in the saga, presenting four castles that we will have to conquer. Playable it will be more accessible, dynamic and better executed. Also, the hearts will be back in this installment, after disappearing in the previous one.
John Morris and Dracula’s Son Complete the Collection
Castlevania: The New Generation (1994) (or Castlevania: Bloodlines, as it became known in the United States) is the only game in the series that made it to the Sega Megadrive and another of the wonders of this collection. This time we can choose between two characters: John Morris and Eric Lecarde, each with their own weapons and motives for wanting to finish off Count Dracula. The New Generation offers news that mark a new leap in the saga.
As a curiosity we will say that The New Generation is intimately linked to the vampire lore. John Morris is the son of Bram Stoker’s Dracula Quincy Morris. Among the characters we find Elizabeth Bartley, inspired by Ersébeth Bathory, one of the bloodiest and ruthless murderers in history.
The collection is completed with Kid Dracula, first published in the West. A small surprise that, in addition to being charming, has also aged very well from a playable point of view. It’s a parody of the saga, an action platform similar to Mega Man, in which we play as Kid Dracula. Upon rising from his coffin, Kid Dracula must face all the monsters he finds. Adorable versions of those we’ve met in other games and get around traps and platforms he discovers in his adventure.
Symphony of the Night is the Great Forgotten, But Not the Only One
The big downside that we see in this collection are the games that Konami leaves on the way. Castlevania has always been a very complete saga, spanning different generations and whose games have been intertwined argumentatively. So it is a flaw that certain games are not in the collection. Perhaps the most striking is Symphony of The Night, a game that created the genre metroidvania with Metroid Prime. In addition to being the first game with which we could enjoy the spectacular art of Ayami Kojima.
Rondo of Blood introduces important novelties in the saga. Like the fact of having a variety of paths to choose from and more enemies. Richter Belmont is the protagonist of this story, who must rescue his fiancée Anette from the hands of Dracula. The game features certain advancements that would explode in Symphony of The Night. A huge, complete game, full of levels and enemies and that takes full advantage of the RPG elements. This time the great protagonist will be Alucard, but we’ll meet again with Richter, who has disappeared in Dracula’s castle.
In addition to these two titles, there are others that we miss to give a rounder and more complete touch to the collection. Some of the most interesting would have been Aria of Sorrow, probably the third best game in the series, after Symphony of The Night and Super Castlevania IV. Aria of Sorrow takes us to 2035 and stars Soma Cruz, who will travel to Dracula’s castle.
The Dark Souls of Castlevania
It would’ve been interesting to have its sequel, Dawn of Sorrow, or Order of Ecclesia, the “Dark Souls of Castlevania”. It should be noted that Soma absorbs the powers of the enemies. Shanoa, the protagonist of Order of Ecclesia, equips herself with some magical glyphs. Elements different from those we’ve known in the saga, which evolve what Konami introduced with Symphony of The Night.
It would also have been curious to discover Portrait of Ruin, a most peculiar and playable Castlevania, which introduces us to Jonathan Morris, son of Quincy. As a direct sequel to Castlevania: The New Generation it would have been very interesting to introduce it. But it’s very likely that the touch control of many of these games, belonging to the Nintendo DS, have prevented their introduction into the collection.
Personally, I would also have liked Konami to have taken the opportunity to introduce us to those lesser-known Castlevania. Legacy of Darkness or Circle of The Moon, starring new characters would have been an interesting detail. Not to mention Castlevania Judgment, a fighting game that has nothing to do with the original saga. This allowed us to enjoy the designs of Takeshi Obata, creator of the acclaimed Death Note. Maybe the company will cheer for a Castlevania Anniversary Collection 2. There are so many games that deserve to be rediscovered.
Technically It Is As We remembered
Apart from this details, the games arrive correctly emulated and we can switch between different display modes. The games are faithful representations that we were able to play at the time. They will present their same glitches and slowdowns. I do have to highlight, in favor of the saga, the incredible musical work. From Castlevania, Konami created some iconic and perfect creations. These fit very well with the history and that to this day will continue to enchant us.
As is often the case with these collections, another big plus is Castlevania’s art book: Bonus Book. In it we won’t only find sketches, parts of the creative process and interviews with the developers. We will discover the bloodline of the characters of the eight games in the collection. Fundamental knowledge for any fan of the saga – of the story of Dracula and the monsters that we will meet. A tremendous detail that is appreciated and that invites you to learn more about the emblematic saga.
Final Thoughts: A Sparse But Complete Collection
Castlevania Anniversary Collection allows us to enjoy eight games from the well-known Konami saga. Although some have aged very badly, others we will love in the middle of 2020. And they will show that good games always will be. Although some overly flashy games are missing, especially Symphony of The Night. Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a tribute to the saga, to fans who have been following it for a long time. A great opportunity to uncover its roots for newbies. So cheer up, give it a try, brandish the Vampire Killer and survive the long, cursed night of Transylvania. See you at Dracula’s castle.