Castlevania Anniversary Collection Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch
Konami may be the one celebrating its 50th anniversary this year but one of its biggest claims to fame, present infamy notwithstanding, getting the collection treatment is far more worth popping a few corks over instead. Castlevania Anniversary Collection brings the good old fashioned vampire slaying of yore to modern day consoles with perfect ports of a near flawless selection of one of gaming’s most beloved series.
The game’s list kicks off with the main three NES games, Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. These are the musts to include in such a collection and none have been tampered with in any way, including Simon’s Quest’s penchant for being cryptic with what needs to be done to progress. Next, we jump into the SNES era with one of the greatest games to have ever been created, Super Castlevania IV. After spending quite a bit of time slaying 8-bit zombies, this game will serve as a stark reminder of how significant the jump to 16 bits was back in the day. Two Game Boy games are also included, Castlevania: The Adventure and Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge. The Adventure is the big oddball of the collection as it’s not only one of the worst Castlevania games, it’s also problematic at a technical level as it has plenty of moments where it feels sluggish as if your whole system is being bogged down. And, yes, this is not due to a bad port as these issues were present in the original Game Boy cartridge as well.
Belmont’s Revenge, on the other hand, is a fantastic choice to represent the GB family of Dracula hunting games. Castlevania Bloodlines for the Mega Drive (or Genesis for those over the Atlantic) was the one game I never got to play in the past owing to me being firmly planted in the Nintendo side of the 90s console debate. Boy, did I miss out! Not only can you play as two different characters, but the graphics are also amazing and the blood flows by the bucket. Small wonder it never made it to the SNES.
The final piece of the Castlevania Anniversary Collection puzzle, and quite possibly one of its main draws for fans, is the inclusion of the Famicom version of Kid Dracula. While there’s no real canonical connection with the rest of the series, Kid Dracula was a game that never saw a western release until today. It’s a fun game that feels like a Mega Man-style action platformer.
Overall, the game’s selection may not be perfect but it’s got some great titles for Castlevania fans to relive the series’s heyday and for newcomers to experience why they call the genre MetroidVANIA. Bear in mind that these are all the western releases of the titles, however, Konami has recently stated that a patch will be deployed “soon” that will add the Japanese versions of the games. Going for those brownie points there, big K?
Feature-wise, Castlevania Anniversary Collection is not the most robust. A curious choice has been the lack of control customization, particularly with the NES lineup. The current mapping puts the jump and attack buttons at odd places that will likely bamboozle modern day gamers for a while. Death by wrong button will be a common occurrence. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Anniversary Collection without some filters. Aside from the Original 4:3, Konami has included Pixel Perfect versions, scanline emulation, and 16:9 stretched for the insane. Game Boy games have a choice between black and white, Game Boy Color, and original Dot Matrix, complete with Game Boy green screen. Generally, I stuck with the Original which felt pretty good but the scanlines served as a cool novelty for a bit.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection also allows for the side borders of 4:3 filters to be customized with a few different options. Save states are also present with a single save slot for each game, another curious choice. The only real piece of bonus material is what is dubbed the Bonus Book which is what basically boils down to a PDF containing information about the 8 games, sketches and concept art, and an interview with composer Michiru Yamane who worked on Bloodlines. I call this a PDF because I literally had to zoom in and out in order to actually read what was on each page. What was supposed to be a cool addition ended being the collection’s sorest spot.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection, despite some of its warts, is a great nostalgia trip down memory lane. It contains some of gaming’s most cherished and defining titles. Whether you’ve been an avid fan since the dawn of Dracula or you’re a younger gamer looking to brush up on your history, this collection is definitely worth picking, especially considering that Konami will be patching in the original Japanese versions sometime in the future.