While the first Castlevania game I ever played was 1994’s Castlevania: The New Generation (or Bloodlines, for much of the world), it was 1997’s Symphony of the Night that made me fall in love with the series.
I’ve played every Castlevania released since then, and tried to play the earlier ones when I could, too. And Konami’s Castlevania Anniversary Collection makes that easier to do than ever.
Like the Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection before it, Castlevania Anniversary Collection features eight highly-regarded games from yesteryear and a bonus book. The original Castlevania trilogy is included, as well the remake/sequel Super Castlevania IV, both Castlevania: The Adventure games released for Game Boy, Castlevania: Bloodlines/The New Generation, and the cutesy spin-off Kid Dracula.
While many of these games have been available on other formats before, the inclusion of Castlevania: Bloodlines/The New Generation and Kid Dracula makes the Castlevania Anniversary Collection a very interesting proposition indeed. The former has never been made available on a format other than the SEGA Mega Drive, and now fetches a pretty penny on the used market. The latter has never been translated and released in the west before. These two games alone make the Castlevania Anniversary Collection worthy of your cash.
Honestly though, nearly all of the games in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection are great. The straight-up platformers such as the original Castlevania and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse are still challenging yet engaging, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is an enjoyable though very obscure action RPG, while Castlevania: Bloodlines/The New Generation‘s more modern setting and varied levels make it one of the most interesting games ever released in the series. And then you have Kid Dracula, which only loosely feels like a Castlevania game but is great fun anyway.
Only the two Game Boy releases let this package down really, and even then, only the original Castlevania: The Adventure is a chore to play. It’s slow, ugly, cumbersome, and performs terribly. Make your way through to its end, and you deserve an award. Its sequel, Castlevania II: The Belmont’s Revenge is much better, but still not as good as other Castlevania releases.
On the game front then, Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a win, overall. But what about the package as a whole? Well, the emulation is great, so each game should look and sound just as you remember, and the bonus book is a very nice addition. It has some fascinating information about the series, and also interviews with both Michiru Yamane and Adi Shankar. That’s the composer of many Castlevania soundtracks and the producer of the Castlevania Netflix TV series if you’ve not heard of them before.
Where the Castlevania Anniversary Collection disappoints, however, is in terms of options. You can bring up a menu to save your game and change the screen format, and that’s about it. You can’t rewind gameplay like you can in the Mega Man collections, and there’s no way to give yourself more lives or change the difficulty. Granted, they’re not necessary features, but they’re nice to have nonetheless.
What is truly perplexing though, is that you can’t rebind the controls for any of the games. Most of the titles in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection will force you to use the button you normally associate with jumping to swing your whip, and the standard whip button to jump. Then, just when you’ve got your head around it, you’ll boot up another game to find that they are the right way around for a change. It’s a bit irritating.
Still, as problems go, it doesn’t affect your enjoyment of Castlevania Anniversary Collection too much. And the package is set to get even better after launch with the news that Konami is going to be adding the Japanese version of each of the games included via an update.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection is without a doubt a must-buy for Castlevania fans. The newer titles in the package – Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: Bloodlines/The New Generation – remain as some of the best 2D platformers available, while the older titles still have a lot of charm, too. And they all have brilliant soundtracks. Did I mention that? Well, they really do. The icing on the cake is Kid Dracula, which isn’t going to stick in your mind as a classic, but is going to amuse you as quirky spin on the series.
As retro collections go, Castlevania Anniversary Collection doesn’t impress with its features, but the games themselves pick up the slack. Buy this, and you’ll be in classic vampire-killing heaven.