Konami have come under increased scrutiny over the past few years for not showing enough respect to their back catalogue.
It’s no surprise when they put all of their resources into PES and shut down projects like P.T, a game striving to be a reinvention of Silent Hill.
But things have changed this year as they dip into their back catalogue for their 50th Anniversary. First with the Konami Classics, and now with Castlevania.
Look, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection isn’t definitive and some will bemoan a lack of Symphony of the Night, Rondo of Blood, and Circle of the Moon. But what is here has been treated with the care and due diligence one would expect from one of gaming’s most important franchises.
There’s the essentials, being the original Castlevania trilogy that started it all on the NES, as well its following sequels. Next to Mario and Donkey Kong, the original trilogy of Castlevania games were considered an evolution in platformers, dabbling with RPG elements by letting you switch weapons, while adding the use of powerups.
Mostly, though, the original follows a simple formula of climbing stairs, whipping chandeliers, and fighting bosses until the confrontation with King Fang at the end. It’s not until Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest that things get a bit more interesting.
For starters, it’s non-linear in contrast to the original which follows a set structure. For another, there’s a world map and you can chat to NPCs to obtain hints for your quest. You can buy items at shops and upgrade weapons. There’s even a day and night cycle for goodness sakes!
Castlevania 3 does strip things back to the original again, though, but this time with a more open and non-linear world than before, offering two branching pathways that lead to multiple endings along with optional objectives.
And in fairness to Konami, it’s all been recreated pixel perfect on the Switch, almost too well as it fits neatly in the centre with a large portion of the screen taken up by the slick anniversary border.
You can play the games with original scanlines just like the TVs of old, stretch them so they take up the entire Switch screen or view them with the frame. Either way, there’s something to suit each playstyle and it’s up to you how you want these games represented.
To be honest, pixel perfect reaction with scanlines was the way to go for me. But either way, they all work a treat on Switch. To the point where I can’t imagine playing the Anniversary Collection anywhere else, even though it’s on pretty much every other format.
Sadly, though, this Collection also makes me realise why Nintendo need to get SNES games on their Online library by yesterday. The NES classics are cool and all, but I’m finding harder and harder to spend longer than minutes at a time on a NES game because of how heavily dated they’re starting to feel.
Truth be told, I’ve spent way more time on Castlevania IV and Bloodlines than anything else in this collection, but that’s partly because the games still hold up really well. Castlevania: The Adventure … not so much.
The other neat thing to note about this collection is the added extras. First, the Bonus Book which gives you a proper History of Castlevania, specifically the games in this edition. It shows off their Japanese box art, as well as the PAL originals, overviews the stories and timelines, gives you valuable hints and tips, and exclusive interviews with renowned composer Michiru Yamane and the new series producer.
You can also play the Japanese originals of these games and discover some of the hidden differences for yourself. For instance, in Castlevania III, Grant’s dagger attack was much stronger in the Japanese version than in other territories. There’s also subtle differences like title screen changes and sound effects.
And perhaps most spectacularly, this Anniversary Collection is the first we’ve seen of Kid Dracula in the West. It’s a spin-off of the Castlevania series, originally released on the Gameboy, but now remade in colour and translated for this edition. Surprisingly, this one holds up pretty well with its quirky style and sense of humour. Plus it’s a blast to finally play this piece of history.
There’s also a lot in here about the wildly popular Netflix show, which really emphasises how much faith and stock Konami are actually putting into it
Of course, Konami were never going to please everyone with this Castlevania Anniversary Edition. And the door is wide open for them to do a second that looks at the later eras of the franchise, but this is an excellent reminder of the origins of the Belmonts. It really shows you the thought process that went into these games, how they built on the original ideas and why things began to change.
And no doubt about it, there’s no better home for it than on Switch. Castlevania Anniversary Edition has to be played handheld, even if not all the titles in it are a reminder of the franchises’ better days.
Castlevania Anniversary Edition is out now on Switch, Xbox One, PC, and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by the publisher
Tested on Switch