Konami's Castlevania series has been haunting living rooms for well over 30 years and now, you can enjoy 8 of the games in one package.
Firstly, let's take a look at the included 8-bit games. The original Castlevania that started it all is definitely the simplest of the 3 as there is no password system and it features a linear and fairly short campaign. However, it's still great fun to play nowadays and I encourage anyone who plays it to attempt to play through the whole game in one sitting without using this newfangled save state system. Now, that's a blast from the past! Whipping demonic enemies and defeating cliché bosses remains an exceptionally fun time.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest took the series in a new direction with its non-linear and often confusingly cryptic world. Who could forget having to kneel against a wall so a tornado can carry you to the next area? Although it features nifty RPG elements, it's a very difficult game to play without constantly having to reference a guide. Plus, the lack of bosses makes the game world feel rather empty. On the plus side, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse took what made the original fun and added a few extra characters that you can play as plus a huge campaign with optional levels, amazing bosses, a killer soundtrack, and plenty of elaborate and challenging stages. Talk about going above and beyond! It's considered the best of the trilogy by many fans and for good reason.
Most western Castlevania fans didn't have a chance to play this Famicom gem back in the day as we only got the Game Boy sequel yet here it is in all its goofy glory. I actually imported it a few years back and was impressed with its simple and enjoyable gameplay. You play as Kid Dracula as you run, jump, and shoot chargeable fireballs at enemies. It's a silly and easy little game but very fun, too, so if you want a breather from the other super-challenging Castlevania games then this makes for a solid distraction.
Okay, now we're talking! Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: Bloodlines are 2 of the best games in the entire franchise, especially the former. Super Castlevania IV features one of the best Super NES soundtracks and its stages are absolutely gorgeous complete with stunning environments and suitable enemies to slay. Being able to whip in different directions and flail your whip around is a welcome inclusion, too. There are so many memorable moments and epic boss fights in Super Castlevania IV that I recommend playing it first.
Castlevania: Bloodlines is probably the most underrated game in the series. This Sega Genesis classic has you play as either John Morris who is a descendant of the Belmont family and plays like it, too, or the spear-wielding Eric Lecarde. The gameplay isn't as fluid as it is in Super Castlevania IV but it still features awesome stages and some truly awe-inspiring boss fights. In fact, the bosses in Castlevania: Bloodlines may just be cooler than the ones in Super Castlevania IV. Wait, is that even possible?
Game Boy games
Castlevania: The Adventure and Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge are the least fun games here because let's face it: playing clunky Game Boy games nowadays is primarily fun for the nostalgia factor and that's about it. I remember obsessively playing Castlevania: The Adventure as a kid and it was slow and tedious back then so you can imagine how difficult it is to enjoy it now that I'm a big boy. Anyway, Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge at least has a password system and a non-linear campaign but it's mostly a similar experience albeit mildly refined. By the way, why didn't they include Castlevania Legends? That's one of the very few games in the series that I'm missing due to the fact that it's super-rare and expensive. If they released it as DLC, I'd totally buy it.
Just like Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection, Castlevania Anniversary Collection includes a Bonus Book full of neat stuff. Namely, you can browse box art and info for each included game, read interviews with legendary composer Michiru Yamane and Adi Shankar who helped create the Castlevania Netflix show, explore the history of the series, and check out loads of design sketches and documents.
Finally, how do these games hold up on a modern console? I'm happy to say that they play almost identically to their old-school versions. Everything is smooth, responsive, and completely playable. That being said, I noticed some odd audio issues in a few of the games where there would be seemingly random high-pitched tones that were definitely not in the original games. Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection had a similar issue with sound although it was much worse there. Hopefully, these issues get ironed out with a patch. Also, you can't remap the controls. I would have liked to whip with square and jump with X in all of the games but you only can in the 16-bit games.
With 8 classic games from an iconic series, Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a must-play compilation for any gamer whether you're a retro junkie or you simply want to explore the roots of gaming. If you'll excuse me, I have to slay Dracula for the umpteenth time.
- + Contains a variety of 8 fantastic classic Castlevania games
- + Mostly spot-on emulation
- + Bonus Book is full of great stuff
- - Lack of controller mapping options
- - Occasional minor audio hiccups