Game Review #350: Castlevania Anniversary Collection (Nintendo Switch)
Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Reviewer: Chad M.
Category: Action, Adventure, Arcade, Fighting
Release Date: 5.16.2019
Price (at time of review): $19.99
Buy Castlevania Anniversary Collection from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
When Collections Come Together
Okay, it’s confession time yet again: I was completely obsessed with the Castlevania games as child, but my lord, was I atrocious at them! It wasn’t until I was in high school that I could go back and play them with a little bit more poise and maturity so I wouldn’t rage-quit like I did when I was a kid, slamming down my Yoo-Hoo and storming out, only to come back and play something much more my speed, like Super Mario Bros 2.
I wanted to vanquish the evil blood-sucking bastards, but I just couldn’t do it. Now, as an adult, I’ve traded my Yoo-Hoo in for Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper, and I love playing—and actually being able to defeat—these classic games that have literally shaped the gaming world forever. I was never big into the ROM scene, so it’s been hell trying to get a hold of these classic games to play them—legally—at home or on the go. Konami has done something quite great though: they’ve started to make anniversary collections of their games for current consoles, and that means for the Switch as well, which means we can play them on the go!
The collection is being released as part of the Konami 50th Anniversary celebration, which allows us to relive these timeless classics that helped define the platformer genre. From the Belmont clan to their extended bloodlines and allies, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection is the best first step for anyone to take into the world of Castlevania and the fight against Dracula! So, jump back in with me as I check to see how this collection stacks up.
It Takes a Killer to Hunt a Killer
The most basic premise that I can give is that Castlevania is largely set in the eponymous castle of Count Dracula, and the main antagonist is of the Belmont Clan of vampire hunters. That’s it... This is the core story, repeating itself in slightly different ways each time.
From there, each title has its own storyline, and if you want to learn the lore, then I highly implore you to check out the included booklet, and also jump onto the inter-webs and look into their stories—but be warned: some of these timelines contradict one another, so some is canon, some is not. Overall, though, the stories are amazing, with some being better than others, and if you get a chance to watch the Netflix show, then please do—and be prepared for a master class in Castlevania, as the show is superb.
We Got Games! A Bunch of Games!
The first thing you have to prepare yourself for is that your personal favorite Castlevania game may not be here. I was looking for Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, Aria of Sorrow and obviously, Symphony of the Night, but I quickly adjusted my expectations, as I knew this would be some of the older games, not so much the more popular games, since this is for the 50th year anniversary of Konami. The games here are what I’d expect for a first volume, so I’m hoping there is a second and third volume, as I know Konami has to love making extra money off games just sitting there collecting dust. The games included are the following:
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
Super Castlevania IV
Castlevania: The Adventure
Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge
Kid Dracula (never before released in North America)
Of course, having the original classic is a must; but really, the first three are here, and lay the foundation for the series itself and side-scrolling action adventure games for years to come. Super Castlevania IV is one of my favorites in the series, and it’s glorious in its port here. Castlevania: The Adventure was the first in the series to appear on the GameBoy, and it wasn’t one of my personal favorites, as I didn’t like the way it controlled. Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, the second on GameBoy, was much better, in my opinion, as it plays quite a bit better and is a solid game. Castlevania: Bloodlines was a Sega Genesis exclusive—now finally on Nintendo—and before this collection, I’d never played it; and boy oh boy, it’s a great game! This was the first time in the series that you were able to choose your character, with one not wielding a whip, but rather, a trident-type spear. Finally, we have the game that may feel extremely out of place—but it is a Castlevania game—and that’s Kid Dracula. Before this release, it had never seen a North American release, as it had originally released exclusively in Japan on the Famicom system.
Those Belmont’s Got the Moves
The first three games handle quite the same, and I had zero lag from control input, but one complaint—and really, my only complaint—is that, if you don’t like the button layout, it cannot be changed. Only the newer games like Super Castlevania IV give you the option to change up the button scheme, and this seems like a missed opportunity, as everything else is here in spades.
I was never a fan of how the first GameBoy entry, Castlevania: The Adventure, controlled, as it felt sluggish and slow, like time was being slowed down. Belmont’s Revenge controls and handles quite a bit better; even though it still moves a little slow, I saw this as a huge improvement from the first GameBoy title.
Super Castlevania IV and Bloodlines handle brilliantly, and you can play around with the button scheme if needed. Kid Dracula is a different bag, though. If I had to explain the gameplay of this one, it wouldn’t be comparing it to the original Castlevania, but rather, Mega Man. Everything from the way the protagonist jumps and shoots reminds me of the classic Mega Man titles’ controls, and it was quite a lot of fun. It was also nice to get my hands on a classic title from a series I love.
Can Dracula Bring It All Together?
What caught me off guard the most out of this amazing collection was the digital book that comes along with the game, called The History of Castlevania – Book of the Crescent Moon. This is an 80-page book that screams to be made into a physical edition. The book includes all the games’ original box art, front and back, including their Japanese counterparts, which are really interesting, and let you see who got the better art. It’s also cool to see just how different the different regions are as well. My personal favorite part was that Castlevania: Bloodlines was called Vampire Killer in Japan, and the cover looks very different and more mature. Past this, you get even more detail, as well as an interview with the Netflix Castlevania show-runner, and even classic character and level designs.
Audio & Visuals
Here I just want to write “DUH”, because this series is known for always looking and sounding phenomenal. The sounds in all the games are great, and sound classic—as they should—with the soundtracks being the standout. The music in the games has depth, and will bring massive amounts of joy to fans new and old alike, as the soundtracks are superb. I wish you could access just the soundtracks within the game on their own. They’re including an update in the future that will allow you to get the soundtrack music from the Japanese versions of some of the games as well.
The visuals are glorious, and in every game, they just kept getting better—even Kid Dracula, which was a standout for me. You can change quite a lot with the borders of the screens, and you can also add filters and such, which is especially effective when playing the GameBoy titles.
It’s A Wrap!!!
This is an amazing collection, and I can only hope that Konami continues to ride this wave of popularity from its classic properties and puts out more collections, especially more volumes of the Castlevania series! This collection is a must-own for Switch owners, even if you own every original game cartridge. Having this set available in portable form is a must, as getting to play titles like Bloodlines and Kid Dracula on the go is pure bliss. So, don’t waste time, get it now!
Buy Castlevania Anniversary Collection from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
*Review Code Provide by Konami