I was 5 or 6 when I first played the original Castlevania. It was a bootleg version, one of those games in a 1001 in 1 game compilation cartridge for the NES.
I didn’t like it much (mainly because that version recycled the first stages over and over again), but I distinctively remember enjoying the music and setting. Not many games were horror inclined back in the 80s, and Castlevania was one of the few I had access to.
I never really got into the series until more than a decade later, I got to play Symphony of the Night.
It was love at first bite and the rest, as they say, is history.
What is the Castlevania Anniversary Collection?
The Castlevania Anniversary Collection (CAC) is a compilation of the some of the earliest Castlevania games. It’s published by Konami with emulation and porting duties done by M2. It is currently SGD$27.90 on the Xbox Marketplace.
The collection contains 8 games, which I’ve listed below.
- Castlevania (NES/ 1987)
- Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES/ 1988)
- Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES/ 1990)
- Super Castlevania IV (SNES/ 1991)
- Castlevania: The Adventure (GameBoy/ 1989)
- Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (GameBoy/ 1991)
- Castlevania: Bloodlines (MegaDrive/ 1994)
- Kid Dracula (FamiCom/ 1990)
Having played most of the games in the collection on their original systems (except for Kid Dracula and Belmont’s Revenge), I can honestly say they managed to replicate the feel of the originals pretty well.
The flickering sprites in the original Castlevania are still present, the Mode 7 effects from Super Castlevania IV are still there to enthrall (age has not been kind to them) and the animation and music upgrade in Bloodlines is still like a splash of cold water after some decidedly stiff games.
Even the slowdown in most games is intact.
How do they play?
M2’s been doing ports of classics for awhile now on Nintendo’s 3DS systems, with top notch quality. Here, their ports are surprisingly middle of the road. While technically sound, the emulation is bare bones, with barely any options to customize or in-game tweaks.
You can play the games in their original aspect ratio and resolution, in widescreen mode or add in scanlines in some mix and match modes. I’ve been playing on either original or 4:3 scanlines to evoke the feel of old CRT TV sets. There’s not even an option to smooth the pixels, which is pretty much available in nearly every other emulator compilation out there.
Save states and replays are enabled but other modern tweaks like variable game speeds, invincibility (or unlimited continues) and the like are completely off the table. If you were thinking of revisiting the games with modern cheats, you’ll be sad to hear that there’s nothing in that regard for you.
If that doesn’t bother you, what you’ll get from the CAC is awesomely emulated versions of old games in the Castlevania series. I wouldn’t call all of them classics (certainly not Kid Dracula or Castlevania: The Adventure) but those that were awesome back in the day (Super Castlevania IV, Bloodlines and Castlevania III) still hold up surprisingly well today.
It’s certainly a varied collection, and one can surmise Konami was certainly aiming this collection to be a pre-IGAvania affair (aka the time before Symphony of the Night) but even then it’s weirdly missing a couple of games, some pretty significant.
One is Haunted Castle, which is in the recently released Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection (ACAC). Another is Rondo of Blood (and its SNES port Dracula X) for the PC Engine. The final one, is Kid Dracula, the GameBoy sequel to Kid Dracula (FamiCom), which is in the collection.
There’s no logical reason why the collection would be missing these games, especially since Haunted Castle is ALREADY in another compilation and the GameBoy and SNES emulation is already included for a couple of the Castlevania games included. The only reason I can think of their exclusion? Money and to save them for the inevitable CAC 2.
Only Rondo of Blood may have a plausible excuse as it’s on a system (the PC Engine) that’s not emulated in the collection. Perhaps M2’s engineers had problems with a PC Engine emulator (something I find hard to be believe) but it’s still a plausible (if flimsy) excuse nonetheless.
Another particularly distressing omission from the collection are regional variants to the games that are included. While it might seem a weird thing to care about, there can be significant differences between games in different regions, not the least being their titles. Music, enemies, even whole stages can be in one version and missing or altered in another. To not get every version is a travesty, especially considering this is supposed to be a collection.
Ironically, what saves this collection is something totally new. It’s not even a Castlevania game!
The History of Castlevania is an unassuming addition to the collection.
It’s so unassuming that it doesn’t even feature on the initial game select screen, you have to scroll down past Kid Dracula to see it.
That’s sad because it definitely deserves more prominence.
Like finding a piece of roast meat hidden in the walls, The History of Castlevania e-book is tasty, refreshing and definitely what you need when you’re worn down fighting the Count’s hordes.
It’s 80 pages filled with lore, insight, design documents and other tidbits that any fan of the series will love and appreciate. There are tons of nuggets in the pages that shed light into the makings of many games in the series.
From Castlevania’s creation, to villains in the series, there are tons of info pertaining to the games included.
The best part of all this? It’s definitely the timeline.
As somebody who abhors the Lords of Shadow series, to see it not acknowledged at all in the series timeline is refreshing. Perhaps it’s a sign that Konami’s finally abandoning the series and returning to the original universe.
One hopes that’s certainly the case because I’d honestly like to see more of Soma and the gang.
The bottom line.
The Castlevania Anniversary Collection is certainly a decent try, as far as collections go. It’s certainly nowhere near the best, but with Konami so reluctant on releasing new games for their beloved I.P.s, this might be the only glimpse we see of Castlevania in gaming form for years to come.
Even as middling as it is, I’m still recommending it for two reasons.
One’s in the hope that the sales drives Konami to add the missing games as an update and two, so Konami will see that fans want another 2D Castlevania and get cracking on one as soon as they can.
Word is the Castlevania Anniversary Collection is just the first in the line as Konami’s mulling releasing the other games in later collections.
Whether that’ll come to pass is another story (since Konami’s not commented one way or another) but here’s hoping we finally get a perfect port of Rondo of Blood, the Saturn version of Symphony of the Night (which lets you play as Maria and has an exclusive area not in other versions) and the GBA and DS games in one pack in the future.
– The History of Castlevania e-book.
– Great emulation of the games.
– Great gameplay for some entries still stand the test of time.
– The music.
– Missing some games.
– Not enough features or gameplay options.
– No other extras other than History of Castlevania e-book.