Following not so hot on the heels of 2019’s Castlevania Anniversary Collection, Castlevania Advance Collection bundles in all the Game Boy Advance (hence the Advance in the title) games and for some reason, the SNES’ Dracula X.
With the Castlevania Anniversary Collection setting a standard for retro compilations, does the new Castlevania Advance Collection continue the tradition? Or it is a cheap cash in meant for collectors and hardcore fans?
Read on to find out!
What is the Castlevania Advance Collection?
The Castlevania Advance Collection is a compilation of 4 different Castlevania games, 3 from the Game Boy Advance library and 1 from the SNES. The 3 Game Boy Advance games are Circle of the Moon, Harmony of the Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow while the SNES’ Dracula X is weirdly included alongside. The collection is available on the PC, Playstation and Xbox consoles and the Nintendo Switch.
Reknowned retro porting specialists M2 handled the development of the compilation, which means that the games are represented pretty much as they were if you’ve played them on their original systems. There’s no new slowdown or choppiness brought forth by shoddy emulation, it’s all pretty much as if you’re playing on a Game Boy Advance or SNES.
M2 hasn’t done much to enhance the games apart from some quality-of-life improvements like tracking which cards you’ve collected in Circle of the Moon, what items can be found in a particular area in Harmony of Dissonance and which enemy souls you’ve nabbed in Aria of Sorrow.
The rest of the games are unapologetically pure, without even any sort of filter to enhance the look of the sprites. You can adjust screen resolution but that’s it.
Honestly though? I don’t mind it one bit.
The pixel graphics are fine anyway, even when blown up on a 4K display. There are black borders at the side (you can pick wallpapers to fix that) but I wasn’t bothered in the least. The chiptunes are also nicely enhanced so they don’t sound too bad on modern speakers.
I’d have preferred a total rework but beggars can’t really be choosers.
One thing that M2 has added is a Rewind function (LT + Left on the D-pad), which lets you rewind your actions for up to 10 or so seconds prior. This wasn’t in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection and is an incredible help in Dracula X. It’s not really that useful in the Game Boy Advance games (unless you really don’t feel like getting hurt by enemies) but it’s still a very neat feature to have.
As for the games included, they’re of varying quality.
Aria of Sorrow is undoubtedly the best.
Its sprites are detailed and very well animated, the game has great music and the soul collecting system gives you a ton of flexibility on how you explore. Unfortunately, Aria of Sorrow is just the first part of Soma’s story (the other games are on the Nintendo DS and thus not included), so hopefully Konami releases a Castlevania DS/PSP Collection in the future that bundles the remaining handheld titles.
After Aria of Sorrow comes Circle of the Moon.
I initially hated it when I played it as a Game Boy Advance game (it was my first Game Boy Advance game I bought, as it was a launch title) but I’ve grown fond of it after replaying it in the collection.
The animation’s pretty stiff and the visuals were a bit basic but it’s still a great Metroidvania title with a decently sized castle to explore, good music and some cool gameplay mechanics that revolve around what cards (which are dropped by certain monsters) you have equipped.
Following that is Dracula X on the SNES.
I don’t know why this wasn’t added to the Castlevania Anniversary Collection (alongside Rondo of Blood, which was also missing from that collection) but its inclusion here is still welcomed. An alternate version of Rondo of Blood, Dracula X is also known as the toughest old school Castlevania game. That challenge’s largely removed if you use the Rewind function though it’s still a fun game nonetheless.
At the bottom of the heap lies Harmony of Dissonance.
It’s the second Castlevania title to come out for the Game Boy Advance but the worse in quality. Sprites and animation are a step above Circle of the Moon but the floaty controls, crappy music, lack of defining gameplay innovations, a confusing castle to explore and easy difficulty makes it the most boring to play. It rips off locations and enemies from Symphony of the Night (arguably the best Castlevania of all time) but is somehow still crap.
M2’s also included the Japanese versions of all the games from the get-go, which is nice. The Castlevania Anniversary Collection shipped only with the English ROMS when it came out, with the Japanese versions patched in months later.
Also included is a Gallery with art from all the games in the series. Fans of the series will probably have seen these before. They’re just regular box art for the games, key art of the characters, some monsters and environments from four games as well as the some Japanese materials.
Some commentary from the designers would’ve nice, especially from Ayame Kojima whose artwork has come to symbolize Castlevania for me. Sadly, she only did the artwork for Aria of Sorrow so there’s very little of her work in the Gallery.
There’s also a Music Gallery where you can listen to all the tunes in the games. Good for some background music while you’re working or what, but nothing major.
Something equivalent to the Castlevania Anniversary Collection’s The History of Castlevania e-book would’ve been much appreciated too! There’s nothing like it in the Castlevania Advance Collection. In fact, that’s the main issue I have with the compilation.
When compared to the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, the contents seem lacking. There are only 4 games, some quality-of-life tweaks and music and art galleries. It’s true that the games here provide much more replay value, but the extras pale in comparison to the previous Castlevania compilation.
The Bottom Line:
The Castlevania Advance Collection comes highly recommended if you’re a Castlevania (or Metroidvania) fan.
The games in the compilation are all of decent quality or above and there’s a ton of gameplay to be had. There’s not much in terms extras to dig around with (which is really sad) but considering Konami’s reluctance to release new games nowadays, we’re lucky to have this collection in the first place!
The price might be a tad higher, but the hours of gameplay from the games more than offsets that.
Great collection if you’re a fan or curious about the games.
- Faithfully emulated games.
- Some great music.
- Aria of Sorrow is still incredible.
- Rewind feature.
- Lacking in extras.
- Harmony of Dissonance is utter crap.