By Dean Moses
Game: Castlevania Anniversary Collection
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC Rating: T for Teen
Here at the Spring Creek Sun we have reviewed plenty of ports—older titles remastered for a new genera-tion of consoles—time and time again. In fact, it seems as though every other release is a remake of some kind. Is this a bad thing? Is it a sign that developers have lost creativity or is a desire to preserve gaming history for future generations in a high definition format? This, of course, depends entirely on the individuals involved in the development. The reason I bring this up is because in this issue we are again reviewing a port, but it is not a single game, it is, instead, almost an entire franchise in one collection: Castlevania Anniversary. However, the question remains, has it been resurrected with good intentions?
King of the Castle
Castlevaina is a gothic horror, side-scrolling series following a lineage of vampire hunters. In most outings the small cast of main characters explore—you guessed it—castles filled to the brim with ghosts, ghouls, bats, skeletons, and all manner of supernatural nasties until they come across the king of the castle Dracula himself. This collection boasts eight games from the franchise, so while the narrative differs somewhat, the basic premise remains virtually the same. The great thing about these titles is the eerie sense of wonder they evoke as you explore Dracula’s evil palace despite that the earliest game in this pack dates back to 1988. These games are old, there is no doubt about that. Even so, the visage of embarking on a Bram Stoker-esque quest to vanquish malevolent forces cloaked in shadows and sin still hold up remarkably well in 2019, although to get the full narrative experience may require a modicum of imagination on the players’ part.
Simple but Not Easy
Gameplay here is one of the oldest in video game history: the side-scrolling platformer. Control-ling your vampire hunter is surprisingly easy, mostly due to the fact that when most of these games were released the controller themselves had very few buttons. Aside from moving, we have a button to jump and attack, with that being pretty much it—yet this doesn’t mean the games are easy. In order to survive the unholy swarms sent your way you will need to brandish a whip in a way that would make Indiana Jones blush, for these older titles’ the difficulty levels were also extremely unforgiving. Thankfully this collection affords us the ability to save or progress—an unthinkable concept in the 80’s and early 90’s—allowing us to transport ourselves to safer time when things get a little too tough.
Bits of Beauty
When the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Sega Master System ruled the day, children of this era didn’t categorize the graphics in terms of pixels or ram power. No, instead we know it as bits. The NES was an 8-bit system while its successor the Super Nintendo boasted a whopping 16-bits. Nowadays this 2D style has become a form of art in the video game world with games like Shovel Knight employing its classic nature. For fans of these more recent adventures, playing can feel just as fresh they did when they were first released all those years ago. The colorful backdrops and charmingly animated enemies still look beautiful in their own right.
This celebration of gaming history includes: Castlevania, Castlevania II Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III Dracula’s Curse, Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania The Adventure, Castlevania II Belmont’s Revenge, Castlevania Bloodlines, Kid Dracula (never released in English before), and a digital book exploring all these games called History of Castlevania – Book of the Crescent Moon. Despite all its glory it is lacking some of the franchise’s greatest entries such as Sympathy of the Night and Rondo of Blood. Still, for $20 this is a stunning glorification of what made Konami famous.