Castlevania Anniversary Collection: Classicvanias Worth Checking Out?
I’m a proud owner of Limited Run Games' Castlevania Anniversary Collection Switch cartridge, but it’s been sitting on the shelf for almost two years before I was ready to take on the retro Classicvania collection. It wasn’t the unexpected import taxes that held me back, but the sheer difficulty of most of these games as I remembered them.
I wasn’t mistaken. Classicvania games seemed to have invented the word hard.
Contrary to the nowadays much more widespread and popular term “Metroidvania”, back in the day, these games were short, slow-paced, stage-based and mostly linear, and quite basic when you take a second look at the gameplay mechanics: you move forward, whip enemies, encounter a boss, whip some more, die, retry, die some more, and repeat. No stats or level-ups, no equipment bar from occasional sub-weapons, and no open-ended castle map to gradually get towards a
100% discovery rate.
The Anniversary Collection contains the following games:
- Castlevania (NES)
- Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)
- Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES)
- Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
- Castlevania: The Adventure (Game Boy)
- Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (Game Boy)
- Castlevania: Bloodlines (Mega Drive/Genesis)
- Kid Dracula (NES)
As probably is always the case when compiling an incomplete retro collection, Castlevania connoisseurs will have noticed odd inclusions and exclusions. For example, the first Game Boy game is one of the crappiest ‘Vanias ever to be released, better left untouched and not remembered, yet the third installment on the Game Boy platform is missing? Perhaps even more puzzling; one of the best 2D classicvanias is missing: Dracula X Chronicles. Why? Luckily, we finally have access to Bloodlines (loose cart price in 2023:
$73) and the first ever translation of Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun or Kid Dracula originally released on the NES (
$35). The GB cart of Belmont’s Revenge is also quite pricey nowadays, at
$78, so the collection is without a doubt a very good deal, even the premium physical edition.
Purists don’t need to worry about emulation quality: the top notch porting job has been done by M2, just like the Castlevania Advance Collection. The main menu is basic but thematic and functional, and extra’s include a short bonus book with box art galleries, developer interviews, research reports, and more. Even more impressive, all Japanese versions of the games are present as well, which contain subtle differences compared to the American releases. I presume there’s no difference between US and EUR ROMs.
While I enjoyed browsing through the box art, the pages load noticeably slow, and I sorely missed the instruction booklets. Why weren’t these scanned in? It felt a bit strange to me to put in all that effort but to omit the booklets. There’s a “MANUAL” item available in the options menu, but it simply explains the control scheme using Switch-specific jargon.
As these games are played through emulation, one save state for reach game is offered, and you can record your playthrough. The later released M2 Castlevania Advance collection does offer more save slots, which I also missed here to quickly jump back into certain stages. During play, you can switch between different borders/frames and display settings (original, pixel perfect,
4:3, or two scanline alternatives)
A Castlevania fan will no doubt enjoy this release, and hopefully Konami will get the message that not less but more is more, yet if I had to recommend either the GBA and the Anniversary collections, I wouldn’t need to think twice: pick the GBA Collection. Those games aged much better than their stiff Classicvania counterpart, the system built around it by M2 has more features, and perhaps most important of all: in 2023, replaying an early Metroidvania is a lot more fun than replaying one of the games of the Anniversary Collection.
Meanwhile, I’m still keeping my hopes up for another Collection that re-releases Symphony of the Night and Dracula X Chronicles. The Nintendo Wii remake of the Game Boy’s Castlevania: The Adventure would be a welcome addition as well. Or how about the PSP remake of Dracula X?
There’s still plenty of superb material left to work with, so fingers crossed! In the meantime, consider buying this just to peak your curiosity and to support M2/Konami. As a modern gamer that isn’t used to the harsh difficulty of eighties and nineties games, just don’t expect to get a lot of enjoyment out of it.