Thursday, July 04, 2019

"Castlevania Anniversary Collection" Review

Before Metroidvania was a thing, there were just the Metroid and Castlevania series. If you play the old "Castlevania" games, you see the pieces slowly fall into place, as the series evolved from a grim platformer to an exploration-based pseudo-RPG with upgrades, branching paths and rich storylines.

To play those old games these days, it took the patience and bravery of a Belmont to go hunting for antique cartridges and consoles. Now it's gotten a whole lot easier -- and cheaper.

Part of the ongoing series of releases that pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Konami, "Castlevania Anniversary Collection" rounds up the old-school console and handheld releases on which the series' legacy was built.

Though some may gripe that the PlayStation-era games aren't included, what's here is more than enough to satisfy those who grew up in the 1980s and 90s and happily spent their childhood struggling to inch their way through the notoriously difficult whip-wielding adventures.

You get eight games in the collection, including the NES trilogy, the groundbreaking "Super Castlevania IV" from SNES, two GameBoy spinoffs and the never-before-released-in-English "Kid Dracula."

As an added bonus, there's also the illustrated e-book "History of Castlevania: Book of the Crescent Moon."

Each of the games is a pixel-perfect replication of the original, complete with occasional scan lines and a 4:3 aspect ratio. A nostalgic blast from the glorious past, the games are every bit as challenging, intimidating and inviograting as they were upon release.

Modern gamers may be shocked to find just how unforgiving and cruel the first "Castlevania" games were. Even those who don't blink at the likes of "Dark Souls" games will find their going tough. Trial-and-error, studiously practiced reactions and uncanny strategic adjustments are required to avoid swift death.

In many ways, of course, it's good that game design moved well past the old "Castlevania" models. While it may be easier and more satisfying to live in the era of autosaves, checkpoints and tutorials, it's a thrill to travel back to an era before such compromises existed and it was just a grudge match between you and a pixelated Drac.

Publisher provided review code.

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