Castlevania Anniversary Collection Review: A Beautiful Taste of Retro Goodness

After years of delineations, branching pathways, and dual eras of contrasting success, Castlevania Anniversary Collection on the Nintendo Switch is a brilliant volume that chronicles the trials of the Belmont clan all the way to the little known side quest of Kid Dracula. For anyone looking for a straight story arc of the original trilogy on the NES, then this is the perfect collection for any fanboy. Although there are some shortcomings in this collection, Adventure being the standout disappoint with this digital download, everything else about this collection is a perfect welcoming to those seeking a gothic journey through Eastern European lore.

With save states, no input lag, and a plethora of differentiating graphical styles, Castlevania Anniversary Collection is the benchmark for lovers of classic gaming. From the save states to the remastered audio, nothing is lacking in this set of vintage beauty. Spanning the Castlevania universe from the 8 bit to the 16-bit era, nothing is left out from this twenty dollar package. The borders add a sense of depth to the visual style, as with the handheld entries having different shades of tint that add variety to this collection. The emulation could not be better with this assortment of differentiating Castlevania entries and Konami holds nothing back with this first volume. The Belmonts have never shined so bright in this whip-wielding epic adventure.   Even without a physical release, Castlevania Anniversary Collection houses eight classic titles that better any retro gaming fans library.

Not Enough Variety, But Not a Real Problem

With any voluminous body of work, it is the diversity and breadth of scope that proves to be its worth in the eyes of the consumer. This is where this bundle shines brightly in the face of other underwhelming vintage collections. Right from the start, players can trace the lineage of the Belmont clan from the very first entry on the NES to the masterful fourth sequel on the SNES. After investing hours into this nostalgic set, it felt like a disservice not to revisit Konami’s once meteoric franchise. Not a single frame of animation nor 8-bit audio track felt lagged or out of place on the Nintendo Switch. It is truly a shame when one thinks of how almost every modern franchise had its start on a Nintendo console. With Konami fading into distant memories with its constant missteps in the Metal Gear series, it is a breath of fresh air for players to witness a place in time when Castlevania dominated the video game medium. Symphony of the Night is abundantly absent in this volume, but that fact does little to take away from the scope of this set.

If anything, this current collection feels more like an homage to side-scrolling Castlevania entries than a mismatch of highlighted sequels that do little to expose new gamers to the majesty of this once highly praised franchise. The differentiating consoles this collection touches upon, from the NES to the Sega Genesis, symbolizes the hold this gothic series had on the early gaming industry. Although some titles may be questionable, such as the two Gameboy entries in the series, this collection is still a must own for anyone seeking a taste of what made the early pioneers of the industry such legends.

A Horrible Night To Have A Curse, But A Great Day To Play Through This Compilation

Not only are the choice of games perfectly selected but also the way in which they play on the Switch pan out perfectly in this collection. The in-game menu system lets you choose between a variety of visual displays, borders, and graphical tints which come in handy on the handheld Adventure titles. Seeing a pixel perfect display screen on the Nintendo Switch brings back older gamers to the 1980s with an infection of nostalgia that pervades the entirety of this collection. Every facet of this volume runs as it should, with no lag, no out of place textures, and soundtrack that has been updated for the modern era.

The inclusion of the never released Kid Dracula, adds a sense of value to this digital collection, as many North American audience never got a chance to witness this animated side story to the Castlevania mythos. By far, Bloodlines is the crowning achievement of this set, with the water effects during certain segments looking epic on the Switch’s handheld hybrid. There is not a single regret about this purchase, and as a compilation, it is the pinnacle of vintage gaming. Having continuous save states embedded in the gameplay of this compilation is the only element that makes this set feel modern. The digital art book and storybook about the creation of the Castlevania franchise also provide players with a modern context when romping through 8 and 16-bit level designs. One easily finds these digital texts helpful when placing the story of the Belmont clan in the context of the overarching Dracula universe. M-2 did an exceptional job with the emulation and the replication of the original gameplay is a brilliant callback to the original NES trilogy.

The Verdict

In the end, Castlevania Anniversary Collection on the Switch is an amalgamation of everything that made this franchise appealing back in the ’80s. Everything looks sharper, from the visual aesthetic to the 8 bit sound design, the tone of this compilation does not miss a beat. The Switch is the right system to download this Konami masterpiece simply because the Nintendo is where the Belmonts birthed their own epic origins. Granted the inclusion of the two Gameboy entries are subpar and out of context, everything else is definitely worth downloading. As a simple tale of good versus evil, Castlevania Anniversary Collection provides fanboys and newcomers alike with a masterclass in exposition. The inclusion of a digital artbook and story arc text bring a sense of framework to a series that has had so many branching paths that have fractured its own origins. But this is. expected, considering the many consoles these games have appeared on over the decades.

From the NES to the PS3, Castlevania has found its vampire killing hunters span several decades in the video game medium. But this compilation brings it all back home, never missing a beat in the expansive Belmont mythos. Dracula’s macabre shines brilliant across the land of Transylvania and the home console market in this collection and this romp through a medieval landscape is more of a joy than vacant or superficial nostalgia. A masterwork truly that further enhances the brilliance of this once masterful franchise. 

About Anthony Frisina 83 Articles
Anthony Frisina is a graduate of the City University of New York-Brooklyn College with a BA in Political Science with a minor in Psychology. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Anthony went on to attend Brooklyn College's Film Academy and Writer's workshop program, achieving an interdisciplinary degree in Screenwriting and Film theory in the Fine Arts. Transforming his love for classic American cinema, Anthony went on to adapt a number of his own works into different mediums, including his well-received Western novel The Regulator. Anthony likes to spend his free time writing articles for magazines and periodicals that cover a wide range of topics, from science fiction to popular culture. As a screenwriter, Anthony has had his screenplays featured at numerous spec script writing competitions across the country where he one day hopes to write the next great American film.

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