Wii Essentials: Castlevania: The Adventure – ReBirth

Well, friends, it’s finally happening: as of the time of writing, you can no longer add credit to your Wii Shop Channel account, meaning that if you don’t already have some on there, you can’t buy anything.

With this in mind, I loaded up on points the day before the payment processing facility was shut down for good and downloaded a number of Wii-exclusive digital-only games that, come 2019, will no longer be available to buy at all.

One of those games was Konami’s Castlevania: The Adventure – ReBirth, a remake of Game Boy title Castlevania: The Adventure. So, was it worth the last-minute scramble for 1,000 Wii Points?

For those less familiar with Castlevania’s somewhat complicated history, Castlevania: The Adventure originally came out in 1989, three years after the series’ debut, and was the first Castlevania game for Nintendo’s popular handheld. Narrative-wise, it’s set a century before the events of the original Castlevania and concerns a young man named Christopher Belmont who, you guessed it, has to whip his way through a monster-infested castle on his way to put that rather persistent Dracula back to sleep for a bit, at least until the next muscleman with a whip shows up.

At heart, the original Castlevania: The Adventure was a pretty straightforward game, rather than experimenting with more freeform, adventure-style gameplay as prior installment Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest did. Nope, this was a case of fighting your way through four stages, beating a boss at the end of each, with Dracula waiting for you at the end. The original Game Boy version even lacked the series’ now-iconic sub-weapon system, with collectible hearts restoring life rather than powering these items as seen elsewhere in the series. Which makes a lot more sense when you think about it, but this is always the way Castlevania has done things in its other installments.

Castlevania: The Adventure – ReBirth isn’t a straight remake of the Game Boy version. It’s got two more stages, for starters, and also brings back the sub-weapon and hearts systems in their traditional formats. In other words, this is very much a typical pre-Symphony of the Night Castlevania game in terms of mechanics, albeit with a few refinements to the formula here and there, and lacking elements such as the “floppy whip” from Super Castlevania IV and beyond.

Perhaps the most notable addition to the old-school Castlevania format is that you have some control over your direction in the air while jumping. There is an optional “Classic” mode you can unlock, which replaces the new-style jumping with the earlier games’ horribly unforgiving system, but in true series tradition, this game puts up a pretty stiff fight, particularly once you’re a couple of levels deep, so why would you want to make things even harder for yourself?

One particularly interesting aspect of this title when compared to the original game in the series is that the levels aren’t linear. In some situations, there are multiple routes you can take, with some of these requiring a key to unlock a door before you can take them. The twist is that the key sits in your subweapon slot, meaning you have to decide whether you want to go for a secret route (which potentially has bonuses or provides a shortcut) or be better equipped for an upcoming encounter. This is the sort of thing you’ll come to learn with repeated playthroughs, and the whole “multiple routes” aspect makes the game rather replayable anyway.

The old-school feel of the game carries across to how unforgiving it is of failure. This is a score-and-lives type game; when you die, you get set back to the last checkpoint you reached, and if you lose all your lives, you are able to continue, but your score will be reset to zero and you’ll have to start the stage you’re on again. Conversely, you can earn extra lives by passing particular thresholds with your score, so it actually serves a practical purpose.

Castlevania veterans will recognise a score of familiar enemies, settings and traps, with a few surprises here and there for good measure. And in true series tradition, the environment is enjoyably interactive, with plenty of torches to whip, statues to smash, wall meat to uncover and even chandeliers to knock down. That latter aspect is something to be careful with — bring one crashing down on your head and you’ll lose some health, though satisfyingly, you can also defeat enemies with the light fittings and lure them into traps, so swings and roundabouts, I guess.

The levels themselves are varied, running the gamut from enemy gauntlets to challenging platforming sections. Even with the more modern jumping mechanics, the handling is still deliberately rather sluggish so will take some getting used to for those new to the series, but this makes it satisfying when you’re able to pass a particularly difficult section or reach a secret that you thought was beyond your grasp. The game also does a great job of “teasing” areas you might be able to reach via the aforementioned alternative pathways by putting a big impassable wall between you and what looks like a glorious treasure trove. Incentive to try another route later!

The presentation of the game is lovely, with some excellent 2D art, the series’ iconic (and enormously satisfying) sound effects, and a fabulous soundtrack by Manabu Namiki which evokes strong feelings of nostalgia for the 16-bit era, particularly the FM synthesis of Sega’s Mega Drive. There’s a rather peculiar bug where if you play the game with your Wii or Wii U in 16:9 aspect ratio the graphics look rather blurry while at 4:3 they appear very sharp, but it’s a relatively minor issue; the visuals still look good even in their blurry form and you can always pretend you’re playing on an old low-res CRT just like in the Good Old Days. It would have perhaps been nice to see an option to turn this filter on and off (or a simple patch to fix the issue), though, particularly when other titles in Konami’s ReBirth series, such as Gradius ReBirthlook deliciously sharp.

All in all, Castlevania: The Adventure – ReBirth is a great addition to the Castlevania series and well worth playing if you’re yet to have the pleasure. Plus, given the impending doom of the Wii Shop Channel, it’s soon to become an honest to goodness “rarity”, since at the time of writing we’re already counting down the days to when it will no longer be possible to download this game. Doubtless the pirates of the world have already found a means to “preserve” the game beyond the Wii Shop Channel’s lifespan, but in the meantime, if you still have some credit on your account, there are far worse ways to spend 1,000 points and play the game on its original hardware.

More about Castlevania: The Adventure – ReBirth

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