The MoeGamer Awards are a series of “alternative” awards I’ve devised in collaboration with the community to celebrate the sorts of things that never get celebrated in end-of-year roundups! Find out more here — and feel free to leave a suggestion on that post if you have any good ideas!
In 2017, the Second Chance award related to a game that I initially bounced off, but later came back to and found myself having a great deal of fun with. This year, it’s something a little different.
In the last few years, we’ve seen huge growth in the fields of remasters, remakes and re-releases of classic games — attempts to give games from years gone by a second chance at success. Sometimes these are a welcome sight; at other times, they feel like a cynical cash-grab.
Did anything fall into the former category this year? Well, yes, as it happens…
And the winner is…
Castlevania Anniversary Collection
As part of Konami’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the company released three compilations of classic games — a bundle of arcade titles, a collection of Contra games and a celebration of Castlevania’s early years. All of them are well worth your time, but I was particularly enamoured with the Castlevania bundle.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection brings us a number of different games to enjoy: Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania: The Adventure, Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, Kid Dracula and Castlevania Bloodlines. In several instances, it also provides us with the Japanese Akumajou Dracula equivalents of these games; probably most notable in the case of Castlevania III, where the Japanese Famicom version played host to a custom sound chip to provide considerably enhanced music.
It’s absolutely fascinating to rediscover the Castlevania series from a modern perspective. Their deliberately weighty movement and methodical combat can be seen as a spiritual precursor to (and almost certainly inspiration for) the Souls series by From Software, and Simon’s Quest’s early attempts to establish the open-structure 2D sidescrolling platform formula are very interesting to experience for yourself; this was some seven years before Super Metroid did its thing and ten full years before Symphony of the Night popularised the concept for fans of the Castlevania series specifically.
What’s quite remarkable about the Castlevania series as a whole is how distinct all these early games feel from one another. The difference between the linear Castlevania and its immediate follow-up Simon’s Quest is obvious, of course, but even between the superficially similar Castlevania and third installment Dracula’s Curse there are notable changes. One of the latter’s playable characters allows you to control yourself in mid-air, for example; absolutely unheard of for the series prior to this point, as strange as that might sound today!
Personally speaking, and thoroughly in keeping with what I do here on MoeGamer, so far I’ve most enjoyed the opportunity to check out entries from the series that are commonly regarded, for one reason or another, as being “bad”, or at the very least not quite as good as the others.
Simon’s Quest is, of course, the most obvious example of this, what with it being so radically different to the rest of these early games. But I deliberately decided that I was going to play it all the way through and find some value in it — and I most certainly did. Yes, everything Simon’s Quest does other games have done better since — and the original Castlevania’s bosses were much better than the pathetic foes in its sequel, that much I will acknowledge — but it’s always quite a ride to see a developer trying something new and trying to make it work.
It’s also good to see the Game Boy titles get acknowledged; handheld games are often forgotten about when we consider gaming history, and the inclusion of both handheld Castlevania titles here makes it easier for people to experience them for themselves — and to make use of screenshots and video capture to provide commentary on and preservation of these games for the public record.
The collection provides plenty of conveniences for the modern gamer, too. The ability to save your game in lengthier adventures such as Simon’s Quest is very welcome, for example — plus this feature can also be used to practice particularly tricky parts of the more linear games before going for an unbroken, start-to-finish run. Or, you know, you can use it to brute-force your way through to the end… but where’s the fun in that?
It might have been nice to see a few additions to the mix — a port of the former WiiWare exclusive Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth would have been welcome, for example since the Wii version can no longer be purchased — but there’s no denying the value this collection offers, and the respectful treatment it gives to some all-time classic games of the 8- and 16-bit console eras.
While some may bemoan the lack of the later open-structure 2D installments in the series, Konami is supposedly planning a second volume of Castlevania for us to enjoy at some indefinite point in the future; at the time of writing, we’ve not heard anything about that, but I’m still holding out hope. It’d be great to have all these remaining titles collected together in one package, and based on the quality of this collection it’ll be a day-one purchase for me if and when it ever actually happens.
It’s easy to mock Konami for the way they, as a company, have been seen to behave over the course of the last few years. But the care and attention with which the Castlevania Anniversary Collection and its two companion compilations were assembled shows that there’s still part of the publisher that is proud of its history and keen to celebrate it. That, I feel, is something we should proabably be encouraging!
The MoeGamer Compendium, Volume 1 is now available! Grab a copy today for a beautiful physical edition of the Cover Game features originally published in 2016.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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