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Mini-Review: Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth

CastlevaniaThis article was originally published at on January 4, 2010.  For more on Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth, be sure to check out the additional video commentary.

First released in 1989 for the original Game Boy, Konami's Castlevania: The Adventure had more problems than pluses. Protagonist Christopher Belmont lurched forward at Frankenstein-like speeds, the trusty Vampire Killer whip powered down with each injury, and the game's four levels were designed with pixel-perfect jumps in mind in a game engine that could not support it. Looking to improve upon this frustrating entry in the Castlevania series, franchise maven Koji Igarashi and his development team have come up with Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth for Nintendo's WiiWare library in which the original game is pumped up with improvements and elements taken from a handful of other Castlevania games. The result is a surprisingly faithful traditional Castlevania adventure in the style of the original side-scrolling action platformer titles. Dracula has risen once again, so it's up to Belmont to enter Castlevania's six stages and slay the beasts. It's a well-traveled road, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

The original Adventure has been drastically improved and expanded upon, resulting in a satisfying vampire slaying experience. While at first glance the game appears to be a simple action title with few surprises, ReBirth actually includes a number of branching paths locked behind steel doors. Experienced players can play through several times and take different paths that contain different challenges, some of which are only found on these side trips. An extensive options mode allows for additional tweaks, such as turning the level of difficulty to Easy Mode and granting nine lives at the start of the game to the conventional Normal setting all the way up to the unforgiving Hard Mode. There's even an unlockable option to turn Christopher into his creaky, hard-to-steer self if you really want to recreate the old Adventure experience. While the game defaults to 4:3 full screen mode, it's possible to let out the sides for widescreen displays. It even offers support for the Classic Controller and GameCube Controller. ReBirth offers gameplay for everyone of any skill, and while I don't anticipate the casual crowd rushing to this title, it's nice to see that the game really is suited for anyone and everyone.

Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirthAs rare as it is to see an original 2D Castlevania game on a home console, ReBirth is a blessing. It's packed with traditional sprite animation that is downright gorgeous on the big screen compared to the more recent console entries in the franchise (I'll gladly take ReBirth's visuals compared to the 3D mess that was Castlevania Judgment). Long-time Castlevania fans will have fun playing "spot the reference" as they make their way through Dracula's castle. While a fair chunk of the game is taken or adapted from the original The Adventure, most of the material is outright new or recycled from little-seen titles. You won't find series musical stalwarts "Bloody Tears" or "Beginning" here, but you will find a short "Vampire Killer" musical sting to open each stage (most recently seen in Castlevania Chronicles for the original Sony PlayStation) and a full rearrangement of the classic song late in the game. Other Castlevania titles that served as inspiration include Bloodlines, Belmont's Revenge, Dracula's Curse, and the Haunted Castle arcade game.

Once you are familiar with ReBirth's tricks and challenges, it's possible to blast through the game in less than an hour, and while it does contain six stages, that sixth stage consists of just the final battle against Dracula. There are still plenty of pixel-perfect jumps that are difficult or frustrating to pull off, and while the original game did not include save abilities or a password system, the lack of either is sorely felt here. I like Stage 1, but I don't necessarily want to play it every time I want to play Stage 2. Beyond that, there's little worth complaining about. This is a classic Castlevania title, and it does what is says on its non-existent box.

Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth is loaded with traditional old style pre-Symphony of the Night gameplay and elements, and while it's not the best that the series has to offer, it's certainly worth the time and ten dollar entry fee if you're a fan of the original action format in which the series began.