Classic NES Series: Castlevania

Review by Jorge D. Fuentes

In 2004, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the NES, Nintendo released the Classic NES Series -- NES games only gently modified from their original versions and published on the Game Boy Advance (in Japan, the series was called the Famicom Mini Series in celebration, of course, of the Famicom). The first Castlevania was included in the releases as part of the second wave of games.

The thing was, for most games released in the Classic NES Series line, they had to have their graphics modified; the GBA has a smaller screen (pixels-per-inch) than a standard 4/3 TV screen. To compromise, most games lost two lines per pixel to compensate for the smaller vertical width, and they also generally lost a full tile off one side of the game -- or had to similarly rejigger the horizontal lines -- to compensate. The Classic NES Series: Castlevania isn't as poorly compromised as most games in the series, though -- when the original Castlevania was released, it had a row of black tiles on the bottom of the screen. In porting to the GBA, those tiles were removed, and the game only had to lose one line per tile; thus, everything looks more natural and less compressed.

Aside from the graphical modification, Classic NES Series: Castlevania is near-emulation perfect. Everything about the game is as you remember it from the original Castlevania -- for better and worse. Simon still controls like his old, ton-of-bricks self. He can't control his jumps, he can't jump on-and-off stairs, and there no special whip-trickery to be had. Of course, this is the original NES version of the game, not a "remix" so none of those improvements would be expected.

One concession to modern audiences, though, is the inclusion of a save feature. You can save anywhere (helpful for those times playing on the bus/train, and you have to quickly get off), and when you reload, you're back at the level where you stopped.

Fans of the classic music will be pleased, as well. Sometimes, games ported in the Classic NES Series suffered errors in the sound and music -- things just weren't quite right, and it was noticable. Classic NES Series: Castlevania has none of these issues; it sounds just as good as you remember. Once you're booted up and playing, it'll be just like you never left the '80s.

If there is a downside -- and I was disappointed to see this -- they removed most of the ending of the game. Instead of the wacky credits for all the monsters (Boris Karloffice, Green Stranger, Christopher Bee, et al), you just get a shot of the castle crumbling, "You have played the greatest role in this story. Thank you for playing." That's it. For all the work you spent playing through Castlevania, they took out the classically awesome ending.

Overall, it's definitely a super-fun game to play on the bus or train -- just as challenging as I remember. The lack of an ending is a big knock against it (the ending just feels so empty), but it's a great game to have on the GBA regardless.