a retrospective with Real Bite

At one point in Konami’s Castlevania series history, there was a magical moment when the company pushed the series in intriguing directions, both mechanically and narratively, to create a magical trio of related games that only existed on Game Boy Advance. So far when everyone can bite into it and enjoy what could very well be some of the best games the entire series has seen. It’s been a while since the golden age of the GBA has passed, so it’s easy to forget about these small screen adventures. Konami followed up on the DS with some big adventures that added quite a few touchscreen gadgets, but like most of their great classics, the series has kind of faded away since. The Castlevania Advance collection is a fantastic reminder of why we have a whole “Metroidvania” genre and why “Vania” is in the name to begin with.

Castlevania Advance Collection Review: A Retrospective with Real Bite

On the surface, this is exactly what we expect from all Castlevania side-scrollers. As always, the games are mostly set in Dracula’s huge maze-shaped castle, where paths are only unlocked by learning new skills and defeating bosses. There are whips, swords, throwing axes, bones, whole roasted chickens, demanding jumps, deadly traps, and monsters that reappear every time you enter the room (no matter how many times you get them. kill). It’s Castlevania, roughly speaking, but with twists and turns taken from the beloved Castlevania Symphony of the Night. This means the inclusion of important RPG-like character development mechanics: an inventory system, upgrades to armor, items and weapons, actual character stats and leveling, as well as other keys that refresh the whole series. Each addition has slight differences in its role-playing gadgets that make it feel and act a little different from the other two. Playing them all together, however, makes it very obvious that this is one series as they all feel, look alike, and act the right way. Castlevania Circle of the Moon is the first offering. He adds a collectible card element, in which players combine action and attribute cards leading to different upgrades for his vampire hunter, Nathan Graves. This dual card system can be used to unleash all manner of infernos against the Army of the Night, including flaming whips and freezing storms. Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance adds more impressive tweaks like the boss rush and spell fusion system that focuses on players combining spell books they find with their secondary weapons. He also brings back the Belmonts. In this case, Juste Belmont, the grandson of Simon. Finally, Castlevania Aria of Sorrow introduces a new character, Soma Cruz, who has the ability to absorb the souls of slain monsters and acquire their abilities. With over 100 potential new cheats, there is an impressive amount of character customization that allows Soma to attack in a variety of styles. From throwing bones and lifting butcher knives to sonic weapons, spears and more, there is plenty to play with. Playing all three on the Switch in a portable fashion is definitely the best way to experience them. There aren’t many visual improvements and seeing the old GBA graphics on a giant 4KTV doesn’t do them a favor. On Switch’s smaller screen, everything looks better, making it easier to appreciate the visual wonders of those games at the time. There is a huge range of well-defined monsters, large bosses, and plenty of flame, wind, water and other effects. The soundtracks are also excellent, with familiar effects and sheet music. It’s also worth noting how good the games are always. While an option to reconfigure the controls would have been preferable so that the secondary weapons have their own button, the games work well otherwise. The new enhancements are the ability to save at any time and rewind, which is a nice feature in retro games. I didn’t mention the fourth game, Dracula X. Released in 1995 on Super Nintendo, it’s the weakest game here. The graphics are strangely slow, the controls feel rather archaic, and the game is widely known to be the toughest in the series. It’s definitely an old-fashioned Castlevania, so it’s worth checking out for the finalists, but not the star of the collection.

Castlevania Advance Collection Review – The Result

Advantages

All three GBA games are fantastic, even still Hours of action killing monsters among four games Very good use of RPG and weapon customization elements make these games distinct

The inconvenients

Dracula X is quite weak These Game Boy graphics don’t look too good on a big screen TV More control customization options would have been welcome Direct ports of older games can be hard to sell, especially from the Game Boy Advance. What’s impressive is how much fun these games remain, despite the very old graphics. It’s a shame Konami hasn’t modernized the series, but there are hours of great gameplay in this pack to make it worth it. I was surprised how hard these classic Castlevania adventures hold up, but it makes me sad because Konami doesn’t seem to be making new ones or even just modernizing old games.
[Note: Konami provided the copy of the Castlevania Advance Collection used for this review.]

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