Konami goes back to Castlevania's roots with Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth, as the series joins Gradius and Contra to get the Konami ReBirth treatment.
Once again, developer M2 takes a long, hard look at a classic Konami franchise and produces a retro-styled rehash. This time around the game is Castlevania: The Adventure, the 1989 Game Boy title that is almost universally reviled by Castlevania fans. Luckily for us, M2 took the character of Christopher Belmont, the upgradeable whip, and a few choice enemies from that title, discarding the rest and starting fresh... or at least pulling material from Castlevania games that weren't quite as hated.
Does Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth make up for the horrible Game Boy outing, or do the sins of its ancestor still live on?
Everything In Its Place: Based extremely loosely (thanks goodness) on the 1989 Game Boy title Castlevania: The Adventure, Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth contains all of the elements you'd expect from an early Castlevania title, without any of the fluff padding later games in the series. You've got a Belmont, a whip, hordes of horror-themed enemies, and boss fights, ultimately leading to a final showdown with Dracula himself. I did stumble across the odd branching path, but for the most part it's a return to the simple, no-nonsense formula that made Castlevania so popular back in the NES days, and while some may decry the lack of bells and whistles, I found the retro gameplay comforting.
Options: For such a small, relatively basic game, Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth has plenty of options, mainly geared at tweaking the difficulty so hardcore Castlevania fans and those coddled by more recent entries in the series will feel right at home. You get to choose between four different control types - Wii remote and nunchuck, classic controller, Gamecube controller, or Wii remote sideways - the latter being my control method of choice. The game has three difficulty settings, with an option unlocked after your first play for "Classic Mode", which takes away your ability to steer jumps, an ability you never truly appreciate until it is gone. I also like the option to stretch the screen to take advantage of today's wider television sets. All of these various settings make up for the fact that you can't save your game, though there are ways to get around that.
A Castlevania Hodge-Podge: ReBirth brings together elements from many different Castlevania titles into a quick and dirty fix for fans of the series, but at times the whole thing feels disjointed. It's as if developer M2 took bits and pieces from previous Castlevania titles and slapped them all together in a way that while definitely playable, doesn't quite feel like one single, solid experience. Certain enemies, like the giant eyeballs prevalent in the game's early stages, feel out of place in the game. Or the boss fights, some of which can be difficult, while others are simple duck and whip affairs, no more challenging than a particularly resilient cannon fodder creature. The feeling even extends to the game's soundtrack. Composed by Manabu Namiki, the music consists of remixes of previous Castlevania tunes, which while still quite good, often don't seem like a good fit for the action onscreen.
With the release of the third M2-developed entry in Konami's ReBirth series, I'm beginning to think that the "ReBirth" title is somewhat of a misnomer. As with Gradius ReBirth and Contra ReBirth, Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth isn't as much a new beginning for the franchise as it is a distillation of the core concepts and gameplay mechanics that make a game a Castlevania game. It's two hours or so of pure, old-school Castlevania, and that should be more than enough to remind old fans how far we've come while giving new players a crash course on vampire slaying the Belmont way.
Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth was developed by M2 and published by Konami on Nintendo's WiiWare service on December 28th. Retails for 1000 Wii Points ($US10). Played through the entire game on standard difficulty twice.
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