For years, it almost seemed like we’d never see the classic side of Konami again. The company became heavily invested in its pachinko business, and it was rather insulting that the other new Metal Gear and Silent Hill games we’d see from the company would be in that category, instead of full-on sequels. But it’s lightened up a bit and has begun revisiting some of the classics that have given it stature in the first place.
And that includes Castlevania. Last month, it made the surprising announcement that it was bringing back two of its old-school favorites for Requiem, a compilation that celebrates the legacy even if it didn’t include all the games from it. And I’m pleased to report that, for the most part, Konami has treated these two titles with dignity and respect. Now the real question is if we’ll see this trend continue, as I’d totally pay good money to see a Castlevania Requiem: Castlevania Bloodlines and Super Castlevania IV at some point.
The first noteworthy title in this collection is Rondo of Blood, or known to some on these shores as Dracula X. This isn’t the Super Nintendo version that was modified from the original, but rather the original itself that first debuted overseas on the TurboGrafx CD platform. And I’m all the happier for it, since this game wasn’t really given a chance on our shores initially. (It later showed up as a title on the Wii Virtual Console, and now here.)
The game features a young Belmont taking on Dracula’s forces, including the Grim Reaper, all sorts of ghoulish demons, and even a dragon at one point. He has his trusty whip by his side, along with other great weapons, including that ever-helpful boomerang, which can do damage both being initially thrown and coming back. (It’s practically iconic at this point.) It’s still as great as the original game was, even with very slight hitches with its emulation. It looks good for its age, at the very least.
The second game is probably the most noteworthy to some Castlevania fans, as it’s the legendary Symphony of the Night. Originally part of the PlayStation lineup in 1997, SOTN has become a huge chapter in the “Metroidvania” genre, which lets you explore in a side-scrolling environment, finding new surprises while taking on bosses.
But instead of a traditional Belmont (well, save for the opening sequence), you instead control Alucard, the son of Dracula. He’s fed up with his father’s antics (“I’ve come to put an end to this”) and utilizes his abilities to fight off evil forces. Konami did a grandeur job with this game’s translation, as it holds up moderately well.
Still, it’s not perfect. While the emulation has been awesomely handled by Konami’s crew, there is one noteworthy blemish that may make fans cringe. The classic dialogue from the original SOTN between Belmont and Dracula is nowhere to be found (including such gems as “Die, monster, you don’t belong in this world!”), instead replaced by the dialogue from the PSP version. It’s not bad, to say the least, but those expecting to shout out “WHAT IS A MAN?!” may be in for some slight disappointment.
Outside of small changes here and there, both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night play like charmers. There’s still something incredibly fun about roaming the halls through Symphony and finding secrets you remember from long ago. And Rondo is simply vintage Castlevania at its best, with an epic music score and old-school visuals to match.
The emulation is really well done here, with both games looking better than they ever have (even in 4K -- though some pixels obviously stand out) and beautiful soundtracks for each game, particularly SOTN. The gameplay is also quite responsive, and the addition of rumble just makes you feel that much more of the action.
nd the options are great here, too. You can change around wallpapers to however you see fit, or stretch the game image across the screen if you prefer to go that way. (You’ll see even more pixels tho, just a warning.) Plus, there are some good options to tinker with. At first, I didn’t think the games included Japanese dialogue as originally promised. But then someone pointed out where to find it (in the main menu, not the game menus), and it makes the game that much more authentic. The Japanese voice actor who gives Dracula some gusto in SOTN is so awesome to hear. (Even if he doesn’t say “What is a man?!”.)
Also: fun side note. That same Dracula voice actor can also be heard in the Castlevania Netflix series' second season. Excuse us while we go listen...
Castlevania Requiem also has some good value going for it, costing only $20. Considering that a complete copy of SOTN (the non-Platinum Hits version, mind you) goes for a pretty penny, and Rondo of Blood goes for much higher than that, it’s a suitable bargain. But this is one of those occurrences where I would’ve liked to have seen more games. Even The Dracula X Chronicles, which came out for the PSP years ago, came with a remixed version of Rondo. Why didn’t we get that here?
Hopefully, this is just the beginning of celebrating this franchise’s legacy. The website that the company put together alongside Requiem seems to suggest that, and I’d love to see more entries celebrating all things Castlevania. Hell, I’ll even take one that celebrates the Nintendo 64 games, just because they’re so enjoyable in a cheesy sort of way.
But Castlevania Requiem is still a smart move for Konami. It could’ve easily just sat on its franchise and given us nothing, and here it’s delivered two of the best games in the series in a very good manner. Everything may not be quite the way you remembered, but nostalgia still has a strong place here. Between very good emulation, strong gameplay and hours’ worth of enemy-smashing memories, you’ll find this Requiem to be one hell of a revisit.
Oh, and while we’re getting classics revisited, aren’t we due a Contra compilation? Red Falcon isn’t going to stop itself, you know.
WWG’s Score: 4 out of 5.
(Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.)