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Review #327

Castlevania The Adventure: ReBirth
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 12/28/2009

Back on December 27th, 1989, a game was released for the Nintendo Game Boy called Castlevania: The Adventure. This 2-D platformer was not only the first Castlevania game for the black and white portable system, but was also considered one of the toughest Castlevania games ever made, even though it was only four stages long. Now, almost twenty years to the day later, Konami has remade the game and brought it to WiiWare in the same vein as Gradius ReBirth and Contra: ReBirth.

Now unlike those two aforementioned games, CVA: RB is actually quite different from the original Game Boy release. It’s six stages instead of four, and the gameplay is more user-friendly and there are several other changes that will make this game seem quite different from the original. With that in mind, it’s time to find out if ReBirth is worth a ten spot or not.

Let’s Review

1. Story/Modes

Much like the original game, there isn’t much plot with CVA:RB. You are Christopher Belmont. It’s 100 years after Simon’s Quest. Dracula is back. Go to his castle, kill a legion of monster and several bosses through six stages until you finally come face to face with Dracula himself in a knock-down drag-out three stage battle. As this is a WiiWare game and not a full fledged release, it’s no surprise that the game lacks much of a story and really, don’t most Castlevania games have roughly the same core plot points anyway? You do get a nice little ending though that looks like something you’d find in a classic Castlevania SNES game.

There are several levels of difficulty in the game, and once you beat it, you will also have the option of choosing between modern or “classic” gameplay. Classic gameplay makes the game a lot harder as it features the aspects of 80’s platformers that get a lot of grief, like some control issues and the inability to really control your jumps. There’s also the classic Castlevaniaissue of trying to go down stairs and instead falling to your death, so for most gamers, “Classic” is best left for people who want a handicap.

What’s here is lot of fun, and it was nice to see some extra stages put into the game (and two bosses in Stage One, which I didn’t see coming!), but as you might expect, there aren’t a lot of options here and nor is there story depth.

Story/Modes Rating: 5/10

2. Graphics

When you first start playing Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth, you’ll find yourself pretty impressed with the visuals. The game is designed to look and feel like a 16-bit era Castlevania rather than the modern action RPG’s they have become. However, as you take a closer look, you’ll find yourself quite impressed, especially with the level of detail in the backgrounds and the bosses. I was very impressed with the both the giant golem boss and the second and third stage of the Dracula boss battles. The second will seem familiar to Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night fans, while the third is cool looking, but rather bizarre and mood-killing.

Although the game is meant to look and feel like an older version of Castlevania, one thing that is missing is the occasional slowdown that could plague the 8 and 16 bit version. This is a good thing people as it means Christopher won’t be hit with slowdown right as you are jumping which causes him to collide with a Madusa Head, sending him backwards into a pit.

This is definitely one of the prettier looking games on WiiWare right now. Sure it’s not on the same level as a full fledged console release, but it’s not meant to be. It’s got a nice retro feel to the graphics and it works quite nicely with the game. Even though I’m used to the whole blah blah 1080i/p visuals these days, there were times when I honestly found myself preferring the classing 2-D visuals of this game.

Graphics Rating: 6.5/10

3. Sound

I have to admit, it was a bit odd to hear the occasional bit of voice acting in this game, considering the original had Game Boy MIDI quality music, but then I just had to remind myself that this game is a remake of Castlevania: The Adventure in NAME ONLY. There is almost next to nothing in common with the original game save for the name of your particular Belmont protagonist. Besides, Dracula’s voice actor did a great job with the few lines he had.

The best part about the original CV:A was the music, but sadly none of the original tracks have been updated or remixed as one would have expected. This is a bit disappointing, but only if you are quite familiar with the original cart. Instead, the game’s soundtrack is comprised of classic Castlevania tracks in both their original and/or remixed form, including “Vampire Killer” for stage six. At the very least, you’ll love the music in the game, even when you are getting your ass kicked.

Sound effects are equally great and between the soundtrack and the ambient noises, you just may find yourself thinking that you’d pay ten dollars just for the soundtrack. It’s basically a “best of” collection of Castlevania songs. Again, I’d have preferred to see remixes of the original game’s music, but the new soundtrack is so timeless, it’s a minor quibble that only I probably care about.

Sound Rating: 9/10

4. Control and Gameplay

For younger gamers, I feel the need to point out that this is a classic style Castlevania rather than the action RPGs that the series morphed into with Symphony of the Night. This means the game is a platformer where your character needs to make a lot of pixel precise jumps or you die. Now normally I hate platformers, but the old school Castlevania games have always been an exception. This is mainly because the jumping isn’t the core of the gameplay. ReBirth has made it even better as you can some (somewhat) control your jumps in mid-air as compared to the usual CV platformer. If you’re a long time reader, you can’t imagine how happy this makes me.

Now that’s not to say the game doesn’t have its issues. ReBirth has several control issues that are common in the CV platformers, such as trying to jump and whip at the same time so that you can hit a boss in its weak point, only to throw an axe or use the watch instead. There was also the occasional lag or time where Christopher wouldn’t do the actual commands I inputted into the joystick. Thankfully these instances were pretty rare save for the jump and whip issue, and even that was uncommon. The game is mostly a smooth and rewarding experience, free from the usual pratfalls that can easily mar a platformer.

One of the nice things about this game being a throwback to the early Castlevania’s are the controls. You use the D pad to move and you have one button for whipping and another for jumping. That’s it. Simple, old school easy controls that anyone can learn instantly. The game also provides different control modes so you can use just a Wiimote, a Wiimote and nunchuk combo, or the Classic Controller. I went with the wiimore only as my main form of playing since the game’s controls felt like they were made for an old 8-bit Nintendo game.

There are a couple new tricks that you’ll encounter along the way in CVA:RB. One of these is a temporary flaming whip upgrade where your whip can launch fireballs across the screen for a limited amount of time. Very nice. The other thing worth pointing out is that there are some secret paths you can discover in the game by collecting a key as your special item rather than a weapon. These paths are generally helpful, as they do things like lead you to a 1UP or special weapons, but is also means you’re left with only your whip to defend yourself until you find the right room for the key. Still, this is a nice change of pace and I liked this new twist on a classic format.

Overall, Castlevania The Adventure: ReBirth is a lot of fun and a joy to play through. Yes, there is the occasional control issue, but they only rarely rear their head and it doesn’t mar the experience at all. This was a solid game and it’ll be interesting to see if Konami applies the same formula to another Castlevania down the line, preferably II or III.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 7.5/10

5. Replayability

As fun as this game is, ReBirth is very much a “one and done” title. Or at least that’s how it seems at first. The game is fairly short. I suck at platformers, and I was able to beat the game after only two hours of play, and I only used two continues. Of course, much of that time was me exploring all the paths to see what’s hidden in the game with the keys.

What sets ReBirth apart from other very linear 2-D platformers are the hidden paths, the ability to try the game with different special weapons, the ability to unlock “classic” gameplay after you beat the game and most of all, the time limit.

You see, unlike most Castlevania games, there is a pretty strict time limit in ReBirth. You have to beat each stage in a certain amount of time, or it’s game over. Now this was part of some early 8-Bit Castlevanias, but those games gave you so much time that you would have had to have walked away from your controller for several minutes and forgotten to pause the game to risk a time limit issue. Here, you can skirt time related death regularly, especially if you are exploring or get trapped in a maze in stage three or four (I forget which one had it exactly, sorry). I did have one particularly cruel time related death where I killed a giant rock golem, only to have time run out a second or two later, killing me before the “stage clear” bit could come down. Arrgh! Still, the time limit can be as fun as it can be frustrating, and going back in an attempt to beat both your time and your high score are definitely reasons to come back to this downloadable Castlevania.

Sure there isn’t as much replay value as the action RPG CV’s or even branching path CV’s like Dracula’s Curse, but for ten dollars, you’re getting a solid game that you might come back to now and again simply because the game was a lot of fun in spite of its extreme linearity.

Replayability Rating: 5/10

6. Balance

Even though I suck at platformers, I was able to beat thing game after playing it for around a grand total of two hours. Now that’s pretty short, even for a modern platformer. Now I generally suck at this genre, so it could be that someone who is far better at these than myself could feasibly beat this game in about an hour after picking up the joystick for the first time.

Now this doesn’t mean that the game is necessarily easy. ReBirth features so pretty fiendish level designs and there were times I had to stop and look at all the wacky traps that Christopher could be slaughtered by. My favorite bits were these spears you have to jump on at just the right time so that you could jump to a higher platformer (or sometimes even another spear), but if you touched the actual blade part at all, you took some damage. This was a lot of fun and between traps like that and some things like dropping chandeliers on your enemies, I found myself really enjoying the layout of this game.

Oddly enough, the stages of ReBirth were a lot harder than the bosses. In fact, all of the bosses were downright easy compared to the stages. The only boss I died against was Dracula himself and that’s because I was only expecting s two-stage boss and not a three stage and so I got a little reckless at the end of stage two, thinking it would be over and it wouldn’t matter. See what being cocky gets you. All of the bosses had exceptionally easy and predictable patterns and I whizzed through them without any real challenge. Of course the boss fights also didn’t really have the platform jumping aspects either…

Of course, the game also has multiple difficulty settings, the ability to change gameplay to “classic” Castlevania play which is less responsive and more profanity inducing, and the ability to set how many lives you get per game. With all of these aspects, it’s quite simple to make the game as easy or as challenging as you want. Still, it’s one of the easier platformer Castlevanias, which might actually be a good thing, considering how long it has been since this format has been used.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

Although this is a quasi-remake of an old Game Boy title, it does bear pointing out once again that the only things this has in common with the original are the name of the game and the name of the protagonist. Even with that in mind, this is a fairly standard Castlevania game, with familiar bosses and a ton of clichés from monsters to special weapons that the series is both loved and ridiculed for having. There are a few new tricks, such as the flaming whip and the key to unlock new routes, and the stages themselves have some new fun little twists to them, but for the most part, as good as this game is, it’s a fairly paint by numbers Castlevania affair.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

I really enjoy most Castlevania games, so it’s no surprise that the first time I booted ReBirth up, I didn’t bother to take a break or put down the controller until Stage Six. Again, that’s only about two hours of playtime, but it’s also playing a game straight through without a break, which is not a move I would recommend to anyone, even with a game as short as this.

ReBirth is both nostalgic and innovative at the same. It manages to be visually attractive by modern gaming standards while also clinging to the graphic styles of the older Castlevania’s from the 80’s and 90’s. It’s a charming and well made game that was exceptionally hard to put down. It’s too bad it came out so late in 2009 that it couldn’t have been a potential “Platformer of the Year” nominee. It’s sharp, stylish, retro and a lot of fun. It was a hard game to put down, although now that I’ve beat it, I have no real need or desire to pick it up again.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

It’s a Castlevania game people. It’s the newest entry into one of the most popular and critically acclaimed gaming franchises in the history of the industry. Newer fans of the series and/or younger gamers might not appreciate the throwback to its platformer roots having grown up on the action RPG style. Even then though, there are enough familiar trappings that they’ll still have fun with the game from beginning to end.

Yes it’s short, but it’s also only ten dollars. I can’t think of any Castlevania fan that will be disappointed if they spend their money or Wii Points on this. It’s a high quality budget game that is sure to entertain a large cross section of gamers, no matter what their tastes are.

Appeal Factor: 8/10

10. Miscellaneous

It’s pretty telling that a ten dollar budget Castlevania game which you can download through WiiWare is better than a huge chunk of the full priced $50 or $60 releases that came out in 2009. It’s a little on the short side, but it’s a thrill ride from beginning to end. It has the occasional control issue (although it’s worse in “Classic” mode and it’s meant to be wacky like that), but it’s very rare and doesn’t detract from the overall experience. You have unlimited continues, so you’ll be able to beat the game if you just hunker down and try hard enough, but it’s still got a nice degree of difficulty to it.

Konami is now three for three with the ReBirth games. Gradius, Contra, and Castlevania have all gotten the treatment and they’ve all turned out to be exceptional games through and through. You can pick up all three for half the cost of a regular 360 or PS3 release and odds are you’ll get more play time out of this triad of WiiWare games, not to mention more fun. I would say Gradius is the best of the three, but I do prefer Castlevania the Adventure to Contra.

Castlevania the Adventure: ReBirth is a shining example of how to make a cheap but excellent game that nearly everyone can enjoy. If you’ve got the Wii Points to spend, there are very few WiiWare games I would recommend over this.

Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10

The Scores
Story and Modes: 5/10
Graphics: 6.5/10
Sound: 9/10
Control and Gameplay: 7.5/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 10/10
Total Score: 70
FINAL SCORE: 7.0 (GOOD GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Castlevania the Adventure: ReBirth is a short but excellent platformer that harkens back to the 8 and 16-bit eras of the franchise. The game manages to look stylish and retro at the same time and boasts a remixed soundtrack that is literally a “best of” collection of tracks from previous Castlevania games. The game’s stages are actually much harder than the bosses, and also the game is pretty littered with the same clichés since Simon Belmont first picked up a whip to do battle with the undead, there are enough variants to keep the game from feeling stale or boring. With only a ten dollar price tag, ReBirth is definitely a must have for any Castlevania fan out there, even though anal purists might take issue with the fact the game has little, if anything, to do with the original Game Boy cart bearing the same name. Still, it’s one of the best games on the WiiWare download system to date and is certainly worth the spare cash if you have it lying around.

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