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Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (Wii) artwork

Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth (Wii) review

"Here you'll find Death with his sickles and blades whirling madly around him, possessing a visage rendered more menacing than ever before by redrawn artwork. Here you'll find the Colossus with a hulking frame that fills the entire screen and shakes the whole chamber around him, here the familiar vampire bat that you've been battling since the original Castlevania."

Castlevania ReBirth is a good game that definitively answers the age old question: why do all of the recent Castlevania games resemble Super Metroid? Play through this WiiWare release and you'll know soon enough.

Originally released on the Game Boy in 1989 as Castlevania Adventure, Konami's latest downloadable title is a treat for the long-time Castlevania fan. Here you'll find Death with his sickles and blades whirling madly around him, possessing a visage rendered more menacing than ever before by redrawn artwork. Here you'll find the Colossus with a hulking frame that fills the entire screen and shakes the whole chamber around him, here the familiar vampire bat that you've been battling since the original Castlevania.

Strip aside the fresh coat of paint and this is Castlevania as old school gamers remember it. There's no level-up system, no ever-present map with chambers that criss-cross one another and reveal new secrets once we acquire a sufficiently spiffy pair of boots. There's much to be said for the enjoyment that so-called "Metroid-vania" titles offer, but they're from a newer era. There was a time when Castlevania games were more about straight-forward progression, a harrowing boss encounter at the end of each area, a limited set of sub-weapons--ax, stopwatch, dagger, cross and holy water--and the constant realization that a power surge could wipe out your efforts in the blink of an eye.

Now you have the chance to return to that bygone age, if only briefly. As Christopher Belmont, you'll begin your adventure just outside of Dracula's fearsome castle. You'll creep through its grim courtyard, battle zombies that rise from the ground, leap out of the way as enormous eyeballs drop from portals that open in the sky above you. Defeat the first boss and an artifact will materialize from thin air, then fall at your feet. You'll return to the map for a quick glimpse at the progress you've made through the castle. Then you'll find yourself working through the catacombs, the chapel, the arena, the clock tower and finally making your way up the familiar stairs that lead to a climatic encounter with the Lord of Darkness.

There are times when the adventure is quite difficult, but seldom for the wrong reasons. Your clock tower ascension is made memorable by the flying Medusa heads and spikes that quickly decimate your life meter, just the way you remember such moments. Elsewhere, massive spears extend from the floor (leap up them to reach the high ground). You'll pass repeatedly through the same dangerous hallway if you don't grab the keys and open the right doors, wind up skewered if you don't step out of the way of crushing spike traps. Lose your last life and you can resume play from the start of the stage where you perished, but another chance won't do you much good if you haven't taken the time to form a dependable approach to each hazard that you'll need to face all over again. If you turn off your Wii and plan to come back later, you get to start fresh upon your return... from the very first stage.

For the newcomer who was raised on the forgiving likes of Symphony of the Night and the string of handheld releases that followed, the abrupt change of pace can be soul-crushing. Even for those who are returning after time spent away from hardcore games, it can seem like a bit much. 8-bit heroes have grown soft in this age of auto-saves and invincibility codes. Platforming and whipping skills are rusty, covered in figurative dust and cobwebs. Until now, those skills had often seemed unnecessary in digital Transylvania.

If you find yourself facing that dilemma, the "Options" menu will be your friend. You can head there and listen to some fantastic Castlevania tunes (there's a reason people used to praise this stuff so regularly), or you can adjust your stock of lives all the way up to 9. There's an "Easy" mode, as well, if you find that your adventure is ending too soon for your liking. Equipped with such boosts, you can surely make your way much further into Dracula's foreboding castle.

Then you do precisely that, and after you've been playing for only an hour and a half you suddenly find yourself standing at the foot of the steep, weather-worn staircase leading to your nemesis' chamber. That's when it hits you: Castlevania games play so much like Super Metroid these days because that's the best way to squeeze more time out of them. Even epic romps through dark castles like those we saw in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse and Super Castlevania IV couldn't provide the scope of Symphony of the Night and its meaty successors.

Perhaps someday we'll see a full-blown, action-packed revival in spite of that. Stranger things have happened. Konami could release a brand new adventure in the Castlevania world and it might include the spectacular pits that we remember from the good old days, the showdowns with Death where you have only a sliver of your life meter remaining and he's about to hit you with his sickle but you toss an ax and watch your spectral foe burst into flames. We may yet enjoy more of those adventures, just the way that we remember them from our youth. Until such a day arrives, though, we must be content to make our return trips to Transylvania along the same general paths that we followed in our youth. If sometimes they're a little prettier and available as a convenient download, well, we'll just have to tolerate those changes. Dracula will still be waiting in his tower for the chance to kick our butts. Some things never change...


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (January 14, 2010)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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zippdementia posted January 16, 2010:

Really good review. I give it an A+. Studying these revivals of old games can tell us so much about modern gaming design and how it is simultaneously better and worse than the old days.
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honestgamer posted January 16, 2010:

Thanks, Zipp. When I was writing it, I was writing my third review in a single day and it didn't seem like it was really coming together the way that I wanted. I'm glad that it still managed to impress you (and maybe make you stop to contemplate something). Reading it now, I... don't hate it. It does cover the points I wanted to cover, at any rate. :-D
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JANUS2 posted January 16, 2010:

Seems like you went for a more descriptive, elaborate writing style than usual. I enjoyed reading it and you selected some cool images (e.g. eyeballs dropping from portals). One point I don't agree with is the implication that SOTN is better because it's more. 8 and 16-bit Castlevanias were far more exciting than the Castlevanias that follow the SOTN formula. There were no lulls in the action -- just 8-10 levels of action that build in intensity and difficulty until the final confrontation with Dracula. I would say that an hour and a half is the perfect length for this type of gameplay.
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honestgamer posted January 16, 2010:

My intention wasn't to imply that SotN style is necessarily better for the franchise or in general. I perhaps could have fleshed that out a bit more, actually. My point was that the length that style permits is why the series is done that way now--because so many gamers seem to think that length is the primary indicator of quality--but that this game is a throwback to the short and intense days that helped to estabish the franchise. I don't want the review to turn too much into a history lesson, though, so I probably won't make any changes like that to the text itself.
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randxian posted January 17, 2010:

As stated previously, the writing is eloquent, succinct, and covers everything one would need to know about this game.

I'm not sure about the main thesis, however. It's a valid point, but I also feel like it detracts from the rest of the review to a certain extent. If you take out the whole bit about why modern Castlevanias follow the SOTN, your review still works.
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guts posted March 30, 2010:

Jesus dude, did you even play this game? It's easy as fuck and you'd have to be absolutely terrible at games in general to even describe it as mildly challenging. The graphics are completely half-assed and total shit (mixing awful rendered looking crap with pixel art is about as lazy as it gets), and the game doesn't even support wide screen. The bosses are all lame and boring, the music sucks (the SNES and Genesis Castlevanias kick the shit out of it aurally as well as graphically), and even the level design is bland as fuck with not a single memorable set-piece or one-off like the old Castlevanias were full of.

Don't be a tool and give these lazy, garbage updates good scores. Anybody here who grew up with SNES and Genesis can tell you this game would have been laughed off the shelves if Konami had tried to pass it off as a Castlevania game back in the day.
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zippdementia posted March 30, 2010:

I can't tell you how happy I am to see someone complaining about a review here who doesn't use the Cheetos as their avatar.
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randxian posted April 01, 2010:

Also, this person has actually submitted a few reviews instead of making roughly twenty posts that average about five paragraphs about how he/she/it is not a fanboy while spouting a bunch of useless dribble and nonsense that seems to indicate he/she/it is a fanboy.
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zigfried posted April 01, 2010:

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randxian posted April 01, 2010:

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sashanan posted April 02, 2010:

Don't be a tool and give these lazy, garbage updates good scores. Anybody here who grew up with SNES and Genesis can tell you this game would have been laughed off the shelves if Konami had tried to pass it off as a Castlevania game back in the day.

Can't judge ReBirth, not having played it, but Super Castlevania IV was a lot more bearable than what came before it (and the admittedly tough as nails followup). Infinite continues played a big part in this though, especially for the final stages.

The Genesis game's difficulty rides a lot on the version, I suppose - I always thought it was relatively easy when I played European version The Next Generation on a Megadrive, but then I tried US version Bloodlines and I was seriously beaten to a bloody pulp. The fact that it runs just a tad faster (50 Hz vs 60 I guess?) is only the start of the nightmare.

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