We've already seen Konami resurrect two of their most popular gaming franchises with WiiWare’s Gradius and Contra ReBirth, so it comes as no real surprise to see them giving the same treatment to yet another much-loved classic series: Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth. Despite its title, this actually has very little in common with the original Game Boy release. Other than a couple of gameplay touches here and there, such as the flaming whip upgrade, you wouldn't know that this game even had anything to do with it. Instead ReBirth chooses a hodge-podge of classic 8- and 16-bit Castlevania ideas to form an all-new experience. So how exactly does this title stack up against past Castlevania classics?
The Adventure ReBirth takes many of the key elements from earlier entries and tosses in a few new tweaks here and there. The game allows you to select between Normal and Classic modes that affect the way your character handles in mid-air. Normal mode allows you to maneuver your character while he's airborne, whereas Classic mode allows for no control once off the ground. It's more a matter of personal preference than anything, although Normal does make the game a bit more playable and the control a bit more precise. Of course it wouldn't be a Castlevania game without the whip and special weapons, two elements that are firmly intact here. Take the whip, for example: when upgraded completely, it’ll shoot fireballs off the tip.
ReBirth follows a more traditional approach to level design than the post-Symphony of the Night “Metroidvania” style: traverse levels with optional paths, slay some baddies, find keys and kill a really big baddie at the end. To go down the optional paths, you'll need special keys that demand you drop your special weapon to carry them, which can be a tricky trade-off at times, especially in some of the game's later, more difficult levels. That being said, these optional paths generally feature some very nice goodies if you're willing to take the time to gain access to them and hardcore fans will relish the challenge of locating them all.
There are three levels of difficulty and quite a few controller options too: the Wii Remote on its side, the Classic Controller, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, or even a GameCube controller. Buttons can be remapped as you see fit, and this wide variety of input options is a very nice addition to the game and make the controls even more impressive.
This latest Castlevania installment isn't going to set new standards of originality, but what it does do is take many of the best elements from the classic releases and bundles them together in yet another solid Castlevania experience. Six lengthy levels, unique and challenging boss fights, and added variety with the optional pathways all come together to form a platforming adventure that's as much varied as it is enjoyable. Once again Konami have captured the magic of the Castlevania series and managed to cram it all into one of the more polished WiiWare releases to date.
The visuals tend to remain on a level at or just above that of the 16-bit releases. The color palette seems to be a bit wider, allowing for a more varied level of detail, but for the most part the game looks like it fits into a Super Nintendo. There are quite a few layers of parallax scrolling as well, adding a nice level of depth to the stages. You'll see everything from outdoor scenes to underground caverns, many of which take inspiration from levels seen in earlier entries. There's never a lack of variety in the many areas, and there’s plenty to see throughout its multiple pathways. Character animation is solid, and there are some absolutely enormous bosses that show a lot of visual flair in their level of detail and movements. Things can become a little blocky at times, but this is consistent with the 16-bit theme rather than a deficiency in the visual presentation.
If there's one aspect of this Castlevania reimagining that absolutely reeks of nostalgic value, it's the game's score. Every track in the game is basically a remixed version of a classic tune from the series’ past 8- and 16-bit games. Even the famous Vampire Killer track can be heard on the last stage of the game that should make long-time fans grin from ear to ear. It's also worth mentioning that these remixes are all extremely well done and even in their compressed form sound absolutely phenomenal, especially if you're lucky enough to own a nice sound system. Even the sound effects are all perfectly executed, many of them taken directly from previous Castlevanias for even more nostalgia. Konami have always put a great amount of time and care into creating the soundtracks for their Castlevania titles over the years and this WiiWare release is no exception.
There's certainly no denying that fans of classic Castlevania will find a lot to love about this new ReBirth release. Not only is it chock-full of classic moments, but the remixed soundtrack channeling the best of the series will quickly catch the ear of anyone who's spent time with the Belmonts. Sure, the game is a bit predictable at times and there aren't as many modern Castlevania conveniences as some might hope for, but at its core, this is yet another extremely playable and enjoyable 2D Castlevania experience. And when it comes right down to it, there could never be too much of that for diehard fans of the series, new or old. Priced reasonably at 1000 Nintendo Points, you're getting a lot of vampire-killing bang for your buck.