Wait, Castlevania needs to be reborn?
Unlike Gradius and Contra, the first two Konami franchises to get the ReBirth treatment, the Castlevania series has never gone away. It hasn’t even changed that much over the years. Konami’s kept that whip a-crackin’ on the DS with a steady flow of traditional two-dimensional Castlevania side-scrollers. They’re as much of a handheld staple as those animal touching games kids get when their parents are too cheap or lazy to take them to a real zoo.
That doesn’t mean Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth won’t satiate anybody’s appetite for empty nostalgia. ReBirth is a 16-bit style remake of a Castlevania GameBoy release from 1989. As such it’s the most traditional Castlevania game in years. The DS series looks and plays like the original Castlevania, but it owes more to 1997’s Symphony of the Night, an all-time great that stirred Metroid-style retraversal elements into the vampire-killing mix.
ReBirth eschews those extra layers in favor of old-school simplicity. These levels are strictly linear, with no rambling castle offering an illusion of open-ended exploration. Each stage ends with a battle with a different monster-themed boss, and then it’s immediately on to the next level. There are no experience points or stat upgrades. Power-ups are limited to a two-tiered whip upgrade and the standard Castlevania secondary weapons like battleaxes and stopwatches. It’s like 1986 all over again. If Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth was a sitcom, it’d be shot with four cameras and sport a laugh-track and Tony Danza in a starring role.
That’s why ReBirth feels fresh today, oddly enough. It’s so traditional it makes the 13-year-old Symphony of the Night and its progeny feel like punk upstarts. It’s for anybody who just wants to tackle the undead with a whip and a dagger, or who wants to kill giant eyeballs, Dracula, and Death itself without having to check a map or worry about the math of weapon and armor upgrades. It’s Castlevania for old-timers. It might be dry and musty, but ReBirth is an effective salve for anybody struggling to keep middle-age at bay.