Castlevania Advance Collection
Developed by M2
Published by Konami
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny: Dracula Season is back, baby!

Just in time for Halloween, M2 has released a new collection of Castlevania titles from the Gameboy Advance, and these 32-bit classics have never looked or played better.
The collection includes Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow, all of which were originally released on the GBA, Super Nintendo’s Dracula X, and a nice horde of extras. Players can choose from the North American, Japanese, and European releases of each game, along with an art gallery, manuals, music players, and encyclopedias. Each game also includes a ‘gadget,’ a special tool added to help manage collectables that can be turned on or off.
The three GBA Castlevanias were all side-scrolling exploratory RPGs in the style of PS1’s Symphony of the Night. While not as beloved as that cult hit, the three games are each a gem, and being able to play them on major consoles or PC in one package is a nice bonus.
Circle of the Moon was a GBA launch title, and while it was impressive, the dark, intricate sprites were hard to see on the unlit screen, and progression relied on random item drops for the game’s card-based magic system. This is the game that benefits the most from this collection. The visuals look great on the Switch handheld screen, and the encyclopedia and added gadget make collecting card and health drops a much less frustrating process. While it’s no longer considered canon in the Castlevania series, CotM is still one of my favorites, and I’m glad it’s included here.
2002’s Harmony of Dissonance is a much more straightforward follow up to Symphony of the Night featuring a castle more reminiscent of the PS1 game, and a nimble, Alucard-like protagonist in Juste Belmont. This game had its visuals tuned for the darker, smaller screen, and the very complicated, labyrinthine double castle is trickier to navigate, but this was still a delight to return to, even if this is the game that gets the least out of the included extras and form factor.
Aria of Sorrow, the last GBA Castlevania game, is probably the star of the show here. Released later in the GBA’s life, Iga and his team at Konami created an incredibly atmospheric castle that doesn’t feel too big or too cramped, while delivering the most interesting story in the series by setting it in the far-off future date of 2035. Soma is a joy to play as, and his ability to collect and absorb the souls and abilities of enemies gives the game a lot of replay value. There’s just so much variety in what he can do that I really went digging to find all the souls I could.
Also included is Castlevania: Dracula X, a Super Nintendo not-quite-port of the Turbo Graphic CD game Rondo of Blood. Infamous for its extreme difficulty and removing most of Rondo’s innovations, cutscenes, and voice work, it’s technically a part of the collection, but mostly exists as an afterthought here. But it is included for completionists who want to butt their heads against quite possibly the most difficult final boos fight in the whole series.
Castlevania Advance Collection brings together three hand-held classics that hold up today. These were some of my favorite games on the GBA, and I’m thrilled to be able to still bring them with me on the Switch twenty years later. If you never tried these sprawling adventures back in the day, or if you’re just in the mood for something thematically appropriate but not too intense this Halloween, pick up for PC through Steam, or your modern console of choice.

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