Most Castlevania games were localized. The series has had a dedicated fanbase over the years, which has helped make sure these classics didn’t remain trapped in Japan. But one game was left behind all of these years ago: Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-kun. The Famicom game remained trapped for years, even though the Game Boy adaptation did make it to both Japan and North America in 1993. But now, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection has given people a rare opportunity. People worldwide have a chance to experience Kid Dracula’s journey to reclaim what is rightfully his. They have an opportunity to see the original Kid Dracula and how special it is on multiple platforms.
Kid Dracula deviates from the standard Castlevania formula by taking people on a journey as a more heroic version of the monster we’re usually trying to kill. While he is supposed the demon king, another demon named Galamoth usurped his throne while Kid Dracula was taking a long nap. (Yes, it is very Disgaea-esque.) All of Kid Dracula’s friends, like Frankenpunk, Vulture, Chicken, and Spiderman, have decided to swap sides and support the new monarch. While this sleep left Kid Dracula a little groggy and forgetful, he is the rightful ruler. It then falls to the player to help the kid through multiple levels set around Dracula’s castle and defeat the creatures who supported Galamoth’s coop.
Kid Dracula can feel like an odd man out in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. It’s at the bottom of the list. It’s a spin-off. The events in there aren’t considered canon, even though Galamoth does appear in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Also, it is way more adorable than it is menacing or haunting in any way. But, all of that is what makes it such an important piece of Castlevania history. It uses all of these characters and scenarios and isn’t afraid to go ahead and be silly with them.
It is that unconventional nature that helps make Kid Dracula so fun and so worth playing. The first boss you face is initially a little ghost who, when bested, runs away crying and calls upon a larger one to get revenge. When the larger ghost is defeated, it runs away crying too. At one point, Kid Dracula seems to just… end up in what appears to be New York City? Which is where Spiderman, aliens, a King Kong-like gorilla, and Lady Liberty is a boss. Except her boss fight is completely different than any of the ones preceding it. Between stages, if you have defeated enemies with supercharged spells in a way that makes them drop coins, you can spend them in minigames you randomly reach after participating in the end-of-level amidakuji (ghost leg ladder game). The localization actually refers to it as the amidakuji too, which is pretty great.
But even with these silly concessions, Kid Dracula isn’t a game that is just handing you an easy win. The second you reach the second stage, you realize how real things get in this Castlevania Anniversary Collection inclusion. Since this is a 2D platformer, it relies upon all of those sorts of stages that you may have a love-hate relationship with. There’s one set in the sky and filled with various gaps to traverse. (This happens before you have the bat transformation and involves sentient clouds that move in the direction they are looking when Kid Dracula leaps onto them, so have fun with that.) There are underwater levels with spikes. We get an ice level. All of the challenging favorites are there.
Kid Dracula also has one of those gameplay quirks that provokes those moments where you want to curse everyone who came up with that element of its design. If Kid Dracula is hit by an enemy or a projectile, he recoils and freezes up briefly. You have no control of him when he is in that backward freefall. He’s just stunned. It sounds frustrating, right? Well, there is roller coaster section in a portion of the second level. Once he steps onto it, the two platform coaster takes off. Enemies ensue, as you can imagine. Flying turtles approach from both directions, which are able to push you off of the coaster. These must be attacked or leapt over. Raijin and Fujin will approach at one point and circle you, chucking wind and lightning at Kid Dracula. Raijin’s bolts are the greater threat, as a good hit can damage Kid Dracula, stun him, and cause that backward motion that sends him into the abyss. This isn’t even getting to the loop-the-loops in the track.
But all of this is okay. It’s manageable, because Kid Dracula has modern conveniences in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. With a click of a shoulder button, you can bring up a menu that lets you make a single quick save or load a past save. You can also go with the sorts of filters and display options that you might find help you along your way.
Kid Dracula is a rarity. For many people, Castlevania Anniversary Collection will be their first exposure to the title. This is a game that never officially left Japan, though a Game Boy adaptation did show up in multiple areas. It has some of the silliest possible enemies to fight, though that does not make any of them less threatening. (Seriously, Spiderman can be really infuriating!) Plus, it is a window into how imaginative Konami could be. There are many reasons this compilation is great, and Kid Dracula is among the best reasons to consider picking it up.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.