The Castlevania Anniversary Collection is on the cusp of release for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Konami delivered one last surprise right before moonrise: The Japanese versions of the games will be available via a free update shortly after launch.
"We heard your calls and Konami will add Japanese title variants as a free update shortly after launch," Konami Digital Entertainment brand manager Benjamin Kinney wrote earlier today on the official PlayStation blog. "Keep your eyes peeled for more details!"
This is a big deal for retro Castlevania fans, since some Castlevania games have significant differences between their Japanese and Western versions. Some of the changes are superficial (Western retro Castlevania games cover up scandalous bare-boobed statues in Dracula's domain), but other changes alter gameplay on a significant level.
Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse has the clearest examples of the discrepancies you can find between NES and Famicom versions of Castlevania games. Some monster sprites are different in Castlevania 3 for the Famicom, plus its soundtrack is quite a bit richer (not to bring down the NES soundtrack, which is still great). The Famicom release makes use of Konami's proprietary VRC6 audio mapper, which provides three extra sound channels for composers to tinker with. The NES release lacks the same chip.
Castlevania 3 for the Famicom is also considerably easier than Castlevania 3 for the NES. That's not to say Castlevania 3 is a pushover in either iteration, but the Western version of the game has some merciless adjustments that might've been made to discourage kids from finishing Trevor Belmont's journey in a weekend rental. Enemies dole out more damage, and if you die during the grueling three-stage fight versus Dracula, you're sent much, much further back than you are in the Japanese release. Grant, the nimble little pirate who can team up with Trevor, is also severely nerfed in the Western version of Castlevania 3. Whereas his default weapon is a throwing dagger in Japan, he's forced to fight with a butter knife in the West, forcing him to get up close to enemies capable of murdering him in a couple of hits.
There are innumerable other changes between the two versions of Castlevania III. The Cutting Room Floor has them all chronicled.
Even re-releases of the NES version of Castelvania 3, i.e. the version you'll find on the Virtual Console and other marketplaces, usually don't give us the option to play Famicom Castlevania. The Castlevania Anniversary Collection's Japanese options are heartening, especially since the Collection already contains rare titles like Bloodlines for the Genesis and the never-localized Kid Dracula for the Famicom. Look for the Castlevania Anniversary Collection on May 16.