Review: Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania (Nintendo Switch)

If there was ever a crossover that made perfect sense from the moment you said it, Dead Cells and Castlevania would be that perfection. When I originally played Dead Cells back in 2018, I couldn’t help but feel like this was some long lost take on Castlevania. There was just something with how the game felt, the enemies you encountered, and the overall mystery to your adventure that truly felt like a Castlevania adventure. Now, years later, we see this wonderful mashup with such an iconic gaming franchise. The results are nothing short of phenomenal. It’s one of the few times a DLC comes out and truly nails every aspect you want. While it might be on the shorter side, Return to Castlevania DLC is an absolute must buy for any Castlevania fan out there.

Review: Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania (Nintendo Switch)

Return to Castlevania does exactly what I had wished it would do, which is to nail the look and feel of Castlevania. There’ve been plenty of games to come out that have tried to scratch that Castlevania itch, but something has always been missing. Castlevania games were unforgiving and you didn’t have things down. Enemies were tough and you never knew what lurked around the next corner. Return to Castlevania does a great job creating this feeling. It is one of the few Castlevania style games in recent years to truly get that feeling down.

The other outstanding aspect of Return to Castlevania DLC is its unbelievable soundtrack. I grew up playing the Castlevania games, and those soundtracks are buried deep into my gaming mind. Yet somehow, what’s been done in Return to Castlevania is absolutely phenomenal. It takes those classic Castlevania tracks and makes them sound so good. It’s that moment when Vampire Slayer starts playing that my brain instantly goes into Castlevania mode and bounces along with the song. Seriously, take a moment to simply search for the Return to Castlevania soundtrack. The composers nailed their renditions of the classic Castlevania tracks and are honestly worth a listen even if you don’t play the game.

The thing with Return to Castlevania is that it is ultimately rooted completely in Dead Cells gameplay. This is where some people will no doubt feel a bit mixed. While Dead Cells played extremely well, there were many who played it who felt that the game felt weird. The overall movement and combat felt a little off, needing the player to be extremely aggressive in nearly every combat scenario. Still other players (like myself) thought that it was absolutely flawless and the aggressive playstyle exactly what I would want. Return to Castlevania DLC plays exactly like Dead Cells. This means that your enjoyment of how the game ultimately feels will be directly tied to how you think the original Dead Cells felt. If you felt that the controls felt a little off, like something wasn’t quite right in the overall movement, then Return to Castlevania won’t change that. It feels exactly like the base game. Now if you’re someone who enjoyed Dead Cells, then be happy to know you’ll experience even more of that gameplay in Return to Castlevania.

One negative of playing Return to Castlevania is that its short play time left me feeling somewhat disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the Return to Castlevania DLC is phenomenal, and I loved every minute of it. However, just when you finally get in the complete groove of how the game plays, it’s over. You can complete the DLC in just a couple of hours and yet it’s the final half hour where everything clicks in such a way that you wish you could keep going longer. While I appreciate not having a DLC that overstays its welcome, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed that it’s over so soon.

Overall, Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania DLC is an absolute triumph that everyone should play. It’s one of the few times we get a DLC to a modern game that absolutely nails the classic gaming franchise it took inspiration from. The game looks, sounds, and absolutely plays like a classic Castlevania adventure. The soundtrack will leave you jamming in your head for hours at iconic Castlevania tunes. Its overall shorter game length will ultimately disappoint you, as the DLC is so good you wish it didn’t end as soon as it does.

Here’s hoping Konami decides to make a new Castlevania game, because Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is fantastic. Anyone who’s looking to scratch that Castlevania itch, or looking to get into the Castlevania franchise for the first time, should absolutely check out Return to Castlevania. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go back to listen to Vampire Slayer for the 800th time.

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