Review: Return to Castlevania makes for a fantastic crossover with Dead Cells

dead cells return to castlevania

Oh Castlevania, how I miss it! It’s been practically a decade since anything substantial has come out that’s related to the franchise besides Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and it’s been rough. I absolutely love those games, and having had only a couple of retro collections to call “new” all this time has been anything but exciting.

Thankfully, there’s something truly exciting that’s been cooked up by the talented folks at Motion Twin, the studio behind the amazing Dead Cells. It’s a collaboration with my beloved series simply titled Return to Castlevania, and it’s as exciting as it sounds. Teased months ago during a Nintendo Direct, it’s finally out, and I was able to play it ahead of release.

dead cells return to castlevania
Scary skeletons with scythes? Check.

The end result is an extra set of levels themed around Konami’s masterpiece property in very loving detail. All the trademarks are there, including the fan favorite (?) Medusa heads. It’s the sort of homage that perfectly encapsulates all the best things about the subject while showing off the talent of the team doing it, mainly because they made it fit so well within the confines of what Dead Cell is.

And while the original content for Dead Cell already had seeds of Castlevania in it, Return to Castlevania is just oozing with the ambiance and challenge that made those old games so beloved. Along with the enemies mentioned before, you also get to run into many a hero from the franchise, including my waifu Shinoa, from the Nintendo DS modern classic Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, who takes over the orb trading station while you tear through this new content.

dead cells return to castlevania
Annoying harpies with seemingly random flying patterns? Check.

It wouldn’t be new if there weren’t any gear inclusions, and boy, long time Castlevania fans are sure to get a kick with them here. Even Alucard’s surprisingly overpowered shield has made it in, and it’s bound to be your bread and butter for a while when playing since it comes into play relatively early on, before you ever step into Dracula’s castle per se.

Oh yeah, I totally forgot to mention the whole point of the DLC. You’re recruited by Richter Belmont, who’s just found out that old Count Teppes is set for resurrection yet again. It’s up to the headless hero to make their way to the depths of the dungeon and find the passage that leads to the titular Castlevania, home of the big baddie himself. 

There’s not much to it really, as gameplay is king when it comes to roguelikes like this, but I had to at least touch upon the fact that you run into freaking Richter smack in the middle of one of the most popular indie releases of the last decade. How cool is that? And that’s not even mentioning the absolutely brilliant remixed music thrown in for these new levels. I love them so much. 

dead cells return to castlevania
Ominous coffins? Check. This is Castlevania alright!

It’s been years since I last touched Dead Cells, in fact I had little experience playing the game’s actual release version, only having tried its early access iteration quite a while ago. It’s incredibly impressive seeing just how far this game has come, and with Return to Castlevania, I have plenty of reason to keep coming back to it, honestly. 

But if you are the opposite and have been keeping up to date with Motion Twin’s masterwork of a roguelike, this new content is still very much worth it. That’s especially true for die-hard fans of Castlevania like me, but even those who have never touched any of those games have a lot to look forward to. Return to Castlevania fits in perfectly with the rest of Dead Cells, and it’s easily the best crossover you’ll get to experience this year. You can stake your bet at that!  

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