I had been waiting a long time for Castle Crashers Remastered to be available in my region – more than two years now. For some strange reason it just never appeared and I was unable to purchase it from other marketplaces either. But recently I searched for it again and it finally showed up. So with sweaty controller in hand I thought it was as good a time as any to get my knight on again and bash some bad guys.
Back in 2008 the original Castle Crashers was one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) XBLA titles during the Xbox 360 era. Developers at The Behemoth (of Alien Hominid fame) created a game that takes beat em up arcade game like Golden Axe or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, throws in some RPG-lite mechanics for levelling and upgrades and infuses it all with their unique humour and art style. As a four player co-op game, Castle Crashers had little competition in the space and excelled in providing a fun button mashing experience.
Casting each player (up to four) as a knight, they were tasked with storming through the land, rescuing damsels in distress and stopping all manner of bad guys. Initially each player had the choice of one of four knights who were colour coded to match their respective magical abilities but additional characters could also be unlocked. A pink knight was also available later via DLC as well as a character from their next game BattleBlock Theatre. All of these are available from the outset on the remastered version.
Gameplay itself hasn’t changed and is as fluid as ever with players able to mash away on buttons for the basic combat but as they level up begin experimenting with button combinations to enhance their attack abilities. We aren’t talking fighting game level of combos here – the controls map nicely to using both the triggers and face buttons as well as the usual timed button presses. Not being the most dextrous of players, I find it works out pretty well for me. Enemy variety does force you to adapt your style from time to time which can be confronting to the button mashers like me but if you play with a friend (or three) who have a bit more experience, and are able to revive you, it’s not a massive blocker for progress.
Even with failure, the game does go out of its way to help improve your chances after every attempt. During the game you’ll accrue experience points regardless of whether you live or die so as long you keep on fighting and earn enough XP to level up you can upgrade your character’s abilities. It can potentially be a grind in this situation but you are at least able to replay areas that you’ve previously unlocked so aren’t forced to beat your head against the wall of a particularly hard stage. Grinding is not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s nice to see that players have options and don’t necessarily have to give up on the game and walk away.
With enhanced visuals now running at a steady 60fps, the game continues to set a high standard with fast movement and huge enemies. If you make the jump from the 360 version you can immediately see the difference in visual fidelity with the art looking eye watering clear. It makes it very difficult to consider going back to the original version, especially if you are playing it on a big screen. The audio hasn’t changed from what I can tell but Castle Crashers has a great mix of tunes including an epic main theme that you’d expect from much bigger games. You can even check out the soundtrack here if you’re curious.
The remastered version comes with a new minigame called “Back Off Barbarian” that challenges you to avoid an increasing amount of enemies on a gameboard for as long as possible through use of the coloured face buttons. It’s not much more than a little time waster but it’s definitely the kind of thing that can distract you for a few minutes between sessions. The arenas are back too if you and your friends want to simply bash away at each other or if you’re going solo, to face off against waves of enemies.
For long time fans of the game there’s also an offer in place where owners of the 360 version can get the remastered version for 66% off which makes the upgrade much easier to digest. You can also move some of your save data in the upgrade too if you’ve made a lot of progress – in my case I think I unfortunately lost it so was unable to confirm that it still worked. It did give me a lot of incentive though to return to the game and play through it again!
One interesting thing to note is though the original Xbox 360 version is still available to play on the Xbox One via backward compatibility it is also more than twice the size of the remastered version due to the backward compatibility emulation wrapper. If you’re short of storage space, spending a few dollars for a better looking version of the game that’s less than 300Mb in size seems like an easy decision to make.
It’s a testament to the quality of the original game that Castle Crashers Remastered deserves being part of anyone’s games library, especially for players wanting fun arcade style games with a big emphasis on fun. Take a look… and bring friends.
Castle Crashers Remastered is out now on Xbox One and PC (Steam). The original game is also available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Screenshots from Xbox.com.