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Retrospective: The Dracula X Chronicles

source: Gamefaqs

source: Gamefaqs

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Konami

Released: October, 2007

Systems: PSP

Replay? Yes

Castlevania the Dracula X Chronicles, not to be confused with Dracula X on the snes, is a remake, a remake of what you ask? Why, a remake of Castlevania Rondo of Blood for the TurboGrafx 16 CD. Rondo of Blood is the prequel to Symphony of the Night, in fact the famous fight that kicks off Symphony is the final fight from Rondo. Fans for years wanted Rondo to come stateside, and with the release of the PSP remake it was the perfect opportunity. Question being, does this version deserve tribute, or is it just a miserable pile of secrets?

When the game opens Richter Belmont is riding in a stagecoach to save his fiancé and his niece (and two other women) when suddenly Death attacks you, and as we all know when Death comes along you must whip it, After swapping a couple blows, he leaves and you move through the first stage, a burning town with a wyvern at the end ready to kick your ass. What follows is a journey through the country leading to the confrontation with Dracula.

Source: gamefaqs

Source: gamefaqs

Apart from Death taking some initiative, you’ve heard this story many times before, in  and outside of Castlevania lore. But that isn’t what you’re here for, what you’re here for is some good old, pre Metroidvania, whipping action. Yes, Rondo of Blood was the last Castlevania made before Symphony of the Night changed the series general focus from linear action to Metroid like exploration. So how is the whipping? Simply put, great! In the original version, in the PSP rerelease however it’s been tweaked.

Gameplay is as follows, you progress through the stages trying to survive and keep as much health as you can for the boss. Your primary attack is a whip, which swings relatively slowly and requires a certain rhythm to be swung rapidly, just mashing the attack button won’t work. You have subweapons to aid you, ranging from knives, boomerang crosses, and even a stopwatch that freezes time.  You need to be on the lookout for collectibles and keys. Collectibles, usually CD’s, unlock tracks for the sound test from the main game as well as the original Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. Keys take up your subweapon slot, and if you find a key then there will be a door and  more often than not lead to one of the ladies you set out to save. In fact the first lady you can save, your niece Maria Renard, becomes a playable character.

Source Gamefaqs

Source Gamefaqs

Richter and Maria are like night and day. Richter’s movement is a little stiff with a fairly slow whip and an assortment of traditional vampire hunting utensils. Maria is a twelve year old girl with the ability to double jump, slide quickly and rapidly, as well as use animal spirits to defend herself and dispatch the forces of the Count. Both have access to an ability called item crash, essentially a super move that costs far more hearts but deals far more damage. Quite frankly, Maria is better at this vampire hunting business then Richter is, her standard attack, twin doves, can be spammed far better than the whip, her familiars  are less situational then Richter’s subweapons and her double jump can reach areas Richter can’t, even to the point of unlocking stages and alternate paths. After you rescue her, the only reason you would switch to Richter is for a more traditional Castlevania experience. Everything stated applies to both Dracula X and Rondo of Blood.

Speaking of tradition, Dracula X and Rondo deviate from it by letting you save your game and if you exit from a stage, choose any stage you’ve been to. This gives the game some replay value as you try to beat every stage with both characters, rescue the women, find collectibles, and discover alternate exits. You can replay any stage in the game, including the prologue with Death.

Source:Gamefaqs

Source:Gamefaqs

The subweapons are essential for getting through the stages as practically all of them cover some weakness of the whip. You can only carry one subweapon and all said weapons burn through hearts, like the axe being thrown overhead or the knive being thrown across the whole screen. Unlike the earlier games, subweapons aren’t necessarily needed but are much appreciated, so when you’re trudging down that corridor with overhead spear knights and you’re stuck with the knife, remind yourself that this isn’t impossible as you barely make it out with a sliver of health.

The gameplay on the whole is slowed down from the Turbografx release. Enemies and especially bosses move slower, boss enemies seem to take fewer hits to go down and the gameplay is easier on the whole. Castlevania was never blazing fast, in fact the early games were about thinking through your actions quickly but precisely in a deliberately crafted stage. This still exists in Dracula X but it is more approachable then other entries. You’lll still die plenty make no mistake however keep in mind that this is slightly diluted from what it is supposed to be.

The graphics opt for a 2.5D approach, with every texture and character model being 3D but played on a 2D plane. Honestly, apart from Richter and Maria’s character redesigns the graphics of the rerelease are on the whole bland and pale in comparison to the 2D spritework from the original. Many bosses suffer from the transition, with facial features and smaller details being removed, make no mistake the designs from the original weren’t the most original, they were visually appealing.

Source: gamefaqs

Source: gamefaqs

It’s a Castlevania game so the music has to be good right? Correct, but it isn’t as good as the original. Like any good game soundtrack, just about every song fits with the background and enhances the mood and just like any good Castlevania soundtrack, these tunes will be stuck in your head for weeks after you shut off the system. The issue isn’t that Dracula X’s soundtrack is bad, in fact its pretty darn good, the issue is that it isn’t as good as the original which is arguably one of the series best, recognizing a pattern?

So with all of the comparisons you may be wondering why you don’t just buy the original off of Wii Ware? Well as it turns out the original Rondo of Blood and a special version of Symphony of the Night are unlockable in Dracula. Rondo of Blood plays with a letter box for some unknown reason, making the PSP’s fairly small screen, even smaller, however the full game is playable and it stands as currently the only official translation of the game, the Wii Ware version is untranslated. This version of Symphony of the Night is special because the lines have been redubbed and many of the additional items form the Japan exclusive Sega Saturn release have been added, though the extra area in that version isn’t present, practically everything else is, including the ability to play as Maria Renard. There is also a letter box though it isn’t as bad as Rondo’s. These two unlockables make the whole package worth it, in fact they overshadow what is supposed to be the main event.

Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles is a good game, but a shadow of its predecessor. The presentation isn’t as good, the gameplay is slower, the soundtrack is nice, but you have to rescue all of the women before you can save your fiancé whereas in the original you didn’t have to. There is something to be said for a relatively more approachable old school Castlevania, but for series fans just how much Dracula X pales in comparison to Rondo, and for new players Dracula X is outshined by practically every entry from Super Castlevania and upward. Honestly the unlockable original and the special Symphony of the Night are the real stars of the package, even if you have to play up to stage 6 of Dracula X to get both of them. You can have a lot of fun with Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles, just don’t be surprised if you spend more time in the unlockables then the main game.

3stars

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Categories: RetroSpective, Video Game Reviews, Video Games

Author:Abdullah

From the tender age of two when my ma put a snes controller in my hand and let me fool around in Super Mario Kart I have been playing video games. I want to share my opinions with people willing to listen. Original I know...

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2 Comments on “Retrospective: The Dracula X Chronicles”

  1. 10/03/2013 at 8:50 AM #

    Reblogged this on knifeffight.

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  1. Beyond: Two Souls: Positively Astonishing, Falls Shy of Potential | Another Castle - 10/07/2013

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