There are a plethora of video games that have never seen American, European, or Japanese soil. While many may believe this an atrocity there are certain factors that keep these games at bay. Whether its cultural differences or money issues, publishers usually have a valid excuse. Other times, they seemingly do it for no reason. Games like Mother 3 and Terranigma are popular titles and their ancestors (Earthbound and Illusion of Gaia) were popular in America, yet they never made it outside of Japan and Europe (Mother 3 was never released outside of Japan).
Perhaps the limited success of the TurboGrax-16 in America would have contributed to this, but I say that the lack of games, like Rondo of Blood, is what ultimately finished the system. Thanks to Sony, the long lost Castlevania has finally seen worldwide release. Castlevania: the Dracula X Chronicles is a remake of Rondo of Blood, along with extra bells and whistles. Utilizing 2.5D graphics and old school gameplay, this new version is a testament to the original, even if its age shows through.
Sony’s take on the classic game has kept it as close to the source material as possible. There are a few minor tweaks (such as extra goodies and sections to explore) but the core gameplay is retained. Playing as a Belmont you whip through each linear stage battling zombies, werewolves, hydras, and whatever else Dracula fancies throwing at you. The level system and equipment we have become accustomed too in the newer games is absent, replaced by the standard single sub-weapon and, unlike the NES versions (and Super Castlevania IV) the whip is fully powered at the beginning of the game. You can use the new (at the time) item crush ability which takes your sub-weapon and uses its specific special attack at the expense of a certain value of hearts. Besides that, its plays much like its predecessors with a focus on timing attacks and jumps.
While there are multiple places to explore throughout the seven levels the designs are limited to the character’s movements. Finding alternate routes consists of going behind certain obstacles and hitting the crumbly wall, or hitting a hanging platform above you so you can find the other crumbly walls. Some sections require you to jump down holes, but there is no real indicator to which holes will kill you, and the ones that will. There is debris around some of them but after being trained for years to avoid any holes beneath you (unless they have a ladder) players may find it difficult to figure out on their own that they have to jump down them.
The real draw lies within the difficulty. The concise timing of your attacks and jumps makes the game challenging and engaging. Far too many games released these days hold your hand to make sure that you make it across the street okay, and then hand you a map that details all of the obstacles you will be facing for the remainder of the game. Enemies and bosses will knock you off platforms without a second thought to you, your friends, or your family. The simplicity of the game works to its credit and detriment. After playing the “metroid-vanias” the game tastes like a stale bag of potato chips; it used to taste good, but the fresher bags offer a little more crunch. Fans that are experiencing nostalgiaitis (yes I made that up) will enjoy the throwback, but other gamers may be better off playing the newer titles.
After beating the game you can take the credits you earned throughout and buy boss battles (practice) or compete in the Boss rush mode. This mode takes you through each boss fight and rewards the player by completing it with background music and a little mini game (after the third completion). There is also a little multiplayer where you and a friend can team up and tackle the boss rush mode together. It would have been interesting to see a multiplayer where friends and tackle Dracula together, but for now Portrait of Ruin will have to do. You can also select from another character, Maria Renard, if you save her during your quest to defeat Dracula. Choosing to play as her changes the game substantially, because she has a little more mobility than Richter, but she is a lot weaker. The game offers a substantial amount of replay value with extra games (covered below), modes, limited multiplayer, and alternate characters.
The best thing about Dracula X Chronicles is that, ironically, Rondo of Blood isn’t the only game on the UMD disc. To my surprise they ported the original version of the title game, and its “sequel”, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. While the remake of Rondo has its fancy 2.5D graphics and updated sound it lacks the charm of the original. The PC engine of the game contains both English and Japanese voice work, and while it wasn’t enhanced to fit the PSP’s widescreen format it runs and plays well on the system, and I preferred playing that over the remake. While getting two games for the price of one is always a great deal, Sony took the chronicles title seriously. As I mentioned earlier, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (SotN) is included (with its own extra bells and whistles) and is worth the price of the game on its own.
SotN is considered to be the best (and my personal favorite) Castlevania game…ever. It was the first game to embrace open ended exploration without stages and introduced the level and equipment system to the series. The game is worthy of its own review, and since this review is holistic towards the PSP title, I can merely say that the inclusion of SotN seals Dracula X Chronicles fate as a must own title for the PSP.
However, this doesn’t make it the best game out there on the PSP. I appreciate when publishers finally get a game out to the other countries that missed out on it, but when the title has been gone for almost 15 years, some gamers have moved on. Developers have evolved the mechanics that Rondo of Blood utilizes and the game has an extremely dated feel. The game looks and sounds great, but it stands weak on its own. Thanks to the inclusion of the PC engine version and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Sony’s take on the long lost Castlevania should have been titled The Greatest Hits of Castlevania because it offers some of the best the series has to offer, although it’s arriving a bit too late.
The game is an excellent representation of the original title with awesome music and a great transition to the 2.5D format.
|How does our scoring system work?|
The linear stage climbing is dated, and even though Rondo of Blood is one of the best in the series, its age is apparent.
The game's score lives up to Castlevania fame, and so does the terrible voice acting.
There are two different games (since Rondo of Blood is on there twice) with multiplayer options and extra modes giving gamers plenty to do.
Dracula X Chronicles is an excellent addition to anyones PSP library with its challenging, albeit, limited gameplay and the addition of the masterpiece Castlevania: Symphony of the Night