Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles - Review

Back when Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was first released, the game began with the player in control of Richter Belmont as he prepared for the final battle with the dark lord Dracula - but what game did this final battle take place in? For those that don't know the answer the answer, the beginning sequence was actually the last few moments of Akumajo Dracula X: Chi No Rondo (Rondo of Blood) for the Turbo CD that was never released outside of Japan.

Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles takes notice to this previously unreleased (outside Japan) title and compiles both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night along with a remake of Rondo of Blood entitled "The Dracula X Chronicles" on one UMD disc. This collection bridges the gap in between Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night that was left in question when the original Symphony of the Night for PSone was released outside of Japan. Many Castlevania fans will most likely pick this compilation up for Rondo of Blood by itself, but the remake isn't too shabby!

The remake of Rondo of Blood is a faithful modern day version of the original Rondo of Blood that adds a few new segments. There are a few more split paths that were not included in the original and there are also some differently placed items and enemies. A few cutscenes were also added here and there to spice up the connection between Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. Overall, the remake is a bit easier in some parts, though there are some areas that are actually harder than the original. It keeps the standard hard difficulty throughout all of its gameplay. All the hard elements that an old school Castlevania fan will like have been added to the remake.

The remake spans eight stages and has many split paths that can be chosen. The first few stages all have alternate stages that can be traversed if the correct (sometimes hidden) path is chosen. The game plays basically like an old Castlevania (Castlevania 1 - 3, Super Castlevania 4) with a few added features - extra moves and item crushes. Dracula X does not included the ability to whip in diagonal directions like its predecessor Castlevania 4.

There are two characters to choose from - Richter, who is available from the start and Maria, who is available once she is found by Richter. Richter is basically your standard Belmont with a whip. He has the ability to use an item crush super move that will change depending on what weapon he currently has (dagger, axe, holy water, etc.) Maria attacks by tossing out birds and using cute animals for her weapon attacks. Don't be fooled by this display of innocence in Maria however, she is a monster when it comes to playing with her - literally owning everything in her path with birds and animal friends!

As already mentioned, the difficulty of the remake faithfully keeps the hard difficulty of the original Rondo of Blood. The level of difficulty is far from the easier difficulty of a newer Castlevania where you can simply outlevel a boss or use healing potions to even the odds. Each boss requires the player to become familiar with that particular boss' patterns and weaknesses in order to finish him. Fail to finish a stage by sacrificing too many lives and its back to the beginning of the level with you.

The graphics are presented in a pseudo 3-D format much like a Viewtiful Joe game or Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins. This leads to some minor problems in hit detection sometimes, but nothing real game breaking - a whip might pass by an enemy's head at times when you aim for the upper half. The sound is basically what you might expect from the usual Castlevania. It is filled with fan favorites such as Bloody Tears and many of the tracks from the original Rondo of Blood. There is even an option to set up each stage's music, so you can listen to a favorite Castlevania tune all the way throughout the game.

The original Rondo of Blood is a straight port of the Turbo CD version along with a few added options (mainly save options) and English voices for its anime cutscenes. The game ranges from a challenging difficulty to hard as hell - it all depends on how well you know a stage or particular enemy within it and whether you have the right weapon in a certain situation. Some enemies are much more unforgiving with their attacks in the original Rondo of Blood. Enemies will sometimes flood the screen and cause a bit of slowdown while they pursue your character.

It's interesting to play the original Rondo of Blood and see what all was changed in the remake and how it is presented in the original. I still prefer the anime cutscenes from the original Rondo of Blood compared to the remake but both of them are just as fun to play and they both offer different levels of difficulty per stage. What is hard in one might be a cakewalk in the other and vice versa.

One aspect that really helps out for both the remake and original version of Rondo of Blood is the fact that each stage can be chosen for replay once that particular stage is beaten. This really helps out for when you want to explore a stage to find a hidden path or possible item. When you want to find a particular item hidden in a stage that you may have missed the first time, just load up a stage and grab the item then pause the game and exit back out into the main menu without the need to play the entire stage over again.

Oh, and let's not forget the highly regarded Symphony of the Night. This little masterpiece is basically a direct port of the PSone version of Symphony of the Night with a few added features. The Sega Saturn Japanese extras are not in this version for those that are wondering, but Maria is playable once the game has been beaten. All of the voices have been redubbed in this version and the dialogue has been revised. No more "What is a man?" from our familiar dark lord. Here's the revised line for the curious: "Ha! Mankind. A cesspit of hatred and lies! Fight with them then, and die for their sins!"

Most of the voices in Symphony of the Night recreate the characters faithfully by keeping in tune with the voice actors from the original but gamers that have played the original PSone release might not be willing to accept them as much as a first time player. A few of the characters have the same voice in both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night which helps to link them together well. Alucard's voice actor doesn't quite hit the nail when compared to the original voice actor to me. Some of his lines don't have as much meaning as they once did.

The controls for Symphony of the Night have been altered just a bit to compensate for the lack of the L2 and R2 buttons on the PSP. Mist form now requires a tap of L + R. Thankfully, this doesn't lead to any problems like I originally imagined since tapping both of them together always (for me) uses mist form without error and never accidentally switched to a bat (R) or a wolf (L) once I had become familiar with the command. Even with the precise command, this is the only transformation command that cannot be switched to another button, so it requires a bit of familiarity in the mind of the player that has played other versions.

With three Castlevanias on one UMD, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is a steal at the MSRP of $29.99 for those that have a PSP. It has a game for whatever type of Castlevania fan you may be - two games (arguably) for the Castlevania fans that want to hit it old school with the difficulty of the original style of Castlevania and one game for the Castlevania fans that prefer an RPG style adventure. Keep in mind that both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night must be unlocked during the gameplay of the remake, so the remake must be played a little bit in order to gain the extra two games, which can be a negative point for some gamers.

The Good

+ Three Castlevanias all on one UMD - Dracula X Chronicles (remake), Rondo of Blood, and Symphony of the Night!
+ Plenty of extras that will keep gamers busy with the remake.
+ The remake remains faithful to the original Rondo of Blood in every aspect.
+ Enhanced Symphony of the Night - new voices and playable Maria!

The Bad

- Slight hit detection problems with the remake.
- A few sections of slow down with the original Rondo of Blood.
- The new voices in Symphony of the Night might take some getting used to for fans of the original PSone release.

The long awaited Rondo of Blood is given a facelift and even resurrects Symphony of the Night to accompany it - the stage is set for one hell of a gaming night filled with great pleasure for a Castlevania fan.

Graphics: 9.5
Controls: 9.5
Sound: 9.5
Gameplay: 9.5

And therefore, Berserker dubs thee: 9.5/10


As a little extra, here is a pic of the 3-D Simon Belmont sprite figure that I got with Dracula X Chronicles.

There are actually two versions of this figure I think - a Simon Belmont from Castlevania 1 and a Simon Belmont from Castlevania 2. Thankfully, I got the color scheme that I wanted - the CV2 Simon Belmont. :D

1 comment:

Nish said...

A thorough and detailed review as always.

I've been pondering whether or not to pick this up. For once (via the internets) I can get hold of it for the same price as you guys in the US. The only problem is do I like Castlevania enough?

The quick and easy answer to that question is no. However, these little package contains arguably the best of the series so it might be worth giving it a try. I don't know.