Review by dtm666
"An oldie we never got until recent years, but a goodie nonetheless"
Castlevania Chronicles is a Playstation conversion of Akumajo Dracula, a 1993 remake of the original Castlevania developed for the Sharp X68000 computer. If you don't know what an X68000 computer is, don't worry; the thing was only available in Japan. As such, this game wasn't officially available to the masses until Konami decided to port it over in 2001, allowing most of us who didn't resort to emulation to play this game for the first time. Now I originally reviewed this back in 2001 some time after it was first released, but since I've recently gotten a chance to play this again for the first time in years, I'd figure I share my thoughts on how the game holds up.
STORY: As this is a remake of the original 1987 Castlevania game, the story remains the same: as the vampire hunter, you are charged with the task of traversing the demon castle and vanquishing the forces of the evil count Dracula. There's very little in terms of plot progression here, but back in the day, a little story was all we ever really needed. And if it helps, the manual does include a little more exposition than the NES version ever did. So for what it's worth, it's a slight step up. 7/10
GRAPHICS: Graphically speaking, the game looks fairly decent for something released in 93 and everything looks like what they're supposed to be. One thing I did notice was that some of the larger elements (such as spinning gears, certain platforms, and a couple other items) tend to look rough, distorted, and heavily pixelated. While I'm aware this is an issue with the original game, it's almost perplexing as to why these haven't been fixed in this re-release. Other than that, the game looks fine.
Playing the ARRANGE mode of the game replaces the pre-existing Simon and Dracula sprites with new ones and they seem to fit in quite nicely with the rest of the game. There's also illuminated candles, some smoother flame effects for certain monster deaths, and a couple other minor changes that don't really do much to enhance the game, but are still a nice touch. 7/10
SOUND: Chronicles' high point is in its music. The music from the original X68000 version has been retained (along with the two other variants which can be accessed via a code) and is a decent compilation of familiar tunes from past games along with a few new ones. For the most party, it's a fairly decent batch. When playing the Arrange game, you'll be bombarded with the new remixed soundtrack created for the PS1 version. I have mixed feelings about the remix, but generally it's okay and if you don't like it, you could use a code to pick out of the three older soundtracks to play. Sound effects are a step above the Genesis, but a step below a SNES. On Arrange mode, the sounds are enhanced slightly and a little better, but not much noticeable. 7/10
GAMEPLAY: Castlevania Chronicles offers two gameplay modes: ORIGINAL and ARRANGE. ORIGINAL mode is, essentially, the original X68000 version as it originally played without any of the changes, tweaks, and additions made to the game. ARRANGE mode is the new version where you have the new sprites, illuminating candles, techno-soundtrack, and other minor changes to the game. While there are very little differences between the two, they actually distinguish the two apart in various ways. Purists can play the ORIGINAL mode while those wanting to play the game and not get killed early on can pick the Arranged mode.
Irregardless of which mode you play, the general premise remains the same. You venture through eight stages using your whip and various subweapons to fight off the various enemies in the game, all the while navigating your way past all the various traps and obstacles throughout the level. And of course, you have your share of hidden items scattered throughout the levels, offering either some major bonus points or a little healing power. In other words, this is pretty much your traditional old-school Castlevanian romp and it's a formula that works fairly well.
Some minor improvements over the original include the ability to control your jump as well as the ability to whip downwards. There is also a rare herb subweapon that can restore health at a cost of ten hearts per use. While these changes aren't as dramatic as those in Super Castlevania 4, they're different enough to be considered a step-up from Castlevania I and it makes for interesting gameplay. 8/10
CHALLENGE: Let's not mince any words here; anyone who has played the X68000 original will tell you that this game is hard as nails. It is a grossly difficult affair that is suited for the Castlevania hardcores and ORIGINAL mode maintains this high threshold of pain, as expected. The ARRANGE mode, on the other hand, is a little more forgiving, as you can select your level of difficulty at the Option screen.
Still, the levels themselves tend to be a bit tricky yet ingenious (take note of the tall statue dripping blood skeletons or the giant axe of doom when you get to them) and some of the bosses and enemies in this game aren't pushovers either. 9/10
REPLAY VALUE: There is actually little replay value in this game. While there are some unlockables to attain such as the Time Attack mode, all you have to do is beat the ARRANGE game once and it's all there. Of course, you can try the ORIGINAL mode if you haven't already. 6/10
OVERALL: I'd have to say that my opinion of this game has gone up after revisiting it recently. Simply put, Castlevania Chronicles is a fairly-solid and fun entry to the series and it's awfully nice of Konami to bring this game over to the states. While it isn't the deepest game in the series and can be considered a disappointment of sorts (especially when you consider that this was released after Symphony of the Night, a game considered to be the best in the series), it's still a nice throwback to the good old days and is best enjoyed by anyone who is a fan of the old-school games. I'm remotely aware that the PS1 disc is a rarity and fairly expensive, but it's definitely worth getting. Recommended. 8/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 10/31/01, Updated 01/21/10
Game Release: Castlevania Chronicles (US, 10/08/01)
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