Review by Virulent
"The hardest Castlevania in town..."
Ah, yes, the return of the old-school. After being inundated with a number of Metroid-style Castlevania games focusing on exploration, Konami decided to give gamers a taste of the original side-scrolling whip-frenzy formula once again with Chronicles. As the name would imply though, this is not a new game by any means. It is, however, a port of one of the toughest Castlevania games on the block; a port of the Japanese "Akumajou Dracula" for the Sharp X68000 computer system. In essence, that games itself was a remake of the original Castlevania with updated graphics, sounds, and a smattering of new stages. Konami found it fit to once again update the title for its PSX debut with an "Arranged" mode, which further updates the graphics, soundtrack, and most importantly nerfs the difficulty level to make it more widely enjoyable. However, I recommend playing the Original before going through the leisurely Arranged version. Grab your whip and holy water, because the things that go bump in the night in this Castlevania bump HARD.
I'm not even going to bother rating the story, because it is essentially a timeless legend that generations of gamers grew up with. Count Dracula, the ultimate embodiment of evil, has been revived by fanatic followers. He has gathered an army consisting of various walking corpses and living nightmares, along with the largest cast of classic horror-movie villains ever seen. Once again, the task falls upon our beloved Simon Belmont to vanquish this insidious foe and his legions. With the various remakes of the original Castlevania story, one must wonder whether or not this guy EVER gets to take a well-deserved vacation from Transylvania.
This game has Simon looking at his very best, even better than he appeared in Super Castlevania IV. His sprite, along with the various denizens of the castle, have more frames of animation than even the lauded Dracula X: Rondo Of Blood showcased. This, along with the colorful backgrounds and amazing special effects, makes for perhaps one of the best-looking 2D Castlevanias out there along with Symphony Of The Night. In Arranged mode, the graphics are kicked up a notch higher, and Simon's sprite is redrawn by SotN character designer Ayami Kojima. While some may not like his new red hair and "bishounen" style, I think it looks fitting and updates the game for the new line of CV games well.
The sound effects in this game are top-notch, despite being a decade old. Vocal samples are quite clear, and sound effects are quite, well, effective. From the whoosh of Simon's whip to the threatening Japanese the evil flying dolls shout at you, anyone who is a fan of Castlevania games will dig it. The music, however, is a mixed bag, While some of the tunes in Original mode are quite good, including the remakes of Bloody Tears, Vampire Killer, and the all-new breakbeat-inspired Tower Of Dolls, many of the other ones are forgettable and occasionally annoying. The remakes in the new Arranged mode, however, are remixed in a more electronic style which is questionable at best. Overall, the soundtrack is decent, but the new tracks are not up to par with the excellence associated with the Castlevania standard.
This game is pure Castlevania bliss. Fans of the classic-style of platform-jumping, side-scrolling action will not be disappointed by this title. It plays almost identically to the best old-school jaunt out there, Rondo Of Blood. However, Simon has the added ability to whip downwards while jumping, and has a measure of control in mid-air over his jumps. This gives some much-added breathing room to the controls, which if the player is playing in Original mode, they will most certainly need.
The most distinctive thing about this Castlevania is that it is perhaps the hardest game in the series when played in Original mode. Enemies are nimble, fast and in the case of such bosses as the Werewolf, quick to dodge your offensive actions. Getting through the stages requires expert timing and lightning-fast reflexes, as they are about as unforgiving as the original NES game if not more so. While many may consider this a detriment to the title, the hardcore fans such as myself will see it as a welcome break from the laughably-easy Metroid-style games of recent times. In Arranged mode, there is the added option of a difficulty select, which is dynamic enough to allow even new players to the series to be able to reach Dracula. The game is enjoyable even on its tenth replay for me, however your mileage may vary depending on how much you love the series in general.
In conclusion, I recommend that everyone who has ever played and enjoyed a Castlevania game, especially the NES/SNES renditions, owes it to themselves to at least give this game a rent. You'll feel the nostalgia flood your senses with bliss as you make your way through the first level, which is a near-perfect recreation of the opening stage from CV1. However, the immense challenge and new features keep this title from being a simple remake of the first whip-swinging adventure.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/09/04
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