Review by YusakuG
"This game is the definition of "old school gaming""
Castlevania is probably one of the only classic series of yesterday that is still as strong in the industry today as it was when it was first introduced back on the NES. I can't think of any other series from the 8 bit days, except perhaps Mario and Zelda, that has managed to keep it's lofty reputation all these years. (Yeah, I know Mega Man's still around, but those games just don't have the popularity they used to when I was growing up.)
Now, Konami has released a new (in the US, at least) game for the Playstation called Castlevania Chronicles. It's a flashback to the old ways of the series, dating back to the NES. This game is a fun, challenging, yet fairly basic, platformer in the mold of the Castlevania 1-3 for the NES and 4 for the SNES.
This game is based on a Japanese PC game that was never released in America, and has pretty much the exact same story almost all the other games do. Dracula has been revived once again by the forces of evil, and it's up to you to guide the latest in the Belmont family through Dracula's castle, and end his reign of terror on the land for another hundred years. You're armed only with a whip and some additional weapons that you can pick up along the way that have been in just about every Castlevania game, like the axe, dagger, holy water and boomerang.
Like I said before, this game is a flashback to the earlier titles. Those of you expecting a story-driven quest with RPG elements like Symphony of the Night are going to be severely disappointed. You go through 8 areas of Dracula's castle. Each area is divided into 3 stages, for a total of 24 levels all together. Anyone who's ever played the earlier Castlevania games will be overwhelmed by the flood of memories that come back almost as soon as the first level starts. This is classic platforming action. It harkens back to a day when games did not rely on storytelling or fancy graphics to draw in players, only addictive and difficult, yet fun, gameplay. All the enemies that have been in the series from Day 1 are present - the skeletons that crumble, then reform moments after you whip them, the ever-annoying flying medusa heads, the little hunchback demons who like to jump about, and of course, the Grim Reaper.
There are two modes of gameplay present when you start - Original and Arranged. Original is an exact remake of the original PC game that came out in Japan. And Arranged (the mode of choice) has new character designs for your character and Dracula, better-sounding music and adjustable difficulty. (A god-send, since the original game is notoriously difficult.) With adjustable difficulty on Arranged mode, everyone can set the game to their liking.
The main thing that's going to turn some people off from this game are the graphics. They won't win any awards. Limited animation and detail. However, I think Konami did this on purpose. They were going for a classic look to go with the classic gameplay. These graphics basically look SNES quality. (Especially on Arranged mode.) However, there are some nice touches in the background. I especially liked the appropriately gruesome details in the torture chamber level like dismembered bodies hanging from chains and, near the end of the level, a group of people stuck in a plain white ''painting'' who are squirming about and screaming for help. Overall, if you don't mind the look of old school graphics, you shouldn't have too big of a problem.
The music is a collection of classic Castlevania tunes. If you've been playing the series from the beginning, like I have, you'll find yourself smiling with recognition many times when a new level begins, as it's usually accompanied by music from one of the earlier games. In Arranged mode, the music sounds even better. It's more ''symphonic'' and rarely have the classic tunes sounded this good. I'll have to track down the import soundtrack.
So, this review seems pretty positive so far. Why am I giving it a 7? Mainly, the game is pretty basic. There are absolutely no innovations or things you haven't seen in any previous Castlevania game. Yeah, it's nice to have a game made in the mold of the classics, but still, they could have added something new to the mix. Your character's moves are also severely limited. You can only whip forward, down and at an angle. At least you can change direction when you jump. I would have liked a more agile Belmont. At least Konami added a bit of replay by having a Time Attack mode open up once you beat the game on Arranged mode.
Overall, I can recommend this game to long-time fans of the series who want to go back to a simpler time, or for people who have never played a Castlevania game before. (I suppose it is possible...) Just be warned, this game is hard! Even if you play it on Easy difficulty in Arranged mode, there will be some spots in the game where you'll get frustrated. And yet, just like the early games, you'll be loving every minute of the punishment. This game perfectly captures the controller-tossing difficulty of the NES games. And hey, it's only $20.
It's always nice to see a new 2D Castlevania game for a console system. It may not be innovative, but it is fun, and that's what counts. Just expect to be disappointed if you're expecting something new, or complex gameplay. Now when is Konami going to bring us a port of the PC Engine Dracula X?...
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/12/01, Updated 06/09/03
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