Review by Elbryan42
"The Dracula X Chronicles - The game we've been waiting for, in more ways than one..."
So, back in the day, the Turbo Grafx-16 (PC Engine in Japan) had a CD attachment. It was very good. Konami made a lot of great games for it, but for some reason didn't have the rights to release the games outside of Japan. One of those games was released in 1993. That game was the outstanding Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (Rondo of Blood).
The game was "loosely" ported to the SNES as Castlevania: Dracula X, with stiff as molasses control, uninspired level design, insane difficulty, no extra character, and a broken double level structure. Needless to say, it only enraged people more for not getting the true Rondo of Blood.
Now, 14 years later, we finally get the game that has long been sought after (going for tons of cash on EBay). Though through the wonders of the internet and emulation, people have been able to play it, but it has never been a true official non-emulated release. Now we have it.
You start the game off playing a bloody amazing 3D polygon rendered version of Rondo of Blood. This, my friends, isn't just the long awaited game that's taken 14 years to come out, but THE Castlevania game we've been waiting for, for many years. After many years of Castleroids (though some are great games in their own right), and rehashes of the same thing (Curse of Darkness, anyone?) we finally have an old-school game that truly is the breath of fresh air that Castlevania fans have been waiting for.
The PSP has had many 3D remakes, including some great ones like Mega Man: Maverick Hunter X and Lemmings. These graphics are easily on par with those, maybe even looking better. The music has been totally redone, and although mostly amazing, it makes you kinda miss the old tracks. More on that later. There's new bosses, new parts of levels, TONS of secrets, boss rush, new puzzles, new English voice actors, a real translation, new cut scenes and more.
Those not initiated in Castlevania, you ought to be. One of the best gaming series ever. In this game, you play as Richter Belmont, arguably the most powerful of the clan. He wields the Vampire Killer whip and hunts Dracula. His girlfriend Annette and her sister Maria have been kidnapped by Dracula, so it's also personal. You have sub-weapons to use, like Holy Water, the Boomerang, an Axe, and more. If that weren't enough, when you rescue Maria, you can play as her. She has completely new moves, new weapons, and the game feels totally different playing as her.
The controls are great, but they seem slightly stiffer than the original Rondo of Blood. But when you get used to it, it's second nature. The sounds are top notch, actually surround sound so to speak. You'll hear stuff to your left and to your right in the respective speakers. There's more detail in the levels too. These barely seem like the same levels. Now, onto the extra stuff.
The game's hidden stuff starts with the original Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. How accurate is it? It's obviously been translated, and the voices from the remake are used, even for the opening (for some weird reason). The controls are silky smooth and the presentation makes it seem more like a port than an emulation. There's a few problems though. The background might (it seems random actually) get slightly darker in some stages when the screen is scrolling. It's barely noticeable though. Also, due to the PSP's UMD drive taking too long to spin up, the cut scenes that require streaming from the CD (so the opening cut scenes, Annette/Dracula cut scene, and the endings) are slightly out of sync. It's kinda annoying. You can also tell in all three games (Rondo, Rondo Original, and SOTN) that the music takes about a second to start after the disc starts spinning. But overall, Rondo of Blood is just as fun to play as it should be. They did a great job. I'm just nitpicking.
The second thing you can unlock is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PSX. Though I won't get into huge detail about it (it really requires it's own review), just know that this is one of THE best games of all time. Though not without flaws (useless items, a tacked on "inverted castle" that's not as easy to navigate, incomplete in some ways) it's what really got Castlevania popular outside of a cult following. The version here has changed somewhat though. The voices have been redone, and the script slightly revamped. The only voice that doesn't quite fit is Alucard's but it's still decent. For the most part the voice acting is better than on the PSX, though some lines seem wooden compared to the emotion in the original. Also, you get the two familiars from the Japanese version that we didn't get in North America until now. The Nose Demon and Fairy (Pixie in Japan) are basically the Demon and Faerie familiars, but it's nice to have them.
Lastly, Maria has been included. She's different from her Saturn counterpart (the Saturn version of SOTN had Maria, extra levels, items and such, but didn't look or play as well), and it's kind of a mixed bag. She can dash in two directions (like Juste can in HOD) has all of her weapons from Rondo (she can carry two at a time, much better than special controller moves on the Saturn), shoots doves like in Rondo (again, better than fireballs and kicking on the Saturn) and she can double jump and high jump. The only gripe with her is she feels very underpowered (though she has her Guardian Fist move from Rondo), so it takes a while to get used to her. Although she has less moves than on the Saturn, she feels like more part of the game than on the Saturn, where it felt like she was tacked on.
Other extra stuff in SOTN is Richter and Maria jumping slightly higher (so it's been tweaked so you don't have to run-jump onto every bloody platform), an extra boss, and I am the Wind has been replaced with a new song (which will overjoy some and disappoint others). No extras from the Saturn were included (unless you count Maria, and the cut familiars). So no Cursed Prison or Underground Garden, no extra items (Boots of Godspeed, Alucard Spear, etc) and no new music (except for the I am the Wind replacement).
The graphics are much sharper on the PSP as well. The controls, however, are tougher for special moves, for some. I find that it's fine when you get used to it. Overall, a great port, I prefer it to the PSX version.
The third thing to unlock is Peke. Back in the day, they had System Cards for the CD attachment for the PC Engine. Rondo of Blood required System Card 3. If you didn't have the right card, Rondo allowed you to play a small goofy stage where at the end it told you to get the right System Card. So, yeah, that level is in here. Nothing much to say.
Lastly, and in my opinion, the most important, thing to unlock is extra music. You can find throughout the Rondo remake, extra tracks. Every track from Rondo, Rondo Original and SOTN. With that, you can set any track to any level in the Rondo remake. So if the new remixes aren't your thing, you can change them. Very groovy. It seems like they thought of it all.
So, anyways, I could go on all day about how great this game is. It's not without it's flaws, but I can't explain more than this just "feels" like the game to get, if you're a Castlevania fan, or a classic gamer period. I bought my PSP for a few reasons, this game being one of them. And if it was the only reason, I would've been more than happy with my purchase.
I highly recommend this game. I honestly haven't had this much fun with a game in many years. All three games included (four if you count Peke) are all top-notch, and there's tons of hidden stuff to keep you busy for weeks. The only things bringing the score down to a 9 is the UMD spin-up causing original Rondo's cut scenes to be out of sync, and the slight darkening of the original Rondo's backgrounds when they scroll. Both are forgivable though.
BUY THIS GAME NOW.
Thank you. Have a nice day. :P
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/05/07
Game Release: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (US, 10/23/07)
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