Review by Raptor_XS
"The best games in the series now available together"
Allow me to preface this review by declaring that I kept a very important vow: Should Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood ever be released in the US, I would purchase it the day it was released. In fact, I based my purchase of a PSP off of this game. Supreme THANK YOU! to IGA for keeping the magic of Castlevania alive with this stellar localization package!
Dracula X Chronicles is foremost a remake of the previously-unreleased Rondo of Blood, originally on the Japanese PC-Engine Duo or CD-ROM Super System that now features enhanced polygonal graphics, new CGI cinemas, and a re-imagined soundtrack. Also included as unlockables are the original Rondo game and a remastered version of Symphony of the Night. The original Rondo has been translated from Japanese*, complete with English voiceovers. Symphony's remastered version features both Richter and Maria as unlockable characters, as well as an updated dialogue translation and some small sound effect changes.** Essentially, this PSP title is a compilation of 3 games. The only version of Dracula X that didn't make the cut into this game was the SNES version that was released in 1995.
*Opening movie/scene is spoken in German, and the words of the narration differ slightly from the original Japanese version. For diehard fans and owners of the original game, this undoubtedly is a significant item to point out.
**Differs from the Sega Saturn version released only in Japan. Maria and Richter are not initially playable.
Now for the review:
The original stories of Rondo and Symphony are unchanged from their original forms. Together they encompass a flowing story consistent with the timeline set by earlier Castlevanias. You can now experience the prequel to Symphony, the most popular Castlevania of all-time, and learn how the events unfold between the two games.
The remake of Rondo sports beautifully-rendered 3-D backgrounds and CGI cinemas with 2-D polygon-rendered foreground action. The animation is quite smooth, without noticeable drop in frame rate. Finally, the game is presented in 16:9 widescreen on the PSP. For players with newly-redesigned PSPs, the component output cable, and a progressive-scan TV set to zoom, the action can be enjoyed in a reasonably-sized window on a TV screen as an added treat.
The sprites and animations of the original game are unchanged. For 1993, the graphics were cutting-edge. Even now, they look nice in comparison to many side-scrollers from subsequent generation systems.
With Symphony, the same holds true as with the original Rondo: the sprites remain intact and faithful to the original. The popularity of this game on the Playstation was largely based on it being one of the best-looking 2-D games ever produced, even to this day.
The beauty of Michiru Yamane's original Symphony of the Night soundtrack is intact, and her re-imagining of the Rondo Soundtrack holds its own. Yamane's efforts modernize the music to suit the graphics of the Rondo remake. However, many fans, including myself, still prefer the original game's music over that of the remake.
The first Castlevania games to feature voiced dialogue, these remakes do well in their updates of the original games. The voice-acting of Rondo's remake flows more nicely with better expression than that of the original. Fans of Symphony will be pleased to know that the voice acting has improved a bit, making it easier to digest.
Old-school gamers will appreciate the preservation of the classic control scheme, which was accomplished rather nicely with the graphical transition of the Rondo remake. The original game's controls are unchanged from the Japanese version, and the controls for Symphony are true to the original game as well. Symphony diverges by featuring more Metroid-style exploration with the leveling-up aspect of RPGs. It is notable that you generally cannot die by falling into a pit as with Rondo and earlier games in the series. Modern gamers may have a little difficulty appreciating the controls of Rondo, favoring those of Symphony. However, older gamers will view the classic controls as a breath of fresh air from the retro days. A new feature for all 3 games is the inclusion of the Quick Save option which allows you to stop playing at anytime and resume from that exact point at a later time.
Replay Value: 10/10
Though Rondo is short enough to complete in one gaming session, completion of all routes through the castle and finding hidden rooms will take a good deal longer, as will completing the game with Maria. The character customization available in Symphony also allows for some freedom in equipping items and weapons. Furthermore, the inverted castle, long known about by few, will keep players striving to complete 100% of Symphony's map. This package is good for players who just want a quick play as well as for those who want to spend lots of time exploring.
With Rondo of Blood finally landing on US shores, the game could almost merit a 10/10 on its own. Igarashi and Co., have gone to great efforts in revamping and localizing the two most beloved entries into the Castlevania series, and their work shows that 2-D games are a force to be reckoned with, even in the modern gaming age. What keeps this game from a 10 is the fact that it is on a portable system instead of a console. Even with the newly-redesigned PSPs, the picture that can be output to a TV is relatively small. Inclusion of the SNES Dracula X version would have been a nice addition as well, to make the package more complete.
Buy or rent: If you're a Castlevania fan, then you know as well as I do that this is a definite buy. However, if you're looking for a casual game that you can finish in a relatively short amount of time (main game), this would make a good rent as well. At release, MSRP was $29.99. Considering you can easily pay twice that much for games with little or no replay value these days, this is not a bad deal at all.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/26/07
Game Release: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (US, 10/23/07)
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