Review by youngfrankenstein
"Man came to the world to make a contribution, but not to complete everything."
About a year ago or so, during the release of the critically acclaimed 'Daxter' (which I gave a seven outta ten, the review is featured here on this same server) I mentioned in the review how the PSP needs games that made the PS2 so great- series like Silent Hill, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil and of course- Castlevania. Isn't great Sony seems to have finally come to it's senses nearly three years after the PSP's debut? Many of Sony's major franchises have finally made their way to the portable, and isn't it just fantastic that it's first Castlevania game happens to be one of the greatest in the series ever, with another of the greatest games of all time as an unlockable bonus?
As you've probably heard already, the main game is a remake of Rondo of Blood, a Japanese classic (considered by some to be the best in the series) which never made it's way overseas. And again, as you've probably heard, Symphony of the Night, also considered by many to be near the number one spot in numerous 'Top Ten Games of All Time' lists, is an unlockable bonus. I just have to stop and say: what a great bonus. I can think of a nice few fellas out there who would have been watering at the mouth at the chance to pay for a full priced UMD of just a simple port of Symphony of the Night by itself. Plus- to add icing to the cake- this compilation sells at a reduced price. You don't get much more 'bang for your buck' than this.
The Dracula X Chronicles is a compilation. It features a port of the original Rondo of Blood, a remake of Rondo of Blood, and the infamous Symphony of the Night. The main game here is the remake of Rondo of Blood- the original Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night are squillered away somewhere in Dracula's castle as unlockable bonuses, like I've said- but it's not too hard to find them, and if you really want your old-school fix as soon as possible, the routes to unlocking them are posted on many a gaming site. This remake (and the original it's based on) is unlike modern Castlevania games of today- it's more of a linear affair instead of Symphony of the Night's open ended-ness, but believe me- it's still quite fun. After a while you gain a level select, which increases the game's accessibility, and there's branching paths with multiple endings. It's a complete game all on it's own, and it's very good.
This remake is done in 2.5D (as apposed to full 3D), similar to the style found in Viewtiful Joe or Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins. Fully 3D sprites moving on a flat plane, left and right, up and down, in a fully fleshed-out 3D world. Personally, I quite like the style, and would love to see more games like this used in conjunction with the 3D goggles that came with Metal Gear Acid 2. If you think these characters jump off the screen as they are now, imagine it in glorious 3D-vision.
This probably will never happen though- nobody seems too keen on the idea of those goggles (I suppose it IS a little silly looking, especially on the bus, peering through a those mothers like a scientist looking through a microscope) but still- the graphics are great looking, and during certain phases like approaching a boss, the camera zooms right in for the most cinematic angle and then right out again, ready for the fight. Not only does it do this all well, but with NO load times at all, which is beautiful. You'd expect the odd lag here and there, with this new gaming generation and this being a PSP game in all, but the only loading is choosing what level you want to go to and which game you want to play. Fantastic job here, Konami. Minimal load times which are thankfully kept OUT of the gameplay and inbetween levels are fantastic and extremely noteworthy.
The most important part of any game of course is the gameplay. I've read reviews by critics and casual gamers alike, and some have been moaning about the difficulty- this is a remake of an old school game, so yeah- this can be tough and vexing at times- but is it ever fun. After some practice, you'll find yourself mastering different enemy movement and timing your moves perfectly. This game is all about skill, and it is rewarding if you manage to master the game, it's levels, and your patience.
Some other people have been saying the original Rondo of Blood is harder than the main draw here, it's 2.5D remake, and I'd have to agree with them on that one. The remake of Rondo of Blood is quite challenging and fun (I think I've played it more than the original Rondo and Symphony of the Night combined), but the original is one cruel, heartless mother. I think the reason why it's tougher is that the sprites in the remake are bright and colourful, whilst everything is quite dark and a bit hard to see in the original. Not only that though, your undead opponents seem to move somewhat differently than their 2.5D remake counterparts, and as a result you'll be crying foul out loud more than once over the cheap deaths featured in this older sprite-filled castle of yore. But again- it's down to practice and patience and can be a fun diversion from the other two games.
My one gripe with the graphics in the remake is the characters mouths never move. The camera moves away so it's hard to tell, trying to keep you in the moment, but their facial expressions don't move either. On top of that, the voice acting is alright, but just alright. The music is good enough to make up for it though. These three games have fantastic, catchy music, and the deal is sweetened with the Sound Test' option, featuring music from all three games in the main menu.
Onto Symphony of the Night. What can I say about this game that hasn't already been said? It's a sequel to Rondo of Blood, and it is quite fun- I can see why all those critics put it on their top ten lists. This version of Symphony is the latest, most upgraded one, with all the supplemental bells and whistles developers have attached to it over the years, along with brand new voice acting, supposedly making it the very best version thus far. I've never played the original or any of the other versions, but again- I can see why they like this game so much.
I'm one of those people who grew up with the N64, so the Legend of Zelda: Ocarnina of Time and Super Mario 64 are what set the bar for me. It's strange then I have the PSP instead of the DS, because I never played Final Fantay VII (and have only vague, whispery clues as to what it's about) as well as other classics in it's PS1 library. Classics like Symphony of the Night- but I HAVE played Circle of the Moon for the GBA (whose gameplay was based off of Symphony's) and I absolutely loved it. Maybe because I'm older now, I'm not quite into Symphony of the Night as I was into Circle of the Moon. That'd explain why I've been enjoying the remake of Rondo more- it's newer to me. But no mistake about it, having Symphony in there is a fantastic bonus, and I'm glad they threw it in. Back in 2006, when I was asking Sony for a Castlevania game in my Daxter review, I never thought they'd throw in a classic like Symphony into a Castlevania game that never made it to North America as a bonus, and again- I'm very glad they did.
To sum up, I've reviewed some stinkers here on gamefaqs and some real winners- and this Castlevania game for the PSP is a winner. If you're a fan of the more recent series, you may find the linear nature of Rondo a bit shocking, but it's still very enjoyable and fun. If your still unhappy, there's the level select with branching paths, as well as the fantastic Symphony of the Night as an unlockable that you can fall back on. All three games have great value, are very replayable, and should eat up plenty of unconstructive time spent staring out the window on the bus or in waiting rooms or something. The characters mouths and facial expressions never move and the voice acting is a little painful, but it's forgivable- especially as the game supports stereo surround and the music is good enough to make up for it. The whole package is accessible and sold at a bargain price, and this game has not left me wanting for more. I'm glad the first Castlevania game for the PSP was so good and stuck to it's roots, and I'm looking forward to another PSP instalment of the series. Try this game- today!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/07/07, Updated 01/14/08
Game Release: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (US, 10/23/07)
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