Review by JonthePenguin
"3 Classics. 1 UMD. You do the math."
In 1993, Konami released the tenth iteration of a classic series. This game featured a number of gameplay additions that would influence most future installments of the series, including special moves specifically for dodging, replayable levels, and completion percentage. The graphics too took a step up from most previous entries, and in fact many of the enemies created for the game were still in use as recently as the most recent original entry. The music redid a number of classic themes from earlier games in the series, while adding a handful of originals of equal quality themselves. There was just one problem fans of the series ran into worldwide: The game was only released in Japan.
I'm talking, of course, about Akumajou Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, also known as Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. Because it was not easily available--those who wished to play it had to either pay to import the game and its console, or else go to the hassle of figuring out PC Engine emulation--the game reached legendary heights. Rumor spread that the game was the best the hardest, the most amazing Castlevania experience known to man, an orgasmic fusion of gameplay, graphics, and music that the world wept over. For years, fans clamored for an English-language release--for years Konami ignored them.
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles finally brings this classic game to worldwide shores, in a deluxe package including a remake of the game in 3D graphics, the original game itself, and its direct sequel, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, practically a legend in its own right. The package sounds like an a vampire hunter's wet dream, but how does it stack up?
This review will be divided into two main parts, Rondo and Symphony.
Dracula X Chronicles and Rondo of Blood
The first game, and the main attraction for most fans, is the remake of Rondo of Blood, referred to in the game itself as Dracula X Chronicles. Main character Richter Belmont struts his way through Dracula's castle, with the goal of saving humanity from the vampire's sway. As a Castlevania in classic form, this game featured traditional sidescrolling platformer gameplay--you walk forward, you jump over obstacles, you hit enemies with your weapon of choice (in this case, as in most other Castlevanias, your trusty whip--Indiana Jones would be proud).
The remake and original share basically the same level design, setup, music, and gameplay progression. The primary differences between the two come in the form of the hidden extras--where Rondo has none, DXC has a number of hidden soundtrack and game items (including original Rondo and Symphony--that's right, they're not unlocked from the start). These soundtrack items can be used in a new mode allowing you to choose your own background music for the stages. These include music from both the original Rondo and Symphony, as well as the various stages of DXC itself. Additionally, DXC has a boss rush mode, which allows you to use either playable character to battle the various bosses throughout the game.
Symphony of the Night
The other main game in the collection is the PlayStation classic Symphony of the Night. This game is the first of the modern-style Castlevania action-RPG series that includes Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow, and Portrait of Ruin. Rather than separate stages, limited mobility, and a Belmont with a whip, SotN introduced a continuous castle, special moves to gain access to new areas, and the son of Dracula using all manner of weaponry scattered throughout the game. The most notable change from the original release is the reversion to the Japanese version, which featured two additional familiars (clones of two already-existing ones) and a few moved items, as well as retranslated and rerecorded dialogue. The new acting is fairly well-done, particularly compared to 1997's cheesy, over-the-top version. Also replaced was the original J-pop number "I am the Wind" from the credits, which now roll to a new "Moonlight Serenade" more in line with the rest of the game's soundtrack. This is largely an extra feature added to the main course of DXC, but is still the classic game it was when originally released.
This game is a great value for your $30, particularly if you have any interest whatsoever in 2D sidescrollers. Newer gamers might find the difficulty level of DXC a bit on the high side, but practice will allow them to overcome any difficulties along the way. And besides, once just a couple levels have been explored, there's always SotN for an easy romp through 2D combat.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/10/08
Game Release: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (US, 10/23/07)
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