Review by BakaOrochi
"Not without flaws, but almost there"
WARNING: This contains very minor spoilers. Nothing game breaking, but some unlockables are mentioned.
Had this been released in 1997, I would've given this game a 9 or a 10. Not to say that I enjoyed this any less per se...well...OK to be honest, there were a few aspects of this game I enjoyed less that the originals.
A background about myself with Castlevania, I've played the game since the first one on NES and loved the franchise since, for the most part. I consider Symphony of the Night on my top 5 best games of all time. Replay is great (although not late-night-inducing), soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous and varied, sound effects are superb, voice acting is...well bad, but definitely memorably bad, and the graphics, for the time in 2D was awesome (even though they borrowed sprites from the previous incarnations of the franchise). I've owned and replayed every incarnation to date, including the Japanese PS-X version, Japanese Saturn, and even the E3 crippled demo, in which you can actually still play the entire game minus one room, so I guess it's not entirely crippled.
Rondo of Blood on the other hand, I played the Turbo Duo version several times but I never got too far. Unfortunately, I was already spoiled by SOTN so this felt like a giant step back and I just couldn't get into it. The graphics were still fine for the time period but the soundtrack was tinny at times and sound effects were just grating to the ears. The gameplay was definitely reminiscent of an older generation which I had no problem with if I actually liked the controller. I hated trying to pull off Maria's special.
However, I knew that the game had to still be good, I just needed more patience and I had hoped to pick it up again eventually. When I read the games were being redone and released in America, I looked outside to see if pigs were flying. Ayami Kojima was redrawing the art and redoing Richter and Maria's outfits (honestly I liked the originals a little better, but Kojima's were far more elegant and I guess more fitting for the game's time period), all the voice acting and scripting redone, even for SOTN (which...I hated. More later), and the game will include the original and SOTN too! How could I not want to drop a load in my pants at this point.
So here we are, I bought the Dracula X Chronicles since I just bought a PSP and this was on the clearance bin (shame too, a great bargain).
Consensus after beating all three (Peke doesn't count)? Good but there's room for improvement.
For sake of ease,
DXC - Remake of Rondo of Blood
RoB - Turbo CD version of Rondo of Blood
SotN - Symphony of the Night
DXP - Turbo CD's Dracula X Peke (not that I plan on really referring to this)
DXC: Not horrible, reminiscent between PS-X and PS2 graphics. Lots of lines, jaggies, and ugly faces, but aside from that...bearable. For a 2.5D game though, I don't expect much especially knowing how much of a powerhouse the PSP is. My problem with 3D texturized platformers is that edges are a bit tricky. If I want to make a jump, I usually end up falling short because I'm not quite sure how far I can go before I fall in myself. Luckily, it's not a HUGE problem in DXC and RoB since half of the pits lead elsewhere so it can be a bonus. Usually, I'm not that lucky.
RoB: Given that I'm sure Turbo CD's video playback engine wasn't all too spectacular, it was watching animated GIF's with sound recorded over it. At the time I guess it was cool but looking back now, it definitely shows age. During the game, graphics are still well done given that it's supposed to be a notch above Genesis and maybe SNES, but not quite Playstation either.
SotN: Not going to bother. It's the same flippin' game, plus Maria.
DXC: I was thoroughly impressed with the remade soundtrack. I didn't care too much for RoB's soundtrack, but this drew me in a lot more. I've heard orchestrated 8-bit and 16-bit arrangements that either stray too far from the original to know what you're listening to or trying too hard to recapture the same feel to the point where it's dull. DXC's soundtrack is reinvented, much like the rest of the game.
The sound effects on the other hand were bland, nothing impressive or anything lacking "oomph."
RoB: Unfortunately this gets the raw end of the deal since comparing it to DXC's more rich soundtrack is like comparing a scooter to a monster truck. I kind of preferred Maria's voice acting to the DXC's since she's supposed to be young and sounds like it, whereas in DXC they aged her a few years but still talks and acts like she's 8.
Both DXC and RoB has an English voice track which is not really that bad. The scripting is OK but not entirely deep. Whoever did the subtitling for RoB however needs a slap across the head because half of the script is horribly translated. You don't need to know Japanese at all: just read it. I guarantee you'll either do a double take or be stuck re-reading lines not sure how it makes sense until you realize that they used the wrong words. Several times. So much for quality control.
SotN: Soundtrack is still my favorite. Redone sound effects are neat and nothing I've got issues with. The voice acting on the other hand is horrible. If you have access to play the original version of SotN on Playstation, X-Box 360, or PS3, play through the first 15 minutes of the game. Kind of ridiculous and overdone a bit, right? That's the problem with the PSP version.
The PSP SOTN's voice acting is boring. Bland. Uninspired. It was like taking a bunch of random Joe's off the street to read a book, line for line. I had to switch to the Japanese voice acting to keep myself from falling asleep. To top that off, the new scripting is just horrible. It's like someone used an emo 10th grade poet to rewrite it, topped with generous helpings of cheese. Be it as it was, it's more off from the original Japanese script than before rather than being closer as was boasted. Give me the option for the original voices any day.
I had no real issue with the gameplay aspect until I played Maria in SotN. For the rest, read below.
Maria in DXC and RoB was a bit annoying but workable. Her double jump got me out of a lot of tight spots, her slide was super useful, and as weak as she was, she made up for it because her birds and her specials.
Go to SotN on the flip side. Granted, she's completely different than her grossly unfair Saturn version (nearly-infinite invincibility say what?), and I expected that but now she handles like a giraffe.
I couldn't understand why they took out her triple-jump, but her down-up flying makes up for it. I guess. Her down-up jump to fly to the tricky spots is equally as tricky since her birds can only fly in one direction: up. As in straight up. Unless she's falling, then I can move left and right all I want with the birds attached to my head...how does that make sense? Her dive move in the air is worthless. I'd think if you want to fly down really fast, you'd do a head stomp, but Konami apparently thinks it's more productive if she has a move that'll make her fall down really fast, and if you hit an enemy, you'll take damage. She's got a 270 degree roll (as in, you have to move your thumb in a 270 degree rotation on the D-pad to perform it), but it does so little damage and unlike Richter, doesn't let her plow through enemies so if the enemy isn't dead, she'll get hurt. Basically, it's worthless. Her L-R dash is about the only useful thing she's got really, and it helped me avoid enemies. That's about it.
Her birds seem to almost do less damage now. They used to do a two-way damage when you shot them out in DXC and RoB, but now one bird shot = one hit. Come on, they're weak enough as it is! You're pretty much forced to use her specials, which you find in some situations really doesn't work or are useless. Who uses that turtle shell (Genbu)? Suzaku (those fire wing things) are nice but the amount of hits they dish out for the horrible range rarely makes it worth it. The tiger is still weak which leaves the dragon, Seiryuu to do the most damage (and I've found using the item crash being a huge waste of hearts as it really didn't do much damage for the cost). Her guardian knuckle thing (whatever, the mini-Maria icon) is now even more worthless. It does little damage and only hits about 3-5 times while using about I think 10-15 hearts. I've never been killed in a boss fight so quickly trying to use it.
If you do get hit (because believe me, you can only avoid enemies for so long), she'll eat it. Granted, she's supposed to take damage like a baby but given all the other disadvantages she has, how did she ever survive past Rondo of Blood? I'm convinced when you run into her as Alucard, she uses an Action Replay. Not only does her defense suck, but Konami won't even help you out and gives her a .2 second invincible recovery time (granted everyone else has the same recovery time, but Maria suffers the worst of it). I was knocked across an entire room by a stupid Medusa head because the game wouldn't let me be invincible long enough to get around it to kill it. I've had to continue so many times because I've been juggled around a room full of enemies all because I got knicked by something stupid (i.e. a musket bullet you can't destroy), and I got mobbed to death.
In short, Maria sucks. I'm grateful they've toned her down dramatically but now she's basically a walking target with a roll of one-ply toilet paper for a weapon. I appreciate the challenge, but this is not the way to do it. The game quickly became a game of "let's see how many enemies you can avoid before you get to the next save point." If I wanted to play a game like that, I'll play Resident Evil 2. On Tofu mode. Conversely, (barely) beating the game with her pretty much made me go back to play as Alucard and run around slicing up enemies with dual Crissaegrims for the next few hours so I could feel a little more significant about myself and the years I've spent playing this game to death.
Maria aside, the rest of the game play aspect is otherwise cumulative.
I've always had this problem with Castlevania SotN and RoB games. The controls are pretty responsive but sometimes a bit schizophrenic. I could live with that. But the biggest problem I have is with Konami: What is with you and giving characters in a platformer moves that I would normally use in a fighting game? I appreciate that these 270 degree specials are nice, but what's the use if you won't even let me execute it as smoothly as, say, Capcom would? It's a platformer, keep the fighting game control scheme out of it. If you want to make moves so flipping hard to do for the average gamer, at least give me a penalty like take some of my magic or hearts when I use the move.
Even as someone that plays a good amount of fighting games, these moves make my thumb numb to the point it's impossible for my hands to perform the moves anymore.
And before you tell me to stop using those moves, go, uh, bugger off. If it's in the game and the game's design won't penalize me and I'm against a computer, I'll use it to my heart's delight (much like Maria's horribly broken invincibility in the Saturn's SotN).
Boss Rush mode is pretty standard, but I mention it because of one thing: network play. Come on Konami, is this the best you can do with network play? I thought Co-op boss rush was a bad idea to begin with (on previous incarnations one player usually sat around doing nothing while the other kicked the boss's buttocks), but this still sucks! Yeah it's not different from the DS versions, but at least be a little more innovative, especially if it's Ad-hoc mode. What about doing co-op gameplay? Two players share one screen wiping every enemy in Castlevania on the floor? If one of you dies, why does both players get penalized? Plus if both players want to use Maria or Richter, for crying out loud at least give them a palette swap! Heck, even a player VS player would be fun. I'd love to pit Maria VS Richter someday without a stupid AI behind it. It'll be better than the atrocious fighting game.
Ah, the reason to buy games. How many times will you play it over again?
One thing I wish all the games had were a theatre mode to see all the cutscenes or cinematics. Oh well.
DXC: Given that you won't get 100% unless you collect all the records as well already pissed me off. Who cares about soundtrack availability? Give me something I could use to unlock during gameplay like a machine gun or a super-powered armor or something. Yeah, I guess I could go back and do it all again, but giving a useful replay item would be worth it. And I'm forced to do that horrible boss rush too? Ugh. No thanks. Plus I have to buy the boss demos, which...I suppose is fine since you run into money so much more easily than in RoB. I do like the addition of a harder final Dracula because let's face it, Dracula's a sissy in the original RoB.
RoB: Not much here unless you want to buy the boss demos and you missed the maidens and want to see all the endings. Not a bad incentive really especially with all the branching and endless possibilities to go.
SotN: I always enjoyed this game's replay conditions. You have to play through the game once through before Alucard is able to get the rare drops (Ring of Varda, Crissaegrim, etc), some of which are horribly overpowered, but I like running around and demolishing enemies that used to give me problems. It would be even nicer to have a New Game + option, but I suppose you can't always have your cake and eat it too. Richter is...Richter. No changes for him from the original PS-X version (not even the tweaks from the Saturn version). Maria is...well see my issues with Maria above. Granted, she was a huge challenge to beat the game with, but after a while when I played "avoid the enemy" with her, I ended up breezing through the game. Not my idea of fun really. With no incentive for her to level up (minus the Life Max Ups), what's the point fighting?
I gave this game an 8. I usually rate SotN a 9, but with all the issues with Maria, voice acting, and heck, it's not even the headlining game (which definitely had some flaws that could've been worked with), it's got some issues that could've been worked with.
I think if the game spent some more time in production, QA, and with play testers, this could've definitely been a 9, maybe a 9.5 (10 is reserved for a Godsent game).
For the price of the game now though, I highly recommend picking it up. The replay factor is there, It'll keep you playing for hours, and the difficulty on each game is enough that you may want to consider getting insurance for your PSP given that you might hurl it across the room.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/01/09
Game Release: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (US, 10/23/07)
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