Review by Bkstunt_31
"Dracula X: A mixed bag of good and bad but still classic Castlevania."
Dracula X! What a cool name!
Castlevania: Dracula X actually has an interesting story behind it. It came out to the US in 1995 featuring an all-new Belmont protagonist: Richter Belmont. However, it wasn't Richter's first game by any means! There was a game called Akumajou Dracula X: Chi no Rondo (Castlevania: Rondo of Blood) released in Japan 2 years earlier in 1993 that featured Richter as well!
In actuality, Dracula X is a... "substitution" released to the US market. I say substitution because it's NOT a port or a remake. There are several extreme differences between it and Rondo of Blood. Rondo of Blood actually was released to the US (finally!) in 2007, and many people believe Rondo of Blood to be the superior game of the two, but we're here to talk about what YOU can expect out of the SNES game Dracula X.
Simon Belmont had become a hero of Transylvania. He single-handily saved the land from Dracula. He is so BAD that he even gathered up Dracula's remains, resurrected him, and then killed him AGAIN. The people were free and had forgotten about Dracula until, as usual, the evil in the world allowed him to be resurrected again. Dracula wanted revenge on Simon but Simon was long since gone and so he sent his minions to a town to destroy it and kidnap the loved ones of Richter Belmont, Simon's descendant. He kidnapped Annet Renard, Richter's fiance and her sister Maria (from Symphony of the Night!) and is holding them both prisoner in his castle, waiting for Richter's inevitable rescue attempt.
As far as Castlevania game's go, Dracula X actually sets the bar higher as far as the story is concerned. A Belmont rescuing people he cares about! Unheard of! Now granted, the bar WASN'T very high to begin with and Symphony of the Night completely made every previous game look like it had NO story, but for it's time the story is pretty good. Of course once the game starts there is hardly any follow-up to the initial pre-game story, with the exception of small bits of dialog when you actually RESCUE someone. So while there is very little to the story, the game actually improves the overall direction Castlevania as a series was going.
Onto the game play, the most important thing for almost all SNES action games! Dracula X of course gives the player classic Castlevania game play and has you play the game stage by stage. HOWEVER, like Castlevania III, Dracula X also features BRANCHING PATHWAYS. These branching pathways are especially important in Dracula X as the two girls that Richter is out to save are hidden in certain stages and if you take the wrong path through the game you'll NEVER find them. Combine that with the fact that your ending depends on who you rescue and the path you take through the game is even more important.
Other then that though, the game is pretty standard Castlevania fare. Dracula X is a much simpler game compared to the only other SNES Castlevania game, Super Castlevania 4. Richter can only whip straight ahead and has a rather rigid jump, making planning out your jumps and getting to know your jumping limits extremely important! Despite his rigid jumping problem, Richter has a super-cool back flip ability that certainly comes in handy. Certain enemies will take multiple whips to kill and the famous Castlevania sub-weapons make a return. The game DOES introduce the popular ITEM CRASH feature, which is definitely historic. Once you get a certain number of hearts you can do a SUPER attack (thus the cool name of "item crash") and do an over-powered sub-weapon attack. VERY handy for getting out of tough spots and makes heart management even more important.
The game also gives Richter a decent life bar and has very little "instant death" instances aside from the various bottomless pits in the game (which is why you should REALLY get jumping down pat). The stages are also pretty darn short throughout the game, but like I mentioned often have key junctures along the way leading to different paths. The bosses in the game though, oh man are they difficult! Learning their strategies and knowing their patterns and attacks is VITAL to defeating them, leading to the game having some good challenge to it (unlike the majority of Super Castlevania IV, which had comparatively easy boss fights).
The design of the game is a mixed bag. On one hand the game has some pretty cool levels. The "Burning Town" stage (Stage 1) and the "Underground Lake" stage (Stage 5-ALT) are my favorites and feature some vibrant visuals and good design. However other stages throughout the game (notably the Abandoned Mine and Clock Tower) can be rather plain and repetitive. Enemy design and animation is well done throughout the game, although I felt that the enemy variety could have been much better. The game is also notable for it's various anime portrayals in both the ending scenes of the game and the box and manual artwork, which is a first for the series.
If there's one thing to take away from this review about Dracula X is HAS to be the music. The music throughout the game (and I do mean almost EVERY SINGLE piece of music) is like the BEST of the series. It's just awesome track after awesome track. Many of the tracks fans of the series have heard before but many of them are also remixed as well. All in all the audio throughout the game is just awesome and sounds fantastic.
The game itself is rather short. It features a mere 7 stages from beginning to end but 9 stages all together (if you count the alternate stages: one single game will only EVER be 7 stages long). Due to the choices you can make though, you could easily play through the game 3 times and take different paths each time.
Despite it's history I enjoyed Dracula X and feel it has it's own place in the series. Its music is far and away the highlight of the game in my eyes and while the Game Play and Graphics each have their own neat moments they can also just be plain uninspiring or even flat-out boring at times. In the end, the experience as a whole has the feel of a Classic Castleania game and despite the various shortcomings there's enough here to love for any action fan. Have fun and keep playing!
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/23/12
Game Release: Castlevania: Dracula X (US, 09/30/95)
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