Review by shenloken
"An actually enjoyable game; featuring a poor man's Belmont."
When I first heard about CastleVania Dracula X; I heard it was a pile of bat dookie badly butchered by American Konami game developers. While Dracula X: Rondo of Blood has been considered a true classic in the series; people moaned and groaned when they were stuck with this alternate version. But in actuality, the game isn't THAT bad. in fact; it can be enjoyable to those who are fans of the series; or who like to have some good challenges in a while. This game has you star as Richter Belmont; as I call him, a Belmont who looks similar to Ryu from 'Street Fighter'. See, the thing is, Richter Belmont may have moves and all; but they don't really fare all too well. He walks at the same leisurely pace any Belmont has done. He also has an 'Item Crush'; which I find to be pretty worthless. And his backflip is just as worthless; seeing how you'll probably end up sliding off the cliff after you land from it. At least he's the msot animated. Even when he stands still, he's still moving. (Or dancing, or hopping, or looking like he really needs to use the bathroom.) His jumps are decent though; as were other Belmonts. I gotta say; you're stuck with him, but all's not lost. The game does offer some good points in which you control Richter through his seemingly short, yet challenging quest to continue the Belmont tradition: Breaking into Dracula's castle and killing him without getting arrested for trespassing and first-degree murder.
The graphics here are pretty good actually. The coolest effect has to be the fire engulfing the village which is being burned down. (Richter probably left a baked potato in the microwave.) Naut. :-p Also, the textures for the castle, water, and forests are acceptional. The only thing that caused a problem, was repetiveness in the caves. It's the same stalagmites here and there. (And for some odd reason, looks like daylight in there.) Now to enemies; the enemies look accepitonally good as well. The skeletons have more movement, as do fleamen, knights, and even the bosses like the Minotaur, Werewolf, and Death. But some enemies look too cartoonish. The blood skeletons especially. (NEVER outline your enemies in heavy black.) And soem bosses look less threatening due to lack of graphics. (Such as the Cerberus boss at the beginning; or the headless knight.) But animation is more lively this time around. Richter moves, and shows action even while standing. And some of the ebst detail goes to the Sword Lords, and spearmen. But Dracula..I have no idea why they changed him in this game. Also; the cinematic sequences are crappily drawn.
The new versions of such CastleVania favorites like 'Vampire Killer'; 'Bloody Tears', and most of all, 'Bloodlines'; are REALLY good. I like how Konami matched the theme with these soundtracks well. It's a hard rock/classical mixture between these themes. And most grooviest to me was 'Slash'; which featured a real neat tune that almost makes it look like Richter should dance to it. (But he can't; due to the fact he's only payed to walk and bob up and down in one place.) However, such tunes like the new, crappier version of 'Beginning'; and 'Picture of a Ghost Ship'; and that 'Cave Tune' really aren't that great. They may match the backgrounds somewhat, but don't offer much in rhythm and feel like some of the other soundtracks on here. Still, the music's very good. Sound is pretty decent, but if not for the music, this woulda gotten a lower score. When Richter yells to do his 'Item Crash'; it sounds like someone either kicked him in the groin or shoved a hard object up his butt. (Looks like it too.) And Dracula's corny laugh when he's attacking you can be irritating. (He sounds like he's laughing at a Woody Allen movie; which means it sounds very forcible and not very hearty.) Other than that; great music.
This is where the game takes the real heat. Let's face it Richter; unless you change your image (and acting), you pretty much wouldn't last that long in a CastleVania game. for one thing, Richter almost has to make exact jumps to get to the other ledge. One thing that ticks me off more; is the fact that Richter can get hit by the same enemy more than once. (Richter could get hit 2 or more times by the same stupid bat!!) Also; his backflip isn't even worth it. Does little to evade danger or reach places; and actually will increase your chances of falling. (He slides pretty far after he lands. Why? I dunno.) The ItemCrash is regarded as worthless; and a waste of Item Hearts. (Save it for a alst ditch attempt at beating a boss; who has it's own last ditch attempt as well.) As being knocked by enemies more than once; could not only damage you; but also knock you off a cliff and to another cheap death. (This is why Fishmen are more annoying than goofy looking.) These are the downturns. It can also be noted that the items richter uses are pretty standard. Except this time; he can throw three daggers with one heart. (This doesn't do anything special; except try and make Richter look cool.) Now; for the worse part. This proves how weak Richter is. In cases like Spearmen, Sowrd Lords, and various bosses...Richter can be knocked halfway across the room and suffer severe damage from one stupid enemy. I see no point in this except to frustrate the gamer. (as well as Richter; who probably is an unfrotunate Belmont to have such a weak disposition.) Why Konami? Why such a stupid way to get hit? Getting hit by one enemy more than once was bad enough.
There is no way I would be willing to like a 'Save the Damsel in Distress' plot in a CastlEvania game. The Damsel in distress is ricther's girlfriend (Big Surprise), Annette Renard. Plus her sister, Maria Renard, who's a much more effective and braver girl than Annette. I've seen better rescue the princess references in 'Mario'. It's also the same old plot; kill Dracula, go home. The ending is also pretty pathetic, and looks like a badly drawn storybook. Well Konami; you had to debut Richter didn't ya? Too bad he suffers from 'Bad Plot Syndrome'; and it's too bad that there are even girls being abducted by evil villians and held in castles for any reason. (BTW: Even if you do save his girlfriend, which is optional, the ending still really doesn't change that much..except for a lame drawing.)Also; where's Shaft? (The Dark Priest) Why isn't in herE? He was in Rondo of Blood. So where is he? huh, huh? (I think he was replaced by that pathetic magician in the cave that looks kinda like Orbo from 'He-Man'.)
This game is both challenging, and can be frustrating at the same time. Despite this; it's actually very short. When you master it; the levels are a breeze to get through. The enemies also become easier. The boss challenge however, remains constant. The bosses still use unpredictable patterns (especially the werewolf and headless knight), and can cause major damage. Also; there's one point in the game that prevents from trying to save Richter's girlfriend no matter what. It's before you face the ehadless knight; in a hallway; where Medusa heads, dragon skulls, or skeletons can knock you off easily on these pillars your standing on. More unpredictable yet; is the fight against Dracula. This is the grand pooba of 'cheap death boss' fights. (seeing how you're between a multitude of pits while fighting Drac himself.) Also, his fireballs knock you off quicker than damage you. (Kinda hypocritical to me; seeing how hellfire should damage you more than just falling into a pit.) Other than that; the game offers some fun stuff. Walking through a ghoulsih wonderland of castles, caves, and towns. It's just too short; I wish they coulda done more. But then of course; that woulda doubled the challenge. Still; its a nice game to play when you wanna challenge yourself and kill time.
Cheap deaths, poor control moves, and bad storyline is what probably made Dracula X look bad to msot gamers. Many say it's the 'Black Sheep' of the series. (Naw, there are several others who could easily qualify for that.) But still; it has a good variety of graphics, excellent music, and some nice smooth playing when you're jsut trying to find some challenge. Has the game been longer; and less frustrating, people would ahve liked it more. (Or beter yet; had Konami decided to bring Dracula X: Rondo of Blood over to America...we wouldn't have a problem would we?) Still; a pleasant little game; starring an average Belmont. It's rare to find; but I got it for cheap. And I still wouldn't trade it for anything else. This game is decent, with some flaws. Any CastleVanai fan may like to give it a try without expecting too much. Overall; a decent addition to the series.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/11/02, Updated 01/11/02
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