"Crack that whip!"

No, I’ve never played the Turbo game. Except for a few brief moments of seeing the game in action, I’ve never really even glanced upon its legendary presence. However knowing someone who in fact owns Rondo of Blood, I’d say that Dracula XX isn’t just a port! Instead this is a simple action game reminiscent of the past Castlevania experiences.

Once again the devilish Lord of Darkness and blood-sucking vampire extraordinaire Count Dracula has come back to life to feed off on the lifeless masses of humans. The townspeople fear for their lives and must find a way to vanquish these beast back to his eternal slumber. But how will they do it!? Well, they do what their ancestors did - get a Belmont to do it! So our poor protagonist Richter must get ready for a long seven level quest to once again banish Dracula from our mortal realm.

Well folks, it’s back to basics here. Forget your pansy ass eight way whipping and overall simplistic jumping from Castlevania IV. Here you only have two ways to crack that whip! You’re only able to snap that whip forward while crouching and standing. In addition Richter’s leaps aren’t as long as Simon’s, nor can he quickly retreat midst jump like his forefather. So we already know that Richter’s adventure is going to be a little more trying than the last game on SNES. And is it ever! Pits are somewhat abundant, enemies are brutal, hearts must not be wasted, and meat is no longer all over the place! However one addition to the gameplay that is really cool is Richter’s ability to jump onto stairs. By holding up while leaping through the air, Richter can land on a staircase rather than falling right through it like the clumsy Belmonts before him.

Fate smiles upon you, young Belmont. You have quite an advantage in Dracula XX due to the brute force of the items unseen in earlier installments. The items are just so huge! Just throw an axe and see how many enemies it can hit. hen you throw down a bottle of holy water and it create this enormous line of bulky blue flames to envelop your foes! And the cross, it moves so far and hits so many things! Damn, do the items rock! However quite possibly the coolest thing about the items in the game is how you’re not stuck with some crappy item should you “accidentally” pick it up. Much like the more recent SotN, picking up a new items causes the old one to drop to the ground beside you. I absolutely love that idea because it pretty much allows you to keep a weapon you like (unless it drops into a pit, which totally sucks). Hell, I’m quite partial to the cross and the axe, so of course I’m going to want to keep them. In addition Richter is the only Belmont to hold the almighty power of the Item Crash. For a whole bunch of your hard earned hearts, you can unleash an extremely powerful version of your item that hits a wide range of targets.

The level design is most excellent. First of all there are the well placed pitfalls leading to your death there to basically tick you off. You’re going to have to think ahead and learn from your mistakes if you don’t want to continually slip into these holes of doom. For example in the second stage there’s this crumbling bridge where you get a cross right at the beginning of it. As you walk across it, sections break off and descend to the choppy waters below. So Richter keeps walking along until a whole bunch of those mermen jump out to knock you off the bridge. If you hit one, give up because you’re going with the bridge. To get across you have to continually throw crosses in order to kill the mermen before they touch you. You’ll encounter other situations such as these. Second they pack tons of enemies in every room. There are these guys with spears that are a real pain in the ass to kill, and the game will put like four in a room at a time. And mind you Richter can’t be hit all that much - probably about four hits from these guys and he’ll burst into sprays of red blood accompanied by a haunting scream of pain. In addition as I’ve said before you won’t find piles of meat lying around this castle! I’ve probably only seen two hunks of meat throughout the entire game! Konami really tried to strain our skills this time around.

Another cool thing about Dracula XX is the multiple paths in level four. If you fall into a pit in level three, then you’ll have to take the second path of level four. However if you stay on the high path and fight the level three boss, you’ll be rewarded with the first path of level four - the harder one. Uh. . . .yay?! Anyway I’d say it’s really not all that great at all. It’d seem to me as if it was just more of a thing to make you replay the game. I sure as hell know I was wondering what happens if you don’t fall, and it did make me replay the game.

Now here comes the worst part about the game: Richter is wicked slow. The man walks at a snails pace while trying to whip his much quicker foes. He’s way slower than those two dudes from Bloodlines. It’s unbearable at times. There were instances in which I’d want to just yell at the guy to pick up the pace! I blame Nintendo and their slow console! Unfortunately there isn’t anyway to have Richter run either like in SotN (so that means no super uppercut or slide either).

Dracula XX delivers an excellent showcase of graphical power.. The backgrounds are mind-blowing! The first stage comprises of a burning village with gigantic writhing flames, grandiose structures succumbing to the heat of the fire, and the vestiges of what could have been a stone wall lying jagged across the area. Then there’s other amazing stuff like enormous stone gargoyle statues or a beautiful yet menacing moon in the background. Then there are the fine detailed sprites. There’s Richter with his bulging muscles and sharp blue vampire hunting clothing, a hairy muscle-bound minotaur tightly gripping a gleaming two-handed battle axe, and many more! And of course the game packs a powerful punch of colors to paint a beautiful picture. Also the game remarkably suffers from no slowdown. That’s a pretty big achievement for a SNES title.

The music is simply marvelous. Konami decides to use the SNES synth to reproduce some of the wonderful tunes from Rondo of Blood, and they did a pretty bang up job to boot. Much of the music is classic Castlevania Classics such as Vampire Killer, Bloody Tears, and Beginning. Why Konami even stuck in the good old death music from when you lose a life. No more silly “uuuugh” noise from the Belmont! The sound effects are all top-notch stuff like whipping, clashing, and clanging. It’s all there and good.

I was pleasantly surprised with Dracula XX. After hearing so much “bad stuff” about the game, I thought it’d be a real snooze-fest, but it turned out to be a nice classic style game - you know, back to being a real challenge. Now if only Konami had done something about Richter’s slow speed!


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/06/03


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