Review by KMasters
"The Weak Link in a Legendary Series"
The Castlevania series has a legacy that few game fans are unaware of. If you are one of the uninitiated, this game is definately NOT the one to take your Castlevania rite of passage with.
To be fair, Dracula X is a decent representation of the Castlevania theme -- it features the same gothic look, the same basic ingredients that make it decidedly Castlevania, but in saying that, I am being somewhat contradictory. Because there should be nothing BASIC about a Castlevania game, and herein lies this games problem.
You are Richter Belmont, another stalwart hero in the long Belmont line of vampire killers. Dracula after being defeated the last time, took his usual 100 year hiatus before returning to wreak havoc again, bringing with him his army of the dead, with noticeably very few changes in their ranks. Your goal is to use your trusty whip and slash through the 7 levels of spookiness leading up to the head vampire himself, and finally whip his sorry behind as well. Make no mi-stake about it, it won't be easy! (Ok bad pun, but it seems as if every Castlevania review has to have one!)
The graphics are fair at best. Well drawn yes, but your character is smaller than he is in the previous game in the series, Super Castlevania IV. There are none of the impressive Mode 7 effects that we oooed and ahhed at in that game either. That's right, no spinning rooms, no moving floors and no rotating backgrounds.
Great music has always been a Castlevania staple and though the music is competent it is far from great. They have done further remixes on the already remixed soundtrack from IV, and they have made the simple error of trying to fix something that wasn't broken. These remixes only have you longing to hear the Castlevania IV tracks instead. The sound effects are ok, but again, not improved over the previous offering.
Gameplay is seriously lacking here. Konami inexplicably did away with the 8 directional whip function and the ability to use your whip as a rope. Also gone is the slack whip feature, where you could hold the attack button down and using the directional pad, effectively twirl the whip about, damaging nearby enemies. All these changes lead one to believe that they used the game engine from the 8 bit Castlevanias, where you could only whip in two directions. That's right, you can't even whip upwards! Makes for severely crippled play mechanics. The fact is, that truth be told, the game most closely resembles the very first Castlevania, though with improved graphics and none of the charm.
But is the game at least fun to play? Nope. Not at all. It's only fun because you know you're playing a Castlevania game. The poor whip mechanics and uninspired musical rehashes set the tone for some 'going through the motions' type gameplay. To make matters worse, the game has some horrible collision after effects. After being hit, you should be invincible and flashing for a few seconds, so that you can recover. Not so in Dracula X. After being hit, you are almost immediately susceptible to another hit, making for some Ninja Gaiden type boucing around until you feel you may as well let go of the control pad. Woe is the player that gets caught with multiple enemies on either side of him. While your character becomes the ball in a game of volleyball, you might want to go get something to eat, or worse yet turn off the system.
It's a shame really, because i love the Castlevania series and i've played EVERY game. But considering the simplistic, often frustrating gameplay, the lack of any innovation, Dracula X comes across as a completely unispired effort from Konami. If you've never experienced the series before, play Castlevania 3 for NES, then 4 for SNES, before spoiling yourself with the masterpiece Symphony of the Night for Playstation.
P.S. There exists a very rare gem in Castlevania Dracula X for the PC Engine Super CD-Rom. It is widely regarded as the best Castlevania ever, even besting SOTN, and it's soundtrack is among the best EVER. The SNES version reviewed above doesn't hold a candle to it, it's a sports car stripped down to the chassis!
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 05/03/00, Updated 01/06/03
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