Review by Writer

"If you're a Castlevania fan, you must have this"

After a server pounding into the ground with the 3D N64 versions, Castlevania has gotten back on track with Castlevania: Circle of Moon on the Game Boy Advance. Perhaps Konami finally realized that this series is at it's best in 2D. Keeping with the 2D tradition, Konami has done us a great favor by releasing Akumajo Dracula, one of the unreleased Castlevania games (the game was originally only playable on Japan's Sharp X68000 PC), in America in a titled called Castlevania Chronicles. Chronicles isn't the best of the Castlevania games but to say it's a bad game would be an insult because this game is far from being terrible.

Chronicles let's you play in two different modes, original and arrange. Both modes are pretty similar, but they have their differences. Original is the harder of the two. Here you play on a time limit and you cannot select your difficulty. You do, however get the option to listen to the original mode's music before you play the game. On arrange mode you can choose a difficulty setting, play with time turned off, select up to 5 lives, and get to adventure with a flaming-haired Belmont. This mode also gives you a remixed version of the original mode's tunes. Beating the arrange mode also opens up a time attack mode. Both modes allow you to use your whip in a downward and downward diagonal direction.

The gameplay in Chronicles is strictly old-school, meaning you won't find the Symphony of the Night style play here. With only eight levels, the game is pretty linear, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many hardcore Castlevania fans will probably be happy with this but fans that first got exposed to Castlevania with that great aforementioned classic may be disappointed with the linear gameplay that Chronicles offers.

If you've played the first NES Castlevania, then the first stage of Chronicles will be very familiar to you as it's the exact same level, right down to the huge bat you must fight at the end. After that, the game's levels are an all new bag of tricks. Whipping your way through the game's eight levels won't be a cake walk thanks to the classic level of difficulty. Even on the easy setting arrange mode will have you playing some levels over a few times (the Clock Tower stage is very annoying). Remember on Super Castlevania IV when you wanted to make a jump and a Medusa head got in your way and you died? All those fond memories can and probably will be brought back in Chronicles. It's that level of difficulty that makes Chronicles feel very much like a Castlevania game. Taking out some of the bosses and even beating Dracula himself can be a pain in the rear.

Unfortunately, Chronicles doesn't have the visual flair of Symphony of the Night and comes off looking dated, but the game has it's visual moments with detailed paintings in some of the levels. By no means is Chronicles appalling visually, but we know Konami is capable of better. Overall, it isn't a big issue once you start playing.

The music hits a high mark. Whether you're playing in original or arrange mode, the tunes are what you'd expect from a Castlevania game. ''Vampire Killer'' has never sounded better and the ''Simon Belmont Theme'' is one of the best tracks out of the whole game and it especially shines in arrange mode.

Konami even threw in some extras such as an interview with producer of the Castlevania series and an art gallery featuring the work of Ayami Kojima. So what's with all the high praises and the score of a 6? Well, perhaps the fact that Akumajo Dracula was always known as the less than stellar 2D Castlevania game and beneath all the things it does right, it shows. But don't let the score fool you. This game is more than a worthy addition to any Castlevania fans library and if you're a fanatic of this series, you need to find a copy ASAP. Why? Well, for one, this game never made it to the states and second, only 30,000 copies of this game were released in America. Act fast unless you want to deal with those insane eBay prices. Castlevania Chronicles still has that classic 2D feel that the early games are so well-known for and that alone makes it easy to recommend this game. Here's hoping that Konami decides to release Dracula X, the other unreleased Castlevania game, to the states.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 11/13/01, Updated 11/13/01

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