Review by Kilroy84

"Portability: Rondo of Blood's shortness combined with Symphony of the Night's diverseness = PSP was made for this game."

Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night are finally tag-teaming the PSP and the former game is heading in with full blown 3D graphics...but the game itself still operates on a traditional 2D plane, as well as reflecting essentially all of the original Rondo of Blood's gameplay mechanics. The original Rondo of Blood never officially offered itself to countries outside of Japan and despite that there have been remakes (i.e. same concept, different execution) coming to the U.S. such as Dracula X, this being a portable port of the original game from 1993 on graphical steroids makes it a game worthy to look into. And this is mainly a review of Rondo of Blood, btw. If you're looking for a detailed review of Symphony of the Night, then just head over to that game's dedicated section. My view on SotN though, is that the game has a ton of replay value amongst a vast assortment of first [and then some] playthrough features. It really is a great game and worth grabbing DXC for.

Controls - 7/10: As much as I enjoy classic gaming, I do have a two gripes about the controls that made me feel obligated to give it a lower rating; Richter's inability to run, plus his lack of a backdash. Ever walk as if you're angry at something and you are about to slaughter whatever it is that you are angry at?

That's how Richter walks -- slow enough to not equate to running speed, yet fast enough to evade some attacks. And this is where I move into my next subject about the controls; jumping. Richter has a single jump, about seven feet high and then if you feel so inclined you can press the jump button again to perform a back flip. He may not have a double jump, but considering the attack patterns of many of the monsters in RoB his back flip can outclass the "standard" double jump in many ways.

His whip, the Vampire Killer, doesn't offer abilities such as Simon's (Super Castlevania IV) fire ball or many other Belmonts' skill to let the whip dangle from your hand, allowing you to use the controls to lightly flail it in any 360 degree fashion. The VK has two attacks -- the standard, straightforward swing and a special, larger variant with a fire elemental twist. Without spoiling too much, the unlockable character does have a double jump and makes the game easier for some if you're having trouble as Richter. As far as button configuration goes, you can only control Richter via either the D-buttons or the control

stick, the option to switch between them on the fly is not available in-game; only in the Main Menu Options. But other than that, the controls are fine and responsive.

Gameplay - 8/10: This is the kind of oldschool gaming that you just don't see in modern games anymore: Limited movement, limited attacks, constant attacks by creatures coming in from offscreen, those kinds of things. You'll have your generic skeletons throwing bones or bats trying to fly into you from either side of the screen. Of course, scenarios such as the bats aren't on-going throughout the game. It may not be bats either, you could have Zombies or even flying bone structures heading for you. White Dragons, or a long bone-spine protruding from a wall with a dragon's head that can spew fire, also make a number of appearances in this game and are actually somewhat formidable. It's a nice change from the White Dragons you encounter in the Sorrow series or Curse of Darkness.

Enough about that though. The bosses are fun, though pretty scripted in nature. This however, can make for some fun Boss Rush runs. Bosses generally have 2-4 attacks, sometimes set at random. This can be good and bad, depending on your playing style. Albeit, it's generally easy to spot the animation sequence and escape...well, escape the initial attack of the sequence anyway. But all-in-all, if you're a good enough player you shouldn't have too much of a problem dodging attacks.

Richter isn't the strongest Belmont around, which I'm sure you were able to decipher if you read my Controls breakdown. But in addition to his lack of attacks, he also can't seem to withstand a great many hits either. I believe certain enemies can kill you with just a mere four hits and considering that food, which is your form of health regeneration in RoB, is a rare commodity along with the fact that you are only given three lives per runthrough, this game may prove difficult depending on how you play. Granted, you can restart with three lives on whatever stage you so choose, so basically only the players who care about clearing the entire game in a single run should care about the life limit enough for it to pose a threat to enjoyment.

Oh, and a note about Boss Rush mode: You can fight through the bosses in a random fashion, through the normal set of bosses, through the alternate stages' bosses or go up against every single one in order.

Storyline - 7/10: Since this is an older Castlevania title that was merely almost entirely ported over into the 3D realm, it's not going to have much of a compelling story to it. Richter Belmont, assumed to be the son or grandson of Juste due to the time in which this takes place, 44 years after Harmony of Dissonance, travels to Castlevania not only to rid the world of Dracula once more, but to also save his beloved, Anette. That's all there is to it really without going into the realm of spoilers.

Graphics - 8/10: Your standard PSP, or if you will early PS2, graphics. Nothing too fancy, but it's nothing to gawk at either. Fire balls look realistic and you can note the detail of the Vampire Killer while playing, but again that's to be expected for the system. Chances of RoB or even SotN slowing down are slim and if they do, it's probably because you bumped the back of the PSP, thus misaligning the laser's position on the game disc. And if that does happen, which shouldn't be often unless you're clumsy, then you shouldn't have to wait for more than a second (if that) for gameplay to resume.

Music - 10/10: The music rocks. Obviously, that's partly my opinion, however the soundtrack has been redone with a rock/light metal touch. If you were to compare the two Rondo of Blood's music (original and 3D remake), you'd hear nearly identical scores with the exception of the MIDI sounds being replaced by guitars and other real instrumental sounds.

Replayability - 7/10: Basically, if you're intrigued by DXC strictly because of Rondo of Blood, I'd say rent the game since it's so short. Personally, I grew up with these kinds of games and I started out on the Atari 2600, so I naturally bought this game without hesitation. But back to the point, I've been playing that game for around probably twenty hours now, but I beat it long before that. Unless you're not used to the classic platforming difficulty from back in the day, it shouldn't take you more than a few hours at the very most to simply get to Dracula. Now, as for obtaining all of the unlockables and reaching the true Final Boss, that simply depends on your ability to search random areas and perceive conspicuous locations. And going back to the gameplay section, there is also the element of Time. If you enjoy rushing through everything only to find the quickest, but not necessarily most efficient, route through a stage and it's boss, than both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night have that going for themselves. One last comment here, it was difficult for me to rate the replayability higher than 7 due to the shortness and general linearity of the game. However, I myself still feel compelled to boot up Rondo of Blood because I enjoy the rest of the game's hardcore elements that much.

If you're buying it to play Symphony of the Night, than this is definitely worth a purchase. Be forewarned however, SotN has not been remade in any casually significant ways whatsoever. It doesn't come packaged with newer graphics or a bigger castle. Albeit, two Familiars were brought back from the SEGA Saturn version of the game (the PSX didn't offer these for whatever reason). So, if you've only played Symphony of the Night on the Sony Playstation, then you'll have two small "additions" waiting for you. The VA's have also been redone, although they don't exactly change the gameplay factor other than what your sense of hearing and opinion (if you've played the prior SotN's) will decipher. Aside from the changes, SotN is a much longer and deeper game than Rondo of Blood and should also vastly increase the replayability of DXC since it is so dynamic. Although you'll have to find this game hidden in the main game of Rondo of Blood, so don't expect to pop the disc in once you acquire it and immediately find the option to play Symphony of the Night. As disappointing as that may be to some people, it was most likely executed that way as a gameplay mechanic; forcing you to play Rondo of Blood first. But all in all, if you are perceptive enough to know where to look for hidden items, then you should find this unlockable without a problem. So, don't worry about finding it too much if you aren't drawn in to Rondo of Blood.

Overall, 9/10: I can't stress enough that this is an oldschool game, so if you're like anyone else who enjoyed platforming games from that hay day, then by all means go out and spend. Otherwise, use caution when renting. And if you're a fan of Symphony of the Night and would like to play it again with portability, then I would unthinkably recommend that you buy this.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/05/07

Game Release: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (US, 10/23/07)

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