Review by Vyse_skies

"Time to have an awesome threesome with Dracula."

Castlevania has always been one of Konami's most respected series. Spanning more than ten titles, this established series has seldom failed to provide fans and newcomers alike with a tasty treat to sate their thirst for blood, Dracula or platfroming action. Enter Castlevania X Chronicles on PSP is a title that offers not just a remake of the Japanese Super Nintendo classic, Rondo of Blood, but also the classic Super Nintendo version of Rondo of Blood and the supremely popular Symphony of the Night. Both of the latter two are unlocked by playing through the Rondo remake. So three games for the price of one and one of those titles are supposedly one of the best titles ever created. So how does X Chronicles actually play?

Aside from the same old predictable story of the Belmont's whose sole aim is to stop the resurrection of Dracula, X Chronicles offers the gamer a challenging gaming experience in Rondo of Blood. You play as Richter Belmont assigned to the task of stopping Dracula, it really is that simple, and you'll progress through numerous challenging stages that hold numerous secrets such as hidden music, branching stages, hidden routes and hidden games. You have at your disposal a whip which you use to take down enemies that stand in your way. Enemies have predictable attack patterns that once learned can be used to your own advantage, which is quite fun. Richter can collect hearts, which act as attack points for weapons you can also pick up such as Knives, Axes and Crosses. Items are hidden in candles that can be whipped. Walls may be broken and hidden secrets are found through trial and error such as breaking down certain walls or falling down a specific hole. The whole affair is fun, challenging and lengthy and requires multiple play-throughs in order to discover all of its hidden secrets.

During your quest, you will come across little icons that will allow you to unlock the Snes version Rondo of Blood, which I actually thought was harder because enemies seem to be faster, and Symphony of the Night, the Playstation/Sega Saturn title of the same name brought to you in small screen. Well SotN plays extraordinarily well and spans a huge quest that follows Alucard who attempts to stop his father, Dracula's resurrection. SotN is what really makes this collection shine and you really get a great sense of joy and satisfaction at having unlocked it after playing through the rock solid Rondo of Blood. However, what makes SotN really shine is non-linearity. Where in Rondo of Blood you just progress forward during a stage, going from screen to screen defeating enemies and bosses while accumulating points, SotN requires you to remember locations of doors and the entire grounds of a vast castle where backtracking will become a regular thing. If you have a bad memory, traversing the castle, even with the help of the map, may be come a bit of a struggle.

SotN offers Castlevania fans everything Castlevania should offer. Though much simpler than both Rondo of Blood titles, what SotN sacrifices in simplicity, it more than makes up for it with its gameplay. SofN provides Alucard, the games protagonist, with a bunch of stats in the shape of the role playing genre. Alucard will have hit points, mana or magic points, attack, defense, luck, speed and evasion statistics that can be raised with a variety of hidden items, weapons, armour and accessories. SotN really encourages the gamers to search the castle grounds far and wide in order to uncover all hidden items, and to fill up every shrouded area of the games map, which is a task all in itself. Weapons and Armour will naturally raise Alucard's statistics which allows him to deal or take more damage. Along your travels, you'll encounter Heart and Life potions which will increase Mana and HP allowing Alucard to last longer in both areas of taking damage and using magic. Also hidden throughout the castle are abilities, such abilities allow Alucard to open magical doors, change in to a bat or even double jump- all abilities allow the gamer to access parts of the castle they couldn't reach before hand and the more abilities you collect the more access you are granted.

Bosses are also a challenging section of all three Castlevania title, each with their own fighting pattern, style and offer a meaty chunk of all three titles. Rondo of Blood has bosses at the end of each stage, while SotN has them scattered in different rooms throughout the castle. Upon completing certain conditions within either of the two Rondo titles, you may unlock numerous modes such as Boss Rush Mode which allows you to challenge the games bosses against a time limit and one health bar. This requires you to take on a variety of the games bosses in a row which is quite a challenge in itself.

The soundtrack to X Chronicles is very nice. Rondo of Blood Remake has remixes to the Snes Rondo's themes and there is a mixture of unique pieces for each section of the castle in SotN. An interesting feature added to RoB remake is the ability to find musical icons scattered throughout the game. By collecting such icons, you will be able to assign different music to the stages of the Rondo Remake. For example, if you found the SotN musical icon Waltz of the Pearls, you'll be able to assign that same theme to any Rondo Remake stage within a simple to use menu. When you play that stage next, that theme will be played instead of the games original theme- this was a cool feature, but could have included themes from other Castlevania titles for a little of variety and homage to the classics fans adore so much, such as Super Castlevania IV, Circle to the Moon and Bloodlines. Overall, the music will not disappoint and with the inclusion of voice overs for SotN you really are getting a special deal.

X Chronicles really does have a lot too offer anyone looking for a decent and length title. Amongst the three available titles in the collection, you have plenty to do, see and unlock. There are multiple secrets, hidden routes, modes, soundtrack items and characters- the latter offers different styles and variations of gameplay, especially in SotN where you can play as either Alucard and later, Richter and Maria. The challenge of both Rondo titles is great and although SotN is the simplest title of the three, you really don't feel like you're being cheated as its reduced difficulty actually allows the title to feel better and remains the most enjoyable, it also has the sheer pleasure of taking the title of best Castlevania game ever made in the eye of most avid fans of the series. The depth of the collection provides the gamer with great value for money, although maybe Super Castlevania IV would have been the cherry on this cake. So in conclusion, if you're a Castlevania fan, a gamer looking for a great PSP title, or even just a PSP owner- I recommend Castlevania X Chronicles and I'm pretty sure it deserves a place in everyone's collection.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/02/10

Game Release: Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (EU, 02/15/08)

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