Review by Canadian Guy

"A definite improvement over Castlevania 4"

Castlevania, a serie about the Belmont family and their struggle with THE vampire: Dracula. Any true gamer will know the Castlevania serie and remember the three great games on the NES and the first on SNES that was a HORRIBLE ''remake'' of the first game (but that's another story).
Dracula X (Or Vampire's kiss in Europe, better title IMO) was released in 1995 and is a ''port'' of Dracula: The Rondo Of Blood that was never released in America and only available on the NEC. I have to agree that this game is not what it could have been (I don't regard Rondo Of Blood as the ultimate masterpiece in the serie, Dracula's Curse is the best one IMO followed by Circle Of The Moon) but it is still an excellent Castlevania game!

Although the story line in Castlevania is pretty chaotic, this game can be placed easily in the never-ending struggle between the Belmonts and the count: Richter (the Belmont featured in this game) is the next in line after the well known Simon Belmont (Castlevania 1, 2 and 4) and so the game takes place in 1792 (according to SOTN that is). Dracula is revived by some crazy folks who like to do black magic in their idle time. Dracula was put to sleep by Simon and Drac wants a re-match! But he quickly sees that it is impossible: Simon was a mortal and passed away a long time ago (Drac is revived every 100 years for those who didn't know) so he goes fiddle with Richter: he kidnaps his girlfriend and her sister to lure Richter to his castle. That's where you take control of Richter: he starts in the burning village of Veros (the same one from Simon's Quest) and sets out to get to the top of Drac's castle.

The graphics in this game are very impressive and very colorful. Know this can be a let-down for fans: this game doesn't feel very gothic like the other ones. but you sacrifice the feeling for great visuals, at least you get something good in the end! The animation is also good (not like in Castlevania 4, oi!).

The gameplay is VERY classic and this is where you like or hate the game: take the controls from the first game add the possibility of changing direction and mid-air with a few bonuses and you have the control scheme for this game. I don't mind having to press up+attack to use the sub-weapon but some do... Your whip is always the same: this prevents you from dying and having to get passed enemies with the crappy whip! And you cannot whip in all directions: that is the only thing I find too bad. It's unrealistic, it doesn't take a genius to see that you can whip in all directions but Richter didn't figure that out it seems. Still you have to understand that if the game doesn't have a certain feature then it is meant so that you can complete it without the feature so it's just too bad but no a major deal! Richter is also the first vampire killer to have access to the item crushes: whole screen attacks that use 15 hearts.

The audio in this game is incredible: the music is fabulous and the sound effects are plain yet fitting. the first three levels have great music: Opposing Bloodlines for the first (Richter's Theme), the second-best Vampire Killer remix (the best one being the one for SOTN on the Saturn version) and Bloody Tears for the third. Anyone who has played the previous games will know these tunes and be swept by nostalgia when he starts the second level (I MEAN it, the Vampire Killer tune in this game is marvelous).

The game is very hard and those who have played Rondo Of Blood will notice that Dracula is a lot more challenging in this game (in fact one of his hardest incarnations IMO), but FAR from impossible. If you're playing on an emulator than you should use the state function to it's max and ''save'' every time you enter a new room, others should grit their teethes for a hell of a ride. The game has 7 stages but 9 different ones: different paths are available but they are more like a little bonus. Stages 4 and 5 have two versions and in the alternate versions you will find Annette (Richter's girlfriend) and Maria (her sister). Doing this will alter the ending but I haven't seen the ''bad'' one so I can't say if the difference is big.

In the end this is a improvement over Castlevania 4 in many ways: solid levels, great music, a nice-looking hero (Richter is the ULTIMATE Belmont), good animation and a decent level of difficulty! Don't take this game for what it was meant to be: a port of Rondo Of Blood, take it for a simple Castlevania game, the best one on a 16-bit system, and by far!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/08/02, Updated 06/08/02

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