Review by Oblivion430

Reviewed: 08/08/02 | Updated: 08/08/02

A Welcome Addition to the Family, But Not Exemplary

Allow me to wax analogous: if the Castlevania games were a family, and they were all at a gathering, Dracula X for the SNES would be that one kinda spooky uncle with an unclear past that finally showed up the last couple of years, would occasionally say an entertaining comment, but would never be the center of attention, leaving that to the much more boisterous Super Castlevania IV and Symphony of the Night. Moving away from that loose domestic metaphor, allow me to say that the title is, in spite of many of its reviews, a solid platformer, and does not DISGRACE the much respected series of games centering around Dracula's demise. It offers very little to make you go ''Whoa...'', but it will keep your fingers dancing across the pad, as well as provide a good sampling of the intense gameplay and quality of the series. It was unfortunately a victim of poor timing, being released at the tail end of the SNES legacy, and I believe AFTER the aforementioned Symphony of the Night. For those who experienced THAT Playstation Gem, Dracula X can show you some of the ties to the past games that you might've been missing.

This entry into the Castlevania timeline depicts the tale of Richter Belmont, probably the snazziest dressed Belmont since Simon donned some Black and Red Threads in the second title. Richter's main squeeze Annet is kidnapped along with her little sister Maria (yes, the one in SOTN) by the infinitely persistent Dracula, who continues to torment this family centuries after he did battle with Sonia and Trevor. Taking up the heirloom Morning Star, he heads off to yet again eliminate the Vampire Lord and rescue his love and her kin.

GRAPHICS) 8/10. While Super Castlevania reinvented many of the graphics from the NES titles, Dracula X seems to harken back to its 8-Bit origins and improve upon them. Much of the imagery is fairly impressive; you'll definitely get a feel for it in the first and second stages. Outlining of some of the sprites could've been sharper considering they went back to the more drawn look of the original Nintendo titles. There are times when the backgrounds seem a bit like they were thrown together last minute (at points I could almost hear the voices of hurried programmers saying, ''Yeah, sure, a crack here, a skull there: DONE, SHIP IT!'') If it seems like I'm nit picking a great deal for an 8/10, its because I was expecting the 10/10 quality of its SNES predecessor, if not the sequel on PSX. There's still tons of convincing demonic imagery and large, detailed enemies that'll get you swinging that chain whip in paranoia.

SOUNDS) 8/10. The music contains the upbeat techno-goth tunes you expect from the series, only this time with a tad more techno, and a bit less goth. Keeping with the ''not bad....but'' credo of this title, the tracks are solid, but not as spectacular as could be expected. Many of the old tunes from the NES titles are revamped yet again for Dracula X, but they don't disappoint, even the dance-pop injected rendition of the main theme from Dracula's Curse. Personally, the upbeat music of the last stage as well as the highly dramatic overture when facing Dracula himself were both very moving and fit the mood extremely well. The sound effects are effective enough; I particularly liked the harsh smack as your weapon connects with an enemy. There's also a few digitized samples, including Richters Weapon Crash bellow, and The Count's defiant guffaw. Most of the effects were very well done and provided the game with an arcade like feel that I found quite enjoyable.

PLAYABILITY) 8/10. Dracula X adheres to the straight forward action platformer style of most of the Castlevania styles (which is a pity, the adventure elements are what made Simon's Quest and SOTN the better entries in the series.) Gone is the 8 way whipping that was SUCH a welcome addition in Super Castlevania...apparently Simon never had the time to pass on this style to his heirs, because Richter is back to whipping left or right. Fortunately, Richter has been practicing too...he finally discovered how to hurl that previously useless Dagger so fast that its worth picking up, and to boot he chucks three of them. He's also an athletic Middle European, mastering a clever double jump back flip that not only gets him out of harms way in a jiffy, but, once mastered, is the easiest method to make difficult jumps. The Backflip will become your best friend in this game when utilized effectively, as it not only helps you jump farther in length, but also higher. Finally, you get a very costly Weapon Crash technique the drains you of your hearts, but can pull you out of a tight spot when you're surrounded by a group of foes; Richter will pause, flex, and then flail a huge burst of an attack. Its typically not worth the cost of the hearts you spend, but its nice having the option there as a last ditch effort. Richter's not the only who's been practicing. Many of the old enemies are back with new attacks, MOST notably the Guards, who you'll spot from afar in his old ''Please Kill Me, I Have No Mind'' march, but then goes into a Kendo stance and proceeds to twirl and smash you with his Spear. You've been warned...

STORY) 6/10. Any game with the word Castlevania in the title should give you 85% of games plot: you're a famed Vampire Hunter who just so happens to be in his prime when Dracula's resurrected to terrorize the countryside again. Grab that whip and go do some good. This entry does divert somewhat in that you're not just going after BatBoy because you were bored; he's nabbed your woman and her goofy little sister. (In the original version of this game, you could actually PLAY as Maria; had they kept that option, many people might've given the game a second glance...). And like Tony Soprano, you always gotta take care of The Family. Still, by this time in the series, I think we could've used a bit more plot development than was offered, and although the game is more action driven, I feel many people were expecting more.

TIMELESSNESS) 7/10. With the difficulty turned down slightly on this one, but still providing a substantial challenge, its an easy game to pop in and crank through. If you get tired in your quest, you can continue where you left off, but it simply sucks that there was no battery back up. (This game came out in 1996...passwords were like 8-Tracks by that point). It'll definitely satisfy a Castlevania jones when you need a quick fix, but do to its lack of notoriety, this title will never provide you with the nostalgic effect as its first SNES outing.

OVERALL FUN FACTOR) 7/10. Had this game come out 2 years earlier, and NOT after the Playstation masterpiece, had the game had a different title, with a different hero using a sword, had it not been the last Castlevania to grace the Super Nintendo, people might've been more receiving of it, although it still would've have been a short step down from the fourth endeavor. In spite of all the expectations it didn't quite live up to though, its still a satisfying adventure and worth picking up for a fairly cheap price these days if you can find it, for both Castlevania enthusiasts or fans of the bygone days of 2D Action/Platformers.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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