"Weak link or underrated classic. Hmm tough call."

Many gamers have hailed Castlevania Rondo of the Blood for the Turbo Duo CD as greatest Castlevania game in the entire series. Yet very few people have actually played it because it was only released in Japan (probably due to the Turbo’s lack of popularity elsewhere). However the rest of the world was not entirely left out because Rondo of the Blood was ported to another popular console of the time for the North American market. That game was renamed Castlevania Dracula X and came out for the Super NES in late 1995. Unfortunately the game never achieved much success and to this day remains very underrated.

The game play in Dracula X is basically the same style as all previous Castlevania games 2D side scrolling. As usual your main weapon is a whip and you also have about a half dozen others weapons that can be used as a sub weapon (ex: knives, holy water, Axe, stop watch, etc). Unfortunately the game play has a few glaring flaws that take away from the enjoyment of the experience. The main one is that in general the game play has been down sized from Super Castlevania IV in almost every way. You no longer have the ability to whip up down or on a diagonal angle. You're stuck only being able to whip forward like the NES Castlevania games. The game is also considerably shorter than Castlevania IV (probably less than half it's length in fact). Super Castlevania IV boasted over ten levels while Dracula X only has 7. Super Castlevania IV also had longer levels for the most part. The other big problem with Dracula X is that while it is fairly good quality port for a Super NES it can't hold a candle to it's Turbo Grafx 16 counter part and Dracula X is noticeably lacking a number of cool features that were found in the original (ex: anime cut scenes between levels). Another flaw is the terrible hit recovery rate in this game. You literally have no time to recover from an enemy attack and will likely take 2 or 3 hits from them before you can escape. You can also except to lose a lot of lives to cheap juggles like this. The game also has some really awful slowdown at certain points. As most of you no doubt already know the SNES is notorious for having a lot of slowdown in certain games when lots of character sprites appear on screen at once and unfortunately it seems Dracula X is one of them. The only thing that Dracula offers game play wise that Super Castlevania IV lacked was multiple pathways to completing the game. However since only two levels contain multiple pathways the game is still quite linear. Bear in mid also that multiple pathways is not a new thing to the series either Castlevania III on NES also had them and made better use of them.

Graphics wise Dracula X is a real standout SNES game. The graphics take on more of an anime look than earlier Castlevania titles and for the most part this seems to work well for it. Richter Belmont and most of the enemies have a nice look to them and Konami also took the time to add some new enemies and redraw the animations for most of the older ones. Unfortunately the game suffers once again from an inferiority complex when weighed against Rondo of the Blood. The games had to be toned down a fair amount to work on the SNES's technologically inferior engine and as I mentioned earlier the cinematics found in Rondo of the blood are absent in this version to save on memory. Nonetheless for a Super NES titles Dracula X boasts some of the best 2D graphics you'll find on a 16-bit machine and complaints aside was ported very well in this department.

Sound wise this game is terrific. It's got some really wicked remixes of classic Castlevania tunes and some nice new ones. To be fair though a lot of the game's later music is not nearly as standout but good enough. The game's music has kind of a different feel to it than most of the other games in the series. The music isn't bad but it sounds kind of like it was produced by an entirely different group of composers. Whether or not this is a bad thing is really a matter of personal opinion. Personally I think it's good as a way of making this game a more standout link to the series. IMO the best track in the game is the one for the first level (Opposing Bloodlines) it's really catchy.

The story behind Dracula X goes like this. The game takes place after Simon Belmont the original vampire hunter of the series defeated Dracula and his minions and sealed him away. Those familiar with the story will know that every 100 years Dracula is resurrected and a member of the Belmont family trained in the art of vampire hunting will be called upon to defeat him once more. In this game you play as Simon's descendant Richter Belmont. In addition to the familiar task of defeating Dracula and his minions Richter must also rescue his girl friend Maria and her younger sister Annette who have been taken hostage by Dracula. The game starts out in the village of Veros (from Castlevania II on NES), which has been set a blaze by Dracula. As you advance further in the game you get closer to Dracula's strong hold at the top tower of his castle.

For me at least the game did provide a reasonable amount of replay incentive even after I had beaten the game. Despite the game play quirks the game still manages to be legitimately fun and might compel you to replay it a little bit as well. Dracula X has a slight edge over Super Castlevania (sorry for all the comparisons but it helps better establish the quality of this game if you've played other Castlevania games) in replay ability thanks to the multiple pathways, which were absent in Super Castlevania IV. The game also has three different endings based on how well you fulfill certain game objectives. The best players will get the best ending.

Now you might ask should I buy Dracula X? Well to be honest that's a difficult question to answer. On one hand the game is quite fun to play and a nice addition to a Super NES collection. But in most cases it's just too over priced to justify a purchase. You see because the game was only produced in very limited quantities in North America it is almost impossible to find. I was lucky in that I got this game for a sweet $20 Canadian off of a store that didn't know the value of it but I've often seen the game go on eBay for upwards of $60 American. I'd say if you can get the game for about $30 or less (which I very much doubt) go for it otherwise don't bother the game isn't worth what it usually goes for. Alternately you might want to try and get the superior Castlevania: Rondo of the Blood on the Turbo CD but keep in mind that this game is also very demanded, extremely rare, and only available in Japan. IMO Castlevania Dracula X is a game with average game play saved somewhat by excellent audio and visuals.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/02/02, Updated 09/02/02

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