Review by majikmonkee75

"This game delivers more bite for your buck!"

When a sequel to a popular game series comes out that looks, sounds, and plays better than those that have come before it, it’s usually well received by it’s fans, right? Well, that’s the case most of the time, but not so with Castlevania: Dracula X. From what I’ve seen, this game has been met with more criticism than excitement since it’s arrival on the SNES platform. The reason for this is because it’s an adaptation of “Dracula X: Rondo of Blood” which came out on the Turbo PC platform, which everyone claims was much better. Well, I’ve never played the Turbo PC version but I have played this one, and all of the ones that came out on NES, Gameboy, Genesis, and SNES, so being a huge Castlevania fan, I’m prepared to give my unbiased opinion on this one. It’s the best I’ve ever played on a cartridge console (excluding Symphony of the Night, the best of them all). Here’s why “X” whips all the rest:

Story 10/10 this story is about as old now as Drac himself. I don’t care. A hero of Belmont descent, Richter this time, is called upon to enter Dracula’s castle of evil, and put The Count and his minions to rest once more. There’s a twist this time, though...Dracula has struck first and kidnapped Richter’s girlfriend, Annet, and her younger sister, Maria and imprisoned them in his gloomy castle out of revenge for his seemingly countless (no pun intended) defeats in past games. Richter’s primary goal is to defeat Dracula, but can he rescue Annet and Maria in the process? It’s up to you to decide how the story ends. Trust want to rescue them both. A fine chapter in the Castlevania legend.

Gameplay 9/10

The original Castlevanias were great games, there are no doubts about that, but there were some control issues that made them a little less playable than they could have been. The main issue was the lack of control you had when jumping, and being “committed” to wherever you jumped once you left the ground. Also, being “stuck” on a staircase until you reached the top or bottom of the stairs was a frustrating problem at times as well. The guys at Nintendo decided to take care of both of these issues when they cranked out Castlevania IV, and did an admiral job. They also added the ability to swing your whip around for weaker but wider range of attack. Well, in Dracula X, you still have excellent jumping control, including a backward flip you can execute by pressing the jump button twice quickly. You can also jump on and off staircases, giving you the type of mobility you need to avoid annoying cheap hits. The whip-twirling ability you had in Castlevania IV is gone, but I found that to be more of an annoyance at times than an advantage for various reasons. Gameplay is basically the same as in all previous titles. Richter must battle his way through one level after another, defeating ghouls and ghosts, and a large, ugly boss monster of some sort at the end of each stage. There is the usual slew of vampire-slaying special weapons in this game like axes and daggers. Richter can also perform a “crash attack” if he has enough hearts stored up, which uses his selected special weapon in a more devastating special attack. Another nice feature of this game is that you drop your weapon you were holding if you pick up a new special weapon, so if you didn’t want to take the new one, you can go back and pick up the one you had before. There are several levels to conquer to win the game, and you can a couple different paths to complete your quest. If you want the BEST ending (and who doesn’t?), you must figure out which paths will lead you to where Annet and Maria are held captive. This is where the game can get a little frustrating. First of all, there are some sections where if you make a wrong move, or accidentally fall, you wind up on an irreversible path toward one of the lesser endings, and this can be really disappointing. Your only option in this case is to reload from a password and try again. Contributing to the frustrating aspects of rescuing your loved ones, you must find the key that will unlock the door to the “best” path in the game, and there is only one. Picking it up replaces your special weapon, and you cannot use any others until the key has been used. In the meantime, you’re stuck. If you die, you do not get the key back, and you’re stuck with the lesser endings. I’ll admit that this adds to the challenge, but at the same time, folks who just play this game for the traditional Castlevania gameplay and elements are getting punished for not exploring enough or figuring out which path is the “right” one. I think the idea of offering multiple paths is great, and was a superb element in Dracula’s Curse for the NES, but I think players should be allowed to take whichever path they choose based on preference, not on whether they fell during a jump or chose not to rescue their loved ones. Overall, though, the rest of the elements of this game are outstanding, and it is very fun to play. Most of the bosses are challenging and require skill to beat, and the Drac in this game will test the mettle of seasoned vampire slayers. Challenging and fun from start to finish.

Graphics 10/10

This game has gorgeous graphics, and I’m not kidding! The visuals in Castlevania IV were good too, but there was something decidedly “non-Castlevania” about them. This game looks and feels like the original Castlevanias again, only with brilliant colors, smooth, well drawn sprites, and well-drawn backgrounds. It’s what the world of Castlevania was always intended to be and couldn’t, because of previous system limitations. This is by far the most visually pleasing romp through Dracula’s ghoulish domain offered to us at the time it was released, and the graphics could still hold their own by the standards of modern side scrollers. Beautiful!

Sound 10/10

The sound effects are pretty much the same as previous Castlevanias, with a little bit of improvement of course over it’s 8 bit predecessors. What really stands out for me is the awesome sound track and adrenaline pumping tunes. You’ll notice them from the very first stage, and they manage to boost the excitement considerably...I especially love the Dracula battle tune. You’ll also notice that at one point, they managed to stick the theme from the first stage of the original Castlevania in this game, which is a nice touch. A game that’s fun and easy to play, looks great AND sounds great...sounds like a winner!

I understand that, for folks who may have played a different platform version of this game that impressed them more, this game may be a disappointment, but I can tell you right now that if you are a Castlevania fan and have never played this game in any form, you will definitely love this one. It remains true to everything that we loved about the originals while throwing in just enough new stuff to keep it fresh. From the outer reaches of Dracula’s doorstep to his oh, so familiar rickety upper tower room, this game promises a monstrously good time. A definite “must buy” for Castlevania fans.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/13/03, Updated 06/13/03

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