Review by dtm666

"For the hardcore Castlevania fan only. For the rest, pick up Chronicles."

Akumajou Dracula, released in 1993 for the Japanese computer Sharp X68000, is a remake of a similarly titled game originally released in 1987 for the Nintendo Famicom Disc System, which was later converted to cartridge form when brought over to North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System. You probably know the game by its localized title: Castlevania.

The X68000 Akumajou Dracula game, initially available only in Japan, would later see a re-release in 2001 for the Sony Playstation under the name Castlevania Chronicles; the first time the game would officially be available on North American soil. In addition to a port of the original game, Chronicles included an Arrange mode which introduced new graphical effects, inserted new sprites, and toned down the difficulty of the game.

This review is based on the actual Akumajou Dracula game that appeared on the Sharp X68000 computer.

STORY: Much like the original Akumajou Dracula, you assume the role of famed vampire hunter Simon Belmondo (Belmont), who must venture through the demon castle and vanquish the forces of the evil count Dracula. There's very little in terms of plot progression here, but back in the day, a little story was all we ever really needed. 5/10

GRAPHICS: Akumajou Dracula X68000's graphics are amazing for the most part, with detailed characters and level aesthetics. It's somewhat of a step-up from what you would find on a Sega Genesis at the time, but a couple steps below the Super Nintendo offering, Super Castlevania IV, which was released two years prior. Most of the larger objects, such as spinning gears and giant swinging axes, look rather ugly and pixelated. Perhaps the hardware couldn't handle it, but the distorted items do detract from the game's overall appearance, which looks pretty good for an early-1990s title. There're a couple nice touches here and there, though. When fighting the she-wolf on top of the clock tower, the clock tells the time set on your computer; something normally unnoticed on the Playstation port without the use of a code. These little things do make Akumajou Dracula X68000 a special little beast. 7/10

SOUND: The soundtrack in Akumajou Dracula X68000 comprises a mixture of remixed classic tunes from previous entries in the series along with some brand new songs. They're actually pretty good for the most part and depending on the sound module used (three to choose from), the quality varies between decent and superb. The sound effects are audible, crisp, and clear, with a variety of death wails and shrieks to heighten the mood. It's probably a step above what you'd hear on the Sega Genesis, but a little worse than whatever's on Super Nintendo. Still, it sounds pretty good. 7/10

GAMEPLAY: Akumajou Dracula X68000 plays most similarly to the original Castlevania game; a given considering that this is a remake of that title. Anyone remotely familiar with the old-school Castlevania games will feel right at home, as all the usual power-up items, subweapons, and hidden secrets are included. A couple additions is the ability to control your jump in mid-air as well as the ability to whip downwards. While this is indeed a step-up from the original game, it is, again, a step down from Super Castlevania IV, which was released two years prior. Perhaps the limitations of the system couldn't handle the 8-way whipping, but it's a jarring downgrade nonetheless. Still, the reduced upgrades don't necessarily take away from the game and it's still a solid addition that stays true to form. The control is responsive as well, so no worries. 8/10

CHALLENGE: Let's not mince any words here; this game is hard as nails and the fact that it takes four hits to kill you in the majority of the game (as early as the third stage, actually) doesn't really help matters. The levels were designed to be as brutal and merciless as inhumanly possible and to make matters worse, each time you beat the game, it gets progressively harder. You could be on the fifth or sixth loop and you'll still find something new to haunt you. It's damn near endless. 10/10

REPLAY VALUE: Virtually none. You beat it once and you're done. Unless you're truly devoted and brave enough to play the extra loops, you're not going any farther than this. 2/10

OVERALL: Here's the thing; Akumajou Dracula X68000 is a good game, a worthy entry into the Castlevania saga, and a lost classic that deserved to be seen. If that weren't the case, we wouldn't have gotten the PS-One port in 2001. However, because Castlevania Chronicles is available as a PS-One game as well as a downloadable PS-One Classic through Playstation Network, this original Akumajou Dracula X68000 game is only going to be of interest only to the truly devoted hardcore Castlevania fans and collectors. Given that the game is brutally difficult and only available on a Japanese computer that's no longer in production, I doubt any casual fan is going to actively seek this out nor would I suggest doing so unless you have a huge wallet. I think this game is good, but my advice to anyone looking to play this title would be to get the PS-One Castlevania Chronicles disc instead, since you could play the original version on that disc. 7/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/27/10

Game Release: Akumajou Dracula (JP, 07/23/93)

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