Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

Has it been too long since you've taken on Dracula and his minions of the night in a scrolling arcade platformer? Then this is your lucky day as old-school gothic platformer Castlevania is back in portable form.

The Dracula X Chronicles is a two-headed game. The main body is a remake of the unreleased Rondo of Blood Castlevania game, and it also comes with a converted version of Symphony of the night, which was originally released on PlayStation. These games are much less complicated than the more recent Castlevania games, and Konami have cut out all of the grease to leave a leaner, simpler (and much bloody harder) arcade experience. Instead of fiddling with inventories and weapons systems, you have only two weapons - your whip, which you carry with you at all times, and another secondary weapon, which can range from knives and axes to holy water and bibles.

The game plays as a scrolling 2D platformer but your character, the always-brooding Richter Belmont, and the environment have had some 3D treatment. The bulk of the game, aside from attacking the hordes of enemies thrown at you, is a bit of a chasm-jumping quest, with some multi-level elements within the environment. Here, up and down on the D-pad come into use as you climb and descend stairs that lead to powerups and more weapons.

However there are problems both with your character and its interaction with the environment. Jumping, given that it is one of two functions you can perform, is particularly difficult. The speed at which you jump is quite slow and you don't stay in the air for long, making avoiding enemies pretty tough indeed. Jumping over the gaps in the floor is also much harder than it should be, considering Richter likes to jump higher rather than farther. If you try to use the platformer's ally, the double jump, you'll be sorely disappointed as the second jump sends you flying backwards, usually into the hole you were trying to get over!

As for the stairs mentioned earlier, they can also prove tricky to navigate. To go up or down the stairs you need to hold up or down on the D-pad in the right place at the foot of the stairs. Considering up and down are already in use for ‘secondary weapon’ and ‘crouch’ it gets a little bit fiddly. Even more so when you have to jump to avoid something and forget to have up or down pressed as you land and you fall through the stairs, usually into a pile of zombies or down a hole... By and large all the effort you spend getting up and down stairs, except where you have to, is only to get measly powerups or the even more pointless points bonuses.

What is good is the multi-level element to the stages. At various points throughout the stages you'll invariably miss a jump and fall through a hole, only to find you haven't died but dropped down to a different area of the environment. From here you don't simply backtrack to where you fell but continue on, facing different enemies, like sewer monsters in the basement of the great castle, meaning that when you play a single stage there are multiple ways to reach the end, all with different enemies and challenges. This adds a good dimension to a normally very shallow concept of running left to right, clearing one room after another.

With the combat the game has no surprises and pulls no punches. The game eases you in with waves of skeletons that lumber toward you without attacking before quickly adding different dimensions of attackers; it all gets a bit hectic when you have pikemen spearing you on the ground, bats hitting you at mid-level and floating red eyeballs coming out of the floor!

As the weapon setup is simple success simply down to reaction speeds, button-mashing and above all luck. There are a few niggles that can be down to my skill rather than the game, but nevertheless marred my experience, the main one being how your character can only attack in two directions (back and front) and crouch or jump. This severely limits your field of attack, which is important at most enemies don't attack you at chest or knee-height, and it's a pain to try and attack endless streams of bats which are flying between ducking and standing height. Why they used the D-pad instead of the very useful analogue stick is beyond me...

If working with these difficulties wasn't enough, the silly checkpoint system will make it almost impossible for anyone other than a die-hard arcade gamer to make reasonable progress. You're given continues but no matter how many rooms you advance through, even if you get to the boss right at the end and die, you'll still be thrown right back to the very beginning of the stage!

Castlevania is trying to hark back to the impossibly difficult games of old, where the gameplay was simple, the enemies were numerous and save points non-existent. But that was all to make up for a lack of variation and longevity and in the 21st century we have much more of this. Although some fans of Castlevania will see this as a great opportunity to get out the rose-tinted specs and get back to how games used to be made, more will be hit by the fact that the old games were very, very shallow and will not hold the interest or the patience of the ordinary gamer like they used to.

Best Bits

- Faithful old-school patforming
- Two games in one
- Nice branched level system
Worst Bits

- Fiddly combat and jumping system
- Too basic and shallow
- Far too short

by: Crazypunk

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