Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review #111: Castlevania - The Dracula X Chronicles

 What a horrible night to have a curse.
 There's no way around it, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is a fantastic Castlevania package that manages to please both Retrovania and Metroidvania fans. You get an excellent remake of Rondo of Blood, the original Rondo of Blood and, arguably, the best Metroidvania, Symphony of the Night.

 The main entrée is quite clearly the Rondo of Blood remake(As a matter of fact, you unlock the other games in this one), which pits you as either Richter Belmont or Maria Bernard, as they infiltrate Dracula's castle to rescue the captured maidens, by the cultists who brought Dracula back into the realm of the living, and defeat Dracula himself. It's the same basic story that most Retrovanias use, but it does have a more involved narrative, as rescuing the maidens triggers cut-scenes that flesh Richter and Maria personalites, both characters get different cut-scenes, with different dialogues!
 When you first start the game, you can only play as Richter, but if you manage to rescue Maria, you'll be able to switch characters before starting any stage. What's really cool about it, is that Maria and Richter play completely different from each other. Richter is slower, can tank more hits, and while his whip attacks come out slower, he deals more damage. Something new to the Belmonts, that took a little bit getting used(Since all my gaming instincts made me think I'd double jump!) to, is the back flip. By pressing jump twice, Richter performs a backflip, which proves to be really useful. Maria on the other hand, is much smaller, but much faster, even though she can't take as many hits as Richter. While she deals less damage per attack, she attacks much faster, so in the end, she is kinda stronger than Richter, furthermore, instead of a backflip, she gets an incredibly useful double jump, and can slide or roll on the ground. Basically, Maria is the easy mode of the game, but Richter provides the classic Castlevania feel. I found myself playing every new stage as Richter, but when replaying stages to get collectibles or exploring alternate routes, I'd take Maria to make it faster. Lastly, both characters will run across hearts that double as ammo for the multiple sub-weapons you can find. Richter gets the classic Knife, Axe, Holy Water and the Cross, while Maria has four unique sub-weapons, Dragon, Tiger(Cat), Phoenix and Turtle, while the Book is shared by both(even though it behaves differently for each), and by spending extra hearts, you both heroes can perform item crashes, most of the time they are full-screen attacks.

 The game has 9 basic stages, with alternate stages 2', 3', 4' and 5'. Furthermore, most stages happen to have alternate routes(With different bosses! Although stage sets, like 2 and 2', 3 and 3', etc do share bosses), which translates into a ton of replayability. Each stage also houses plenty of unlockables, the two biggies being the Original Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night, but you can also find Music CDs. Music CDs can later be used at the setup screen to customize which song plays in each stage! Rounding it all up, there's 3 unlockable Boss Rush modes and the Dracula Peke minigame. The game has a lot of stuff to do, routes to take and bosses to defeat, and it's pretty challenging to boot. While it's definitely not as hard as the Original Castlevania, but it's way harder than Bloodlines and Castlevania IV. You do get unlimited continues, but lives are not and dying mid-way through a level means going back to a checkpoint(They are usually pretty generous, usually), losing whatever sub-weapon you held and defaulting your heart count to 10. The game, while hard, is also very fair and requires patience. If you take it slow, wait for opportunities and learn patterns, you should have no troubles with the game.
 Everything I've stated previously is true for the original Rondo of Blood as well, however, there are a few key differences. For instance, it feels much faster, and it's slightly harder than the remake. Since you'l probably tackle this one after finishing the remake, everything you've learned will aid you, so it's not as hard as a blind playthrough. Stages are almost entirely identical, with a very sparse changes here and there. Speed is not what makes it harder, but rather, you'll notice that there is a lot more stuff to avoid. Surprisingly, two sections are actually harder in the remake: Dracula, who got a new third form, and Stage 5', which is downright brutal in the Remake, even while using Maria. As for Symphony of the Night... I'll be reviewing it later, the PS1 version, so I won't say much, but the game has aged gloriously, it's arguably, the best Metroidvania out there. It also received a couple of changes, at least when it comes to the American version. While it's disappointing that they didn't port the Saturn version(Richter got a new Spriteset to match Ayami Kojima's art, instead of reusing Rondo of Blood's, and there were about 4 new areas), we do get the little changes that the Japanese reprints added. These include two new Familiars(Which are alternate versions of the Fairy and Demon, they are neither worse nor better, they are just slightly different(Both demons re identical, actually, but they look different)). The game also received a re-dub and the script was revised, no more miserable piles of secrets!

 Visually, the game is quite a looker. The game is very colorful, with fantastic looking stages, and there's a nice variety of them, each one with a different theme, and alternate routes within the stage themselves usually vary wildly on imagery. Enemies look really good, making the jump to 3D quite nicely, even if they posses rather simplistic animations. As for the playable characters, Konami translated Kojima's art quite well into the 3D models, they posses a fair bit of detail, and look really good. Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night look fantastic and vibrant on the PSP, even if you do have to play with frames on the sides(Since the games had different screen ratios back then). The music is downright phenomenal, it IS Castlevania after all, and there's quite a selection of tunes present in the game. Voice acting is... serviceable, it's not terrible, but it's not necessarily good either.

 By itself, Rondo of Blood's remake would've been an easy 9.0, a timeless Castlevania adventure, that plays extremely well, is incredibly fun, has tons to unlock and find, looks amazing and has a fantastic soundtrack. The inclusion of the original Rondo of Blood is genius(How many remakes include the original?), but Symphony of the Night is icing on the cake. Any Castlevania fan should look into it.
 10 out of 10.

No comments:

Post a Comment