reviews\ Oct 23, 2001 at 8:00 pm

Castlevania Chronicles - PSX - Review

Old school gamers – rejoice! One of the original bad-boys of gothic gameplay is back, and its latest release is called Castlevania Chronicles. Freshly renovated for the Playstation, Castlevania Chronicles is a remake of a lesser known (and strictly import) Castlevania title that made its debut on the x68000 (Huh? What’s that? Well that’s okay not too many people knew about the seldomly used PC). Well fret no more, this lost little gem of Castlevania history was resurrected from its little known early 90’s computer platform origins and brought back to life for a whole new group of fans to enjoy.

Refresher course: 2D Side Scrolling Platformer 101. The course requirements are minimal: 2 buttons and directional controls. The execution requirements: demanding. It’s sort of a prime example of how the simplest looking things can also be the most difficult. It’s an era of game making that many gaming veterans revere as the "golden days of gaming" and such simplistic game play does have its appeal on those days where you just want to get back to the basics – with a Count Dracula twist!

The most interesting feature to Castlevania Chronicles is the fact that not only do you have the original mode of gameplay that you might have been cruelly denied previously in the states, but also what is called an "arranged mode." In the arranged mode, several updates are thrown in which give a different look, sound, and more options to gameplay. But, more about that later….

If you’re a long time fan of the series… Castlevania Chronicles takes us back to the stage of the game when whip direction is basically determined solely by the direction you’re facing. In other words, don’t even think about jumping and switching whip direction after your jump has been executed. It may take some fancy footwork – but it can be done. Also, if you’re not used to the style, stuff like climbing staircases and platforms are not everything you might expect. For instance, don’t even think about jumping on a stairwell halfway up – you have to start from the bottom and walk all the way up. It’s both a curse and a blessing some may say – but you’ve been forewarned.

Now onto the graphics. In normal mode, you’re getting what you expect when you buy a re-release of an 8 year old game. Graphics which will seem a bit outdated for the PSX system. In arranged mode, when it comes to graphics, it’s "Simple Simon" no more. Pardon the pun – but you can’t help but notice one of the most prominent changes in the "arranged mode" is the improved sprites of Simon and his eternal nemesis, the ol’ bloodsucker himself, Count Dracula. If you have a sharp eye you’ll also notice some changed lighting effects and other background changes, but otherwise the game mostly looks the same. On a side note, the cover art is pretty striking!

The intros are also radically different, with the original mode featuring the (what else) original intro, whereas the "arranged" mode features a CG intro. Music also makes a similar transition – with the "arranged" mode music a marked improvement from the original sounds.

So what else does Chronicles have going on? Well it has an interview with the producer of Symphony of the Night that you can immediately view, the aforementioned graphical improvements, and a feature on Ayami Kojima’s artwork that can be unlocked by successful gameplay. On the gameplay side, the "arranged" mode also lets you start out with more lives AND change difficulty levels for anyone from beginners to advanced players. There is also a timed attack mode which will pit you against the clock if you are really looking for more of a challenge.

All in all, Castlevania Chronicles, by Konami, is a must have for long time fans of the series. While it might not have as much to offer newcomers and fans of eye-cany, classic gamers will feel right at home. While it doesn’t add an overwhelming amount of new material, it still gives US gamers a chance to see the original Japanese version on their PSX systems – complete with some bonuses not previously seen. With a bargain price and limited run, this one may just tempt you into picking it up.

Gameplay: 7
It’s old school, simple/basic commands, 2D side-scrolling action – completely decked out with the dark Castlevania ambience. Gameplay is enhanced from it’s original "tough as nails" version in the "arranged" mode allowing more choices for difficulty options and the chance to be awarded more lives at the inception of the game.

Graphics: 6
The first thing you will notice on arranged mode is the improved character sprites of Simon and the king of evil himself, Dracula. There are also a few other lighting-type effects that will look altered from the original. There is also a CG introduction that is fun to compare and contrast to the original intro featured on the regular mode. Other than that, the look of the game has changed very little since the early versions of the title.

Sound: 6.5
The "arranged" mode really spices up the original sounds.

Difficulty: 7
Ah, back in the days where difficulty is just about perfect button timing and jumps. There’s not too many extraneous concepts thrown into your basic two moves – and while this doesn’t mean the game is easy, it does mean the difficulty will be motor-skill related alone. The added difficulty options scores big points!

Concept: 7
Castlevania fans can rejoice now that a former "import only" installation of their favorite series is now available in the U.S. But Konami doesn’t stop there – they also throw in a few extra treats for Castlevania connoisseurs! While they’re nothing earth shattering, it is a great value for the price!

Overall: 7
With a value price and sentimental value for long-time Castlevania fans, Castlevania Chronicles is a must have to the collection for fans of the series. However, outsiders to the following may not be very impressed by the older-looking graphics and gameplay – even with the minimal upgrades of "arranged" mode.


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