Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles - PSP - Review
Anyone who has owned a Nintendo Entertainment System will remember the first Castlevania game and the whip-wielding hero who fought against the famed vampire in his own home turf. It was not only an amazing side-scrolling 2D action game with a supernatural twist but it also inspired sequels that managed to rise above Konami’s original classic. Among those games is Castlevania: Rondo of Blood that was released in Japan in 1993 and followed four years later by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a game that’s not only a fan favorite but the best Castlevania game. With Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP, Konami brings a newly remastered version of Rondo of Blood (plus the 2D original) as well as Symphony of the Night in one portable package.
While the PSP packaging proudly displays that you can play both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night all on the same UMD, the truth is that you will have to play through the revamped version of Rondo before you can unlock Symphony or the original 2D version of Rondo. That’s three games in one package but you must unlock the first two by completing Rondo and that’s not a simple feat at all. Yes, it’s kind of frustrating that you’re not able to jump right into Symphony if you want but then again Rondo hasn’t been released in North America before this is the chance for those who haven’t played the Japanese original.
Rondo of happiness
The newly revamped version of Rondo of Blood is a pleasantly altered while keeping the feel of the original. You play as Richter Belmont, a descendant of the original Castlevania’s Simon Belmont who went up against Dracula and vanquished him. Years later Dracula rises again but this time it’s Richter that answers the call to do battle with the forces of evil and put Dracula in his coffin once and for all. So off he goes to Castlevania to fight the supernatural threat in the game’s opening prologue that has you on a coach pulled by galloping steeds as a vampire attacks.
Early in the game (the second level to be exact), you will get to unlock another playable character that will play a role in helping you rid the land of Dracula. Maria Renard might be a little girl but her attacks are just as effective as Richter’s whip, throwing knives or crosses. Maria releases doves on her enemy and can move faster than the slower but stronger Richter, who can perform a helpful double jump that finishes with a back flip. It’s great to be able to pick from two characters and both Richter and Maria play different enough to add variety to the game’s levels.
Listen to them, the Children of the Night - what music they make
Rondo’s level design was a nice change from the traditional level design of Castlevania and the sequels that followed seeing as the hero can move on to the next area via a doorway that gives the impression that you’re smoothly transitioning from area to area. The newly revamped version features cut scenes that advance the story. Once you’re able to unlock the original Rondo of Blood (the classic 2D version), you also get to unlock Symphony of the Night. For anyone who missed the game, Symphony has you playing Alucard (which is Dracula spelled backwards) who just happens to be the spawn between Dracula and a human. Alucard just so happens to hate his father and goes on a quest to defeat him after hearing that Richter Belmont and Maria Renard are missing. His battle against the evil Count is actually more epic than Rondo and the fact that Alucard has his father’s ability to transform into mist, wolf or a bat adds more depth to the side-scrolling action.
Vampire slaying is not easy
The problem with these games is that they’re hard … too hard. Whether you’re playing Rondo or Symphony, the game will show you no mercy and you’ll only have a few lives to get you through each level. Add to that the fact that Symphony has no auto saves. There are some challenging boss levels and if you’re patient enough you can figure out their movements and attack patterns. Still, some gamers not used to the old school-styled difficulty will find themselves a bit frustrated.
Visually, the newly reworked games look really good and the animated cut scenes are just plain wonderful. There’s a sharpness to the characters and backgrounds but you can’t help but think that both the new versions of Rondo and Symphony could have looked better on the PSP. There are also great soundtracks for both games. Sure, the Japanese voice work is good and the sound effects decent (werewolves howl and ghost moan) but it’s the score that will have you playing this game with the volume up.
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP offers enough gaming goodies to keep fans of the series more than satisfied. It’s not a loaded collection, mind you, but Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night (arguable the best Castlevania game ever made) are reasons enough to run out and buy this portable action game that will keep gamers more than busy. Be warned, though, the game’s steep learning curve and really challenging difficulty is not for the casual gamers. Everyone else, well, grab a whip and let’s tear into Dracula’s army.
Review Scoring Details for Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
Casual gamers need not apply; there are three different games that offer some truly difficult levels and intense boss battles. Whether you play as Richter or Alucard, there are enough challenges to meet in the various monster-filled levels of the game.
Visually, the game could have looked more stunning but both Rondo and Symphony look amazing thanks to the new visual style. The new cut scenes are actually crisp and wonderfully colorful, and many of the monster effects just jump off the PSP widescreen.
The music for both games will not fail to give you chills in the best possible way and there are some solid sound effects and the Japanese voice acting is superb (although, at times, you’ll have to brush up on your Japanese to figure out what they’re saying when there are no subtitles).
Like the original, Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night are still hard so expect some frustrating moments that might not sit well with those gamers used to a more forgiving difficulty setting. Some boss battles will not fail to challenge even experienced gamers. Playing the game cooperatively with a friend does help.
The remixed version of Rondo is well worth the price tag alone but then again it’s great to be able to play the original as well as Symphony … a game that still remains the best Castlevania offering. You can also play the original 2D Rondo so there’s a lot to love about this portable package.
You can play the game cooperatively with a friend who owns a copy of the game. This will provide aid during those tough boss battles as well as the hard-as-nails final battle. The good news is that the Ad Hoc multiplayer runs smoothly and without any framerate problems.
Castlevania fans will certainly find a lot to love about The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP and, while the different versions of these classics are still too hard, these classics are just way too good to pass up. The revised version of Rondo will keep fans more than busy and who can say no to Symphony of the Night? Trust me; this is one PSP game you will not want to miss.