Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles

There are certain games that never see the light of day outside Japan that manage to get a cult following overseas, among these being Akumajou Dracula X: Chi no Rondo on the TurboGrafx 16's CD add-on system, part of Konami's Castlevania series, released in Japan back in 1993. Around fifteen years later, Konami announced a remake of the game for the PlayStation Portable entitled Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, which proves to be a decent, albeit sometimes punishing, title.

The main entry of The Dracula X Chronicles is a remake of Rondo of Blood, which sports classic Castlevania gameplay, minus the RPG elements that would figure into contemporary titles in the franchise. The player can control one of two characters, Richter Belmont, or, when he rescues her, Maria Renard. Both have unique subweapons that the player may occasionally acquire while breaking candles strewn throughout stages, each of which consumes one or more hearts, also found by breaking candles. Each subweapon, in addition to its normal attack executed by pressing up and square, has a more powerful item crash ability executed with the triangle button, which consumes even more hearts.

Richter and Maria have their advantages and disadvantages; for instance, Richter takes more hits to die but moves more slowly, while Maria is quicker and easier to control but dies more easily. Rondo of Blood is divided into stages unlike the RPG Castlevanias where the player navigated one giant castle, with the player having a number of lives that deplete whenever Richter or Maria dies. Players can expect to die often unless they get a good handle on how each stage progresses and take note of the attack patterns of bosses. The most seasoned players may find Richter to be difficult to control compared to Maria, although the game is sure to satisfy those looking for a challenge in the series.

The game's controls don't leave a whole lot to desire, aside from the repetition of stages after the player loses all their lives, with the PlayStation Portable's built-in pause/quicksave always being a plus.

Like other Castlevanias, Rondo of Blood doesn't excel in terms of storytelling, with developing cutscenes being a rarity, although fans will definitely appreciate the chance to play the prequel to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The translation is adequate, aside from some minor odd lines such as "Belmont, son of Belmont."

The soundtrack is solid, as in most other Castlevanias, as is the voice acting, in spite of the few odd lines such as the aforementioned "Belmont, son of Belmont." In spite of the side-scrolling nature of the game, Rondo of Blood utilizes 3-D graphics, which look decent in motion, although the visuals during cutscenes up-close reveal bland texturing. Still, a decent-looking and sounding game.

Finally, Rondo of Blood is fairly short, about five to ten hours long, with some unlockables, including the original TurboGrafx 16 version of the game, not to mention the game's direct sequel, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, lengthening playing time. All in all, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, is a decent compilation of games, with solid music and graphics and decent, though sometimes challenging, gameplay to back it up, sure to satisfy old and new fans of the series.

The Good:
+Solid music and graphics.
+Three games in one.

The Bad:
-Often punishing.
-Hidden items needed to unlock Symphony of the Night and original Rondo of Blood.

Rondo of Blood (Remake)

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 5-10 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

Rondo of Blood (Original)

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 5-10 Hours

Overall: 8/10

Symphony of the Night

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 10/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: 5-10 Hours

Overall: 8/10

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