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TVG heads to Transylvania and tracks down the Prince of Darkness' resurrection from the PC Engine days...
- Whole new Castlevania for the West.
- Re-vamped 2.5D visuals.
- The sheer challenge.
- Irritating soundtrack.
- Symphony of the Night is locked at the start.
- PSP runs the risk of getting smashed to pieces.
Thanks to the forever-encroaching menace from the 'casual gaming market', there seems to be a continuous flow of party games, quick fix titles, and Gaming for Dummies releases these days, all of which can make the hardcore guts of the gaming faithful lose all hope. As a gesture to stop the influx, at least on PSP, Konami is taking a trip through time to bring owners of the Sony handheld the chance to get their teeth into good ol' fashioned gaming like your Granddad used to program.
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is an update to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, the tenth Castlevania title developed (hence the 'X'), which launched on PC Engine back in 1993. Never released outside of Japan, the game follows Richter Belmont, the latest member of the greatly extended family of demon hunters on another quest to destroy Dracula and rescue a couple of damsels in distress. TVG rode a carriage drawn by headless horses to see whether the blast from the past serves up a suitable feast or if it's a re-created retro title too far...
Dracula: The Game Over ChroniclesRather than sit back and launch a hasty localised version of the missing instalment, Konami set themselves the task of modelling characters in 3D, before inserting them into the 2D scrolling world - making Dracula X something of a 2.5D title. It's obviously looks better for the visual update, and if you're uncertain of that, then go and play the original version of Rondo of Blood and the acclaimed Symphony of the Night, both of which are available on the jam-packed UMD as unlockable bonuses.
Besides re-recording the dialogue, several minor changes to the PC Engine original have also been made, though that's even less significant here in the West given that we weren't given the original in the first place. Walls of red skeletons and blue ice stop Belmont from accessing additional bonuses such as the unlockable soundtracks that have also been added (though with acquired powers later in the game they become less of an obstacle), together with the occasional change in level design. On the whole though, Western 'Grey Importers' of the original will themselves faced with an old adventure in newer skin...like Dracula rising for his next mouthful of the red stuff after a century of slumber.
Bram, Stoker Da Fire.A traditional hardcore platformer in every sense, Dracula X is both a breath of fresh air and a healthy dose of nostalgia; a history lesson before the death of 'Game Over'. Jumping, dodging, and exploring the dark and moody environments make up an adventure that sees the young Belmont face up to everything from werewolves, Harryhausen skeletons, and the most irritating of all - swooping creatures such as bats and ravens that like nothing more than getting your way, sapping much of Richter's precious energy as they go.
It may be a tad obvious to say, but Dracula X is not to be to everyone's liking, least of all the swelling ranks of the casual crowd...
Besides having enough Campaign content to keep most Castlevania fans quiet on even the longest commutes or wherever else they pick up their trusty PSP, Dracula X also features a 'Boss Rush' mode. Featuring mixed timed encounters with the game's bosses, players can choose fight as Richter or Maria, throwing in the sort of short and accessible gameplay for bursts of Castlevania action. The mode also benefits from co-operative functionality, allowing a second player to join in the action over the PSP's Ad Hoc ability. More a welcomed side note to the main adventure, completing the Boss Rush mode also helps to unlocked some of the content that Konami has weaved through The Dracula X Chronicles as a whole.
As an essentially fifteen-year-old title, The Dracula X Chronicles features some serious tough and challenging gameplay for gamers to overcome. Despite the sparse but welcome checkpoint system, and the save game feature that kicks in at the end of a stage, the experience is unforgiving and brings back the nostalgia of how videogames used to be. What Castlevania gives to players here is honest to goodness, hard as hell gameplay that's as much for a casual gaming audience as climbing Mount Everest is for the local 'Flab Fighting' group...and that's exactly how we like it.
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