Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles (PSP) Review

Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is a 2.5 remake of Castlevania Rondo of Blood for the PSP, released by Konami in 2007. This game stars Richter Belmont on a quest to save his beloved Annette from Dracula, who had been revived by the dark priest Shaft. Along the way Richter will meet Maria, a young girl with special powers who becomes a playable character. You’ll go through a number of the traditional Castlevania stages as Richter or Maria, and trying to find the well-hidden other 2 maidens along the way along with Annette. Saving the maidens will give you the ability to break red skeleton walls and crystal walls to find more secret items. Along the way you can unlock ports of the original pc-engine Rondo of Blood, along with Symphony of the Night. Other secrets include finding different tracks among the three games and a boss rush mode. Stages 2 through 5 have varying paths to explore, resulting in fighting a different boss and opening up an alternate of the following stage. Auto-saving after levels is a godsend with a game like this. Extra goodies with this include the aforementioned ports, sound tests, watching videos of the boss battles (you pay with the money you earn in stages), and a different types of boss rush modes. Rondo of Blood essentially is the missing link between the old school Castlevania platforming titles, and the later popular Metroidvania style games starting with SOTN. This review will mostly cover the Rondo remake, with mentions of the original Rondo of Blood port and SOTN.

THE REVIEW: This game is hard! The original Rondo is well known for being a tough as nails platformer between tough bosses and enemies and needing to make pixel-perfect jumps. The remake isn’t any different. The game does reward you for exploring all paths in levels and whipping everything cause you can find extra hearts, wall meat, secrets, and even a new path through levels. Secrets include multiple paths in levels, finding the ports for SOTN and the original Rondo, and getting cd tracks for the sound test. I will say only finding cd tracks is a bit disappointing, I’d have preferred finding artwork from the remake and the original games, interviews and the like. Finding the right areas, and getting there for that matter, to unlock the other 2 games isn’t easy either. You will die a lot and have to progress slowly to keep your energy up and any sub-weapons you have to survive. Richter has all the old school sub-weapons from previous games from the holy water to the boomerang crosses, along with an item crash ability that damages everything on screen.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND: The graphics in the Rondo remake are beautiful! It’s 2.5d character models on a 3d background. You’re always gonna want to pause the game to see what’s going on in the backgrounds cause they’re all full of life. The waterfall part in alt stage 4 is beautiful! The models for Richter and Maria are quite fluid, as are those for all the boss fights. Before a boss fight, or sometimes mini-boss, you’re treated to a cinema scene of the boss showing up. Dialogue scenes have one of your heroes talking to one of the maidens, Shaft, Dracula, etc. with images of them as they speak. And Maria’s adorable to boot. XD The graphics for using the sub-weapons and their item crashes is shown in full glory.

The soundtrack is classic Castlevania at its finest. You’re going to want to find the music cds in the levels to unlock the tracks from the remake as well as from the other 2 ports. From Bloody tears to Vampire Killer you won’t be disappointed. The dialogue in the remake is serious, with some hints to humor and the voice acting work certainly doesn’t seem like it was phoned in for a quick paycheck. I still laugh when Maria calls Shaft “the bad man!” Look up the cast to see what else they’ve done, you might be surprised!

The graphics and music in the original Rondo aren’t anything overly special, but good for the system it was on. Everything is clear and colorful, yet dark and fits the atmosphere. The anime style cut scenes are still there for various events too. The SOTN port is a straight port from the PSX, so you have the great graphics and music from SOTN intact. A new script and voice acting was added to SOTN also. I get the idea behind it and it’s a lot cleaner, but there was a charm to the old overly dramatic script and that spawned a thousand memes with Dracula’s “What is a man?” line. SOTN also lets you play as Maria (and Richter like the PSX port) when you finish the game. Maria was only available previously in the Japanese Sega Saturn port which we won’t speak of here.

PLAY CONTROL: Depending on if you’re playing as Richter or Maria, you’ll have to get used to their different playing and control styles. Richter is classic Belmont with swinging his whip, jumping, using items, etc. Maria fights throwing out doves a slightly shorter distance than that of Richter’s whip, but she can use her attack faster than Richter trying to swing his whip for quick attacks. Maria’s sub-weapons include her guardian animals (!) and their item crashes all have a different style than Richter’s classic sub-weapons of the boomerang, holy water, knives, etc. Maria also has a weird belly slide move (hint: use it crossing the bridge at the start of stage 7) and a double jump compared to Richter’s backflip move and Maria does control faster and easier than Richter. Some say using Maria is like an easy mode for this and I tend to agree at times. The need to pixel-perfect jumping to platforms, moving or stationary, or quickly getting out of the way of an enemy attack from the original game is still there. Using sub-weapons and item crashes have their own buttons assigned at default, and can be changed.

The controls in the original Rondo are quite stiff. You’re gonna wish Richter would swing his whip faster and move faster. The pixel-perfect jumping need is still there or you may find yourself in deep trouble. SOTN retains the beautiful controls of the PSX port.

CHALLENGE: The Rondo remake is HARD! Like I previously mentioned if you do save Maria you get her as a playable character and the game feels easier with her, partly due to her different play style than Richter. Either way, you will find yourself dying a lot by enemies or bottomless pits until you learn to make slow progress through each stage. Thankfully, no time limit so you can explore as much as you want. The game autosaves when you finish a level as either hero, and you can return to those levels to find more secrets later or open up a possible alternate version of stages 2-5. Sadly when you do die the checkpoint system takes you back pretty far, so you’re gonna have to backtrack a lot in this, though the game does set checkpoints when you go through doors to another part of the stage. I like the idea that some bosses have a room before them with no enemies that you can gather extra hearts, sub-weapons and even heal with wall meat (or in Maria’s case, wall ice cream, wall parfaits, and wall ramen). Richter and Maria can and will take a lot of damage and you may find your health bar close to 0 before you realize it.

And exploring you will to find the alternate paths in the stages to open up the alternate stages and fighting the different bosses there. Once you open it up with one hero, it’s available for both. Stages 2-5 have their main stage and their alternates, which you can find by taking a different path in those stages. Sometimes the path is easy, sometimes there’s a puzzle involved. Even the stages that only have one path you’ll want to explore and attack everything for hidden goodies. Some of the alternate stages are quite hard, especially alternate stage 5 and the Hydra boss. You want the best ending, well you better save Maria, the maidens and Annette, then fighting a relentless and tough 3rd form of Dracula after his traditional and monster forms we know and love from Rondo and SotN!! Finding the ports of SOTN and Rondo will involve exploration, trial and error and a lot of taking as little damage as possible and hoping to have a sub-weapon still. Once you find them you got them for good!

The port of Rondo is as hard as you may or may not remember it. Richter still moves like wet cardboard so like the remake, a lot of trial and error is involved. The original had an autosave feature as does this port. SOTN is as easy or as hard as you would remember it too.

I GIVE THIS GAME 4 OUT OF 5 HOLY WATERS!!

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