Castlevania has been an interesting series – and one that has stood the test of time in both the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. While Super Castlevania IV is probably the most popular Castlevania on SNES, I wanted to take a look at the one that is much less common (and one that I recently picked up a couple months back) – Castlevania Dracula X! This game also has some interesting history – originally it was released in Japan as Castlevania: Rhond of Blood on the PC Engine CD-Rom expansion. This version of the game never released here in Canada or the USA, and what we ended up getting on SNES is apparently much different (including changes in story and one less playable chjaracter). I haven’t played Rhond of Blood and don’t really plan on it as I don’t collect PC Engine games, so I am going to take a look at this game with fresh eyes and without trying to compare it its previous incarnation!
In terms of story, this game take place many generations after Simon Belmont defeated Dracula for the first time. Dracula has somehow revived and wants his revenge on Simon Belmont’s family – in this game, his descent is Righter! Dracula devises a plan to lure Righter to come to his castle by kidnaping both his girlfriend Annet and his girlfriend’s sister Maria. And this the game starts!
After playing many of the more recent Metroidvainia-type Castlevania games, this game is a callback to the old school Castlevania games! This is a linear 2D action-platform game where you control Righter through a variety of stages, whipping the undead, jumping over pits, finding hidden stashes in walls, and destroying bosses! The game also has all the classic subweapons like knives, holly water, and axes too…but the game adds some innovation that makes the game even more enjoyable to play!
For instance, large sums of hearts can now be used to do a super-charged subweapon attack that wipes out way more enemies, and when you collect a new subweapon on the ground, the one you throw away sits on the ground for a moment so you have a chance to pick it up again in case you don’t like the new weapons you acquired! The game also allows you to jump on stairs instead of having to start from the bottom each time! The controls of the game also feel great with Righter being very responsive even though jumping takes a little to get use to, and while the game is super fun, this game is hard! I have yet to beat it let alone get to the final level.
In terms of levels, they are usually broken up into multiple parts and end with a boss battle. Many of the levels seem to be inspired by levels from previous incarnations of (e.g., bridge level, cave level, castle level) – but with some new additions of their own! For instance, instead of simply walking up to the castle like in previous games, a crazy fire breaks out and you are chased by a giant demon! While most levels are linear, some have branching paths which can actually lead you to different bosses and even different levels!
And the bosses themselves are still fun and challenging – with many of them back from previous games including Death! Naturally – the further you get in the game, the harder they become, but they act as nice challenging set-pieces that help make the game feel grand! The game also has many secrets including hidden powers and health hidden in the walls, and even a couple characters to save (i.e., Annet and Maria) who must be saved for the player to unlock the true ending.
In terms of graphics, the game looks absolutely fantastic – even to todays standard. The 2D sprites looks fantastic, the bosses are epic, and the levels utilize a lot of special effects to really make them standout – the first level was a highlight for me with all the fire in the background. The music is also stellar with classic Castlevania tunes upgraded with some catchy new bass lines! The sound effects are also great are really capture many of the classic sounds from older games like collecting hearts and picking up the orbs following the defeat of a boss.
In summary, Castlevania: Dracula X is a fantastic 2D action platform game with awesome graphics and music, challenging but rewarding gameplay, and an overall solid entry into the Castlevania series. The only downside is the game is quite expensive these days – running at around 250-300$. Is it worth that much? Probably not – but I enjoyed my time with it! I give this game a final score of 9/10!
Final Score: 9/10