Castlevania: Dracula X


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 9

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

Certainly it's easy to argue why the Super Nintendo port of "Dracula X" just didn't work. It's missing levels, characters, and features. However, if you can look at it on its own, ignoring the glory of the import PC-Engine version, then you find one of the best "Castlevania" games out there, complete with brutal difficulty and unforgettable soundtrack.

At first glance, especially if you've spent countless hours with some of the newer more RPG-like entries of the series, things are going to seem a bit archaic. From a gameplay standpoint, there's nothing stopping this game from appearing on the NES. It's just walking and whipping all the way through. Still, this IS "Castlevania" in its absolute purest form, the same style that made the game a classic and nothing can change or alter that in any way.

Richter Belmont leads the way this time out, traversing seven absolutely brutal stages to end up at the obligatory final confrontation with Dracula. The stages offer plenty of variation, bringing back all the old favorite enemies along with some new crewmembers. Keeping him alive, as always, is a whip and secondary weapons. These can be made brutal with a sort of "super-attack" if you will, a vicious weapon outburst that can really put the hurt on anything its path.

You'll need to stay alive long enough to use that of course, and for some, that's going to be a problem. The first stage alone has a combination of revolving platforms and medusa heads that will drive some people literally insane. A few levels have some oddball jump placements too, seemingly included just to be annoying. That's a minor problem in the changing of the level design to make this port, though the PC-Engine wasn't exactly kind either.

The graphics engine has been given an entire facelift, screaming with color and animation. The first level is set against a great warping fire effect (also done well in the original) that gets the adrenaline pumping early. Bosses are huge, usually taking up some prime real estate on the screen. Richter may seem small to those used to the huge lead sprite in "Castlevania 4," but he actually has a lot of detail crammed onto him and he's animated better. It also makes those bosses all the more intimidating.

You can say the soundtrack has been downgraded a notch, though that's only speaking for the quality of the audio. The music here combines for one of the most astounding game soundtracks ever produced. Most of it is picked up from the classic versions on the NES, just injected with a huge burst of steroids to take advantage of the meatier SNES sound chip. It only gets better as the game moves on. Sound effects are generally meaningless, entirely over-powered by the intensity of the soundtrack. Still, you'll find a few nice death screams (note the gratuitous blood has been removed, likely at the request of a certain company) and sharp whip lashing effect.

Since this version is far more accessible to American gamers than the ridiculously priced import, it's hardly fair to compare the two, even if the titles read the same. This is brilliant update to a classic game; one that does everything you would hope a new version of an old classic would. Be warned it's going to get pretty rough as the game moves on and that places this one firmly in the lap of the truly hardcore, but it's completely worth all of those broken controllers.


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Last updated: Saturday, July 09, 2005 08:12 AM