Akumajuo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo


Review by Rob "Dire 51"



Graphics: 9

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

When Konami decided to go ahead and start making games for NEC's PC Engine, a lot of Turbografx-16 owners were very happy. After all, there was a good chance that Konami's games might make it to the U.S., which would have been a godsend for the flagging Turbo. Unfortunately, Nintendo's hold on Konami remained too strong, and spectacular CD versions of games like Gradius II and Snatcher remained in Japan. The Turbografx-16 finally ended up rolling over and dying in the U.S., despite Turbo Technologies Inc. taking over from NEC and introducing the TurboDuo. It was a case of too little, too late, and even though Konami's games may have helped, there's no way now to tell for sure if they would have been enough.

One of the biggest losses felt by Turbo owners (and most Castlevania fans outside of Japan) was Akumajuo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, Konami's first CD based Castlevania. This was a game that was heralded by most as the best Castlevania ever made, and the fact that it remained import only really pissed a lot of people off. Konami tried to soothe Castlevania fans by releasing Castlevania: Dracula X for the Super NES in 1995, and while it was a good game by itself, it was a mere shadow of the PC Engine game (although it was not a port of the game, as you may have heard elsewhere - it was the sequel). To this day, Akumajuo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo remains import only.

Does the game live up to it's reputation? While the majority of Castlevania fans say yes, several of them do feel that it's really overrated. I'd have to say that I fall in with the majority in this case. Ever since I tracked down a copy in late 1995 (coincidentally, I got it the same week that Castlevania: Dracula X was released, so I was able to compare them simultaneously), it's been one of my favorite games (it made #5 on my Top 100).

If you know the story behind the Castlevania games, you pretty much already know the story here. This time, though, there's a twist - Richter Belmont, the descendant of Simon Belmont, is not only trying to destroy Dracula (who had been revived by the dark priest Shaft), but is also trying to rescue his girlfriend Annette, who has been captured by Dracula and taken to his castle. Other than that, it's the standard Castlevania story the whole way.

There's a lot to like about Dracula X. For instance, this was the first Castlevania to feature anime cutscenes, similar to the ones used in Ninja Gaiden (NES) and Valis III (Turbo CD/Genesis). They weren't fully animated (none of the Turbo games that had cutscenes were), but they were full screen and had voiceovers. There are a total of twelve different levels in the game - although you only had to finish seven of them to complete the game, you could go back and discover the other levels in order to increase your percentage completed of the game and work toward the best ending. You could save your progress on the Turbo's internal memory, so you wouldn't have to start from scratch every time you played the game. Additionally, there are hostages to rescue (Annette among them). Finding them and rescuing them would get you the best ending you could get. One of the hostages, Maria (a twelve year old girl and the sister of Annette), actually joins you on your quest and is selectable at the Game Over screen and when you resume your saved game. Unlike Richter, Maria uses animals as her main form of attack (Richter uses the standard Castlevania weaponry - axes, boomerangs, daggers and whatnot). She provides a bit of humor to this otherwise serious game.

Graphically, Dracula X went for a brighter, anime look. The graphics are quite colorful and are extremely detailed (and the bosses are absolutely huge!). There are still some dark parts in the game, don't get me wrong, but it feels a lot less dark than the previous games in the series did. The background graphics were done extraordinarily well - in the first stage of the game, you even fight through a burning town from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest - and it looks exactly the way it did in the NES game. Then there's the music, which is one thing that just about everyone that's played the game has raved about. It's extremely high quality CD audio, and several of the pieces of music from the earlier games in the series were brought back and given lush audio treatment. There's a lot of new music as well, most of it very memorable. At certain points in the game, you do hear music that doesn't come off the CD... in fact, it sounds like music that would have come from a HuCard. It's quite the odd contrast when compared to the CD music.

The game controls quite well - to those of you used to the classic 8-bit Castlevania control scheme, you'll feel right at home with this. On the other hand, if you're used to all of the neat tricks that you could pull off in Super Castlevania IV, like eight-way whipping and flailing your whip, you may find this to be a bit of a letdown. Richter does have a few new tricks, like a backwards somersault and what they call the Item Crash (get enough hearts and execute a super move by pressing select), so it's not like everything went completely back to the style of the 8-bit games. Additionally, Maria has the ability to double jump and slide, plus she can use the Item Crash herself. She can also perform a "Ghost/Ninja Maria" attack if you do a specific button combination similar to the ones used in Street Fighter II for throwing fireballs.

There's only one negative point that I see to the game - it's way too easy. The average Castlevania fan could complete this in an afternoon, even without saving their progress. On top of that, the amount of time that you're invincible after you get hit has been cut in half - so if you're not careful, you can lose a lot of life very easily. Even so, it's still not enough to offset the easy difficulty. Personally, I don't find this to be a problem, as I love playing through the game over and over. It's definitely fun, which makes up for the lack of challenge.

There are a lot of memorable moments in the game - fighting Death during the prologue and then on top of the pirate ship, rescuing the hostages, finding the hidden passages and various bonus items, and a lot more. It's a real shame that Konami hasn't released this outside of Japan in some form or another. However, there is a very real possibility that Dracula X may become a part of the Castlevania Chronicles line (as of this writing, only one game has been released in the line, which was Akumajou Dracula X68000). Hopefully this will come to pass, and Castlevania fans around the world will finally be able to play this great game without having to resort to paying ridiculously high prices on eBay for it (as much as I like Dracula X, I find the two to three hundred dollar price tags on eBay to be way too much to pay for the game. Sadly, people will buy it at those prices). It'd be nice for Dracula X to finally have a worldwide release, don't you think?


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Last updated: Wednesday, April 21, 2004 04:40 PM