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Castlevania:Dracula X Review

This time I am going to be taking a look at the 2nd SNES Castlevania release, titled Castlevania:Dracula X. This game was released in September of 1995.This game is a bit of a conundrum among SNES fans and Castlevania faithful. Everything about the game was meant to convey the sense that this would a cartridge version of the PC Engine's Rondo of Blood, right down to the identical box art. What we got in this game, much to our chagrin, was something only slightly resembling Rondo. But given how time has passed since the dishonesty of this 1995 release, I am here to play it and attempt to be objective. Does it manage to be a decent game on its own?

Dracula X's story is the same as Rondo of Blood. Dracula has been resurrected by the Dark Priest Shaft and it is up to Richter Belmont to slay him once again. Perhaps tired of waiting to be slayed, Dracula and his minions take the fight directly to the Belmonts in this year of 1791 by attacking Richter's village and kidnapping his finance Annette. This of course pisses Richter off and he sets off across the countryside to rescue his love and defeat Dracula once again. A pretty standard story with some unique aspects.

The graphics definitely look like Rondo: Richter's sprite is taken right from it. And of course this was technically the first game to start the increasingly annoying tendency of cutting and pasting Castlevania monsters; Skeletons, Ghosts, and more. Well, it can kind of be excused in this game, as it is a downgraded port of the original Rondo. Besides that, being a 1995 SNES game, more could be expected from the graphics, given that Chrono Trigger had come out the month before. The SNES was also more powerful in some ways that the PC Engine. Given the timespan between the port and the original, the graphics should have at least been enhanced (and it certainly would have given this game more reason to exist...)

Music in this game is a big positive and does a lot to justify playing it to this day. Because of the lack of redbook audio on the SNES, Dracula X's creators knew that it would be a bad idea to just port the music (I'm sure the result would have been similar to the many SNES ports to GBA, what with their noticeably inferior music!), so the music was rewritten with the SNES in mind. This was done with great care, as some tracks are actually better than their counterparts in Rondo of Blood. I favor this game's version of Beginning and the Atlantis like alternate stage has a nice beat to it as well.

Gameplay is pretty much the same as Rondo, with some drastic and unnecessary changes. You can't play as Maria (only rescue her), there are fewer alternate stage exits, as well as fewer maidens to rescue.

Besides that, Dracula X's gameplay is traditional Castlevania goodness. The item crash is again carried over from Castlevania Bloodlines and really helps in a pitch, especially given Richter's limited mobility and slowed reaction time. It is true that Richter seems to move more sluggishly in Dracula X than Rondo of Blood, so be prepared to adjust your timing unless you want to be dying a lot.

Challenge is affected by the awkward gameplay, the game's obstacles really seem unfair at times, almost as if they are designed to be difficult only for Richter. Maria would have had little problem with any of these stages.

Dracula is this game definitely adds to the reputation of this game's difficulty, in that he almost unfairly difficult. You fight him over a bottomless pit with 5 small platforms being your only way to maneuver around. Coupled with Richter's snail-like moves at times, and you have yourself one headache of a fight. And Dracula's 2nd form is a different kind of difficult, I think I'll leave that to you to figure out (or you can just watch my video review to hear all about it!)

Replay value doesn't exist in this game. You have two alternate stages but they don't affect the ending. This is the kind of game you play once (or in my case, once again to write a review) and then perhaps pick up again in a few years' time.

In conclusion, Dracula X on the Super Nintendo is a rare game that gets better with age. I use this expression in a non-traditional way because I feel that the more time passes since this game's release, the better gamers can feel about the dubious aspects of X's presentation; the elements that were meant to mislead gamers into thinking that this was Rondo of Blood on the SNES.

Dracula X is fun for a traditional Castlevania game and worth playing for fans of that type of Castlevania. I think you will enjoy this game most as a standalone title, just don't expect the quality of the previous SNES release, Super Castlevania IV or the PC Engine masterpiece, Rondo of Blood. We as gamers were goaded into expecting that, but resist it and you will have a good time with Dracula X.

- Ugly Bob

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