The Best Castlevania You Never Played
9 September 2007
...And since it was never originally released outside of Japan, I suppose that your ignorance is understandable. However, the fact remains that Akumajo Dracula X Chi no Rondo is one of the finest Castlevania games ever made. More than that, though, this game was fundamental in defining the future of the franchise. How? you might ask.
Well, let's put it this way, Castlevania: Symphony of Night, the greatest game in the 20+ year-old series was in fact a direct sequel to Dracula X. Although Dracula X at first glance appeared to be just as linear as its predecessors, in fact it presented secret paths and bosses for every single level. For example, in stage 1, when you break some bricks and drop down a pit to a water-filled level, you fight a serpent boss rather than the werewolf you find at the end of the normal path.
Overall, the gameplay offers previously unknown freedom to the vampire slayer. With two quick presses of the II button you can do a backflip to avoid enemy attacks or get onto higher ledges. You can even do the Moonwalk by holding button I and pressing the opposite direction you're facing. An even more basic feature is the ability to control your jump in mid-air; this even include jumping onto stairs and jumping up them. These are fairly minor tweaks, though. There are more fundamental improvements as well.
Adding further variety to the previously straightforward Castlevania gameplay, you have the ability to perform an item crush. Basically, it's a more powerful version of your special weapon that consumes more hearts (10 to be precise). This bonus attack, however, pales in comparison to the fact that you can unlock a totally new and playable character: Maria Renard. She's not as tough as Richter Belmont, but she's much more agile and her weapon (a pair of doves), actually deals more damage than Belmont's whip. She also is blessed with a double jump, slide, roll, and even a "black Maria" special attack that deals massive damage. Maria also has her own special weapons—all of them based on animal themes.
But all of this is about how you compare this Castlevania to all the previous ones. How does it stand on its own? How did is represent the series back in the day? How did it make a name for itself on the TurboGrafx-16 CD? Well, let me say two things to answer these questions. First off, had it been released outside of Japan this title could have saved the TurboGrafx-16 as a viable platform. Furthermore, though the title was anything but rare in Japan, the original continues to command prices around $150 on eBay today.
Dracula X is easily the best platformer every released for the TurboGrafx. We'll start with the gameplay. Well, aside from being phenomenally good, it literally defined the mechanics that continue to this day in the DS versions of Castlevania. Not bad, right? No, it's way better than that. We're talking fundamental in terms of contributing to the franchise as we know it today.
Muscially, Dracula X incorporates a combination of pop and progressive rock. While not nearly as diverse as Symphony of Night, it does present an excellent balance of familiar tunes from old school Castlevania titles and completely original works.
Vivid colors meet gothic atmosphere. Fabulous fire effects on stage 1, along with the convincing animation of leaves falling through the air. In short, a marvelous treat for the eyes that proves just how powerful and prescient a console the TurboGrafx-16 was.
Since I've been spoiled by the amazingly various CD arrangements on Castlevania: Symphony of Night, I'm scoring a little extra hard in this category. While the music and sound effects are excellent overall, I don't think that they quite pushed the CD medium to the limit.
Here you'll find the most impressive accomplishments of all. Alternate paths through levels. Alternate bosses. Extra powerful attacks for your special weapon. Along with mcuh greater control over your character's jumping and even the ability to play as a totally different character entirely. Brilliant!
Akumajo Dracula X Chi no Rondo was released way back in 1993. Nevertheless, this game continues to have a fundamental impact on the Castlevania franchise to this day. In fact, few titles have had such a significant impact on the platformer genre, in general. Indeed, the very genre "platformer" practically does this phenomenal game a disservice, given how it incorporates RPG and adventure elements.
Chris Bucci is a font of knowledge, so check out what he has to say: