The next stop in my playthrough of the series is the mythical “Rondo of Blood“. This game was originally released on the Turbo Graphix16, a system I never had any experience with. Long hailed as one of the best Castlevania games of all time, I was always very curious about it. There was a watered down version of the game released for SNES, but when compared to the original version, it left a lot of be desired. Recently, a more “proper” release of the game made it’s way in the form of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP. My wife was kind enough to buy this game for my birthday a few years ago, and I’ve loved it ever since.
For the purpose of this review, I’ll talking about the PSP version, since it is both easily available and considered by many to be the definitive version of the game. For those curious about the original TurboGraphix16 version, it was made available on the Wii Virtual console a couple of years ago.
The game starts with a cutscene showing a Black Mass. An evil priest named Shaft and his cult are sacrificing a virgin in attempt to bring Dracula back from the dead. They are successful and the armies of darkness decimate the countryside of Transylvania. During their strike, they come across a young girl named Annette, she is the betrothed to Richter Belmont, the hero of the game. Dracula recognizes this connection and orders her locked up in the tower of Castlevania as bait for Belmont. Just like always, the Belmont family answers the call.
There are some really nice throwbacks in this game. For example, the first level takes place in a burning town. For those that have played Castlevania II, it location might look a bit familiar, it is the town of Aljiba, the last city before reaching Dracula’s castle. I thought this attention to detail was a nice touch.
For the most part, this game plays much like Castlevania 1, 3, and 4. Most levels are fairly straightforward, with a boss at the end. The goal is to reach Castlevania itself, and ascend your way to Dracula’s chamber. What makes this game a bit different is that it contains hidden levels and unlockable content. For example, on level 2, you can obtain a key that will open a locked gate. Entering the locked area you will encounter a little girl; Maria. Once you have freed her, she actually becomes a playable character.
Maria is much easier to control, as she is faster and her attacks have a longer range. However, she is not a strong or powerful as Richter. There are three other maidens that you can rescue as well. Finding them is not always easy, but only by doing so will you receive the TRUE ending of the game. I had a lot of fun combing each level trying to find all the secrets that are tucked away. (Aside from the maidens, you can also unlock the original version of Rondo, and Symphony of the Night – this game’s direct sequel.)
Finally, on level 7, after a little mini boss-rush, you battle the dark priest Shaft. If you managed to rescue all of the maidens, the boss of level 8 will be Shaft’s ghost. Only by defeating the ghost can you actually win the game.
Naturally, there also a battle with Dracula himself, which is very reminiscent to fighting him in first and third games in the series. If you’ve played them, you know what to expect. If you’ve defeated Shaft’s Ghost, Dracula will also unleash a third form that is a bit more challenging. Once you complete that phase, he will perish and Castlevania will begin to crumble.
As I said before, I had a GREAT time playing thru this title. Partially, I think, because it was new to me, but with that familiar old-school feel. The soundtrack was very impressive, and the unlockable content kept me exploring. I can’t say enough good things about the title.
I chose to play the remastered version for my playthrough. Aside from new graphics, and the unlockables, it is no different from the original game. The dialogue is essentially the same, the levels are pixel perfect, and there are no major changes to report. The only difference I could find was that the original game presents the cutscenes in a comic-book format, while the new game presents them in a nice gothic CG style.
Originality: A familiar Castlevania style, but with some new touches that really go a long way. The most fun for me was finding the hidden zones and characters.
Soundtrack: As far as the PSP version goes, TOP NOTCH. The best soundtrack in the series thus far. The PSP version offers CD quality audio and remixes of the tracks found in the original game. New songs, series throwbacks, it’s all here.
Fun: I had a ball playing this title. In fact, I daresay it’s one of my favorites. The summary above speaks for itself.
Graphics: The PSP version is phenomenal. It’s defiantly a testament to the hardware. The original version were both stellar at the time. Even the cheapened SNES version really pushed the limits of what the system could do. However, the Chronicles version of this game is the best you’ll find.
Playcontrol: I’m not a fan of the classic PSP layout. But I found this game to be comfortable to play and very responsive. No complaints at all.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – One of my favorite Castlevania games. This game represents the end of an era for the series. I recommend it, and it can usually be found fairly in expensive these days.
Currently available on: Sony Playstation Portable, Wii Virtual Console
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