Review: Castlevania Chronicles

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Next up in the Castlevania series is one of the more rare and obscure Castlevania titles; The Castlevania Chronicles.

This entry is yet another remake of the original Castlevania game featuring Simon Belmont. This time, the graphics and sound have been improved yet again. This release also features added dialogue and cutscenes. As a result, many believe this is the “canon” version of the infamous “1691 battle” between Simon and Dracula.

Hosted at Universal Videogame List www.uvlist.net

Like Symphony of the Night, this game was released for the Sony Playstation. The physical version has been long out of print, but it is available digitally on the Playstation Network. Upon its release, this title received very mixed reviews. The game was criticized by many for being extremely hard, especially in later levels. However, it received praise for its wonderful storytelling and superb graphics. To be honest, it is a very strange beast. For me, it is an interesting entry in the Castlevania saga, but one that seems to have no real purpose in the long run. For someone interested in playing through the series for the lore, I suppose this would be the definitive version of the “Castlevania story”. But, I’d be hard pressed recommending Chronicles over the original Castlevania. If anything, the original game holds a spark of nostalgia, where this one feels a bit shallow in its presentation overall.

Finally, this titles is a bit shorter than most. I played thru the whole game in three sittings, so compared to the newer titles there’s not much content.

 

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania, Chronicles – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
1797: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Alucard vs. Dracula
1830: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon – Nathan Graves vs Dracula
1844/1852: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness – Cornell, Henry, Reinhardt, & Carrie vs. Dracula
1897: Dracula the novel
1917: Castlevania Bloodlines – John Morris and Eric Lacarde vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Very Difficult – Very tough. The “Nintendo hard” is back in this title with a vengeance.

Story: The scenario in this title is identical to Castlevania and Super Castlevania. Although for the first time, we have the inclusion of cutscenes. Due to the story elements, this is often considered to the be the definitive version of the Simon vs Dracula story.

Originality: This title harkens back to the earlier games in terms of design. Even the top-of-the-screen UI is a throwback. Aside from the new dialogue and visuals, there’s not much new here.

Soundtrack: CD quality audio and a lot of classic tunes from the series. But in my opinion, many of renditions are pretty poor. Overall, I was most really that impressed. But, I’ve heard worse.

Fun: It was really cool to see another flavor of the Simon story, but a lot of the fun was diminished by the high degree of difficulty. 🙁

Graphics: There are really two versions of this game. The original was released on an obscure computer system and the PSX version is technically a remake of that. The CD actually includes both versions, but I feel that the PSX version is by far superior. The graphics are much improved. I might even argue that they look better than SotN.

Playcontrol:   No real issues here. I feel that game doesn’t control quite as smooth as some of the other 2D Castlevania titles released at the same time.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3– This a decent title, but I just don’t feel very passionate about it for some reason. Perhaps because it was another rehash, I’m not sure. I just didn’t light me on fire. But I cannot deny it is a very good game in it’s own right.

Currently available on: Playstation Network

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Castlevania – Circle of the Moon

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The next entry in the Castlevania saga is Circle of the Moon. Released in 2001, this game, for a time, was removed from official chronology by the director of the Castlevania series. It has since been re-added due to the release of more recent title Portrait of Ruin, the details behind this are convoluted and we’ll get to the that in a future post.

This title is the first Castlevania game released for the Game Boy Advance. It is similar in looks and style to Symphony of the Night, but much more difficult. As this game shows, the GBA has proven to be an excellent platform for the series.  Circle of the Moon is the first of three games designed exclusively for it, and all three are perfect fits..

On major way this game differs from Symphony is with the with the introduction of something called the “DSS system”. This ability-system allows the player to collect magic-infused cards that drop at random from defeated enemies. The cards are sorted into two types: A deck and B deck.

You can combine one A and B type card to create a special effect or ability. For example, two particular cards will give your character a Flaming Whip  that increases your attack power. Some of the cards also allow you to summon mythological monsters, which in turn grant character buffs or deal damage to enemies. Many of the more powerful cards are difficult to find, but they make the game much easier, so they are worth the effort to uncover.

The storyline for the game takes place in 1830 where master vampire hunter Morris Baldwin has arrived on the scene of Castlevania with his son Hugh and his apprentice Nathan Graves.

They discover that Dracula’s minions have successfully resurrected the count outside of his one hundred-year cycle. But before the heroes can lift a finger to slay the weakened Dracula, the count springs a trap and a Nathan and Hugh fall tumbling down into the caves beneath the castle.

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Being the apprentice hunter Nathan declares his desire to ascend to the top of the castle to both rescue Morris and defeat Dracula. Hugh slaps him down and tells him to stay out of the way. He intends to find his father alone, rudely declining any offer of help. As a result, Nathan is left alone with only the Hunter Whip to defend him.

From here, the game plays out like another “castleroid”. You play Nathan as he navigates the various areas in and around Castlevania. Throughout the game there are few chance encounters with Hugh, who seems to be blinded by his lust for power and revenge. Ultimately, Nathan and Hugh do battle. Upon his defeat, Hugh snaps back to his right mind. In truth. it seems he was under some dark spell of Dracula’s. Now thinking clearly, he offers his assistance to Nathan and they rush off to throne room.

Together, the two find Morris held prisoner. Nathan bests Dracula in combat and the vampire flees the scene. Hugh escorts his father out of the throne room while Nathan pursues Dracula for the final showdown.

Dracula’s second form is that of a menacing demon. Upon defeat, the heroes emerge and watch the fall of Castlevania from the peak of a nearby mountain. Hugh apologizes for his pride and greed, and reaffirms his commitment to train harder in case fate should ever call upon him…

All in all, Circle of the Moon is a pretty typical Castlevania game. There’s not much originality in the storyline. And one is left wondering just who the hell these characters are! What has happened to the Belmont family? How did Morris and Hugh come into possession of the enchanted whip? Fans would not receive an answer to these questions for many years…

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
1797: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Alucard vs. Dracula
1830: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon – Nathan Graves vs Dracula
1844/1852: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness – Cornell, Henry, Reinhardt, & Carrie vs. Dracula
1897: Dracula the novel
1917: Castlevania Bloodlines – John Morris and Eric Lacarde vs. Dracula

 

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Difficulty: Hard – While similar is design to SotN, this title is a bit more difficult. It’s still not a frustrating as some of the earlier titles in the series, but it’s no pushover. Things get much easier if you take them time to explore and find some of the items and cards that are a bit more difficult to obtain.

Story: The story between this new band of hunters is interesting, but doesn’t seem to fit in well with the rest of the saga. For a long time this led to confusion among many fans. This was eventually explained in a later game however.

Originality: While borrowing many elements from SotN, the devs did take steps to make this game unique.The DSS system is a nice touch. But overall, I don’t think really took off with many fans.

Soundtrack: The sound track here is well done. The music is appropriate for the game, but not very memorable in my opinion.

Fun: The game itself was a lot of fun for me. The atmosphere is perfect, very creepy stuff at the beginning of the title really sets the mood. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Graphics: Very similar in design to SotN, but not quite as crisp. The backgrounds as pretty impressive, but some of the character models could be better.

Playcontrol:   No real problems here. If playing, I do recommend playing on either a Game Boy Advance SP or one of the 2nd gen DS system. The frequent use of the shoulder buttons cramped my hand back in the day when playing on the original GBA. But on the whole, I have no complaint. The controls function as I would expect and are very precise.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This is a great title and a must-have for any CV fan with a Game Boy.

Currently Available: WiiU Virtual Console (originally GBA)

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

 


Review: Castlevania 64: Legacy of Darkness

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The other night we had an wonderful Autumn thunderstorm. Everyone in the house was asleep and the atmosphere was perfect to start the next chapter of my Castlevania playthrough.

Technically, the next game released after Symphony of the Night is actually an old Game Boy title called Castlevania Legends. I do own this game but since its release, it’s been retconned from the timeline. It tried to cash in on the success of SotN by tying the Belmont family tree in with Alucard. The whole thing was a disaster, and thank God it’s been officially declared null and void. For this reason, I chose to skip it entirely.

In fact, the next game in the series was also somewhat struck from the official timeline. The next title was a Nintendo 64 game called simply Castlevania (aka: Castlevania 64). The game was rushed to release in order to meet a marketing deadline, and it showed. Castlevania 64 was panned across the board by fans and reviewers alike. The controls were simply atrocious and many features of the game that were announced ended up cut from the final title.

But, all was set right by an updated version of the game later that year: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. Considered a “Director’s Cut” of the original Castlevania 64 , it includes all of the original game with some level tweaks, new characters, and other unlockables. That is the title I am reviewing today.

These N64 titles are distinct for being the first 3D Castlevania games developed. The camera controls are still a little annoying and compared to today’s 3D titles, the graphics leave a lot to be desired. But what the game lacks technically, it makes up for in atmosphere.

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When the game begins you play the role of a “man-beast” (werewolf) named, Cornell. After a long exile, he returns to his village to find it recently ransacked, and his sister carted off by cultists! He ultimately chases them down to Castlevania. On the way he passes thru several different locales, one of which is the old “Oldrey Family Mansion”. Cornell soon learns that the head of the household has recently become a vampire and at the request of the mansion’s misses, he escorts her son, Henry, to safety.

Through his travels, Cornell runs into a fellow man-beast from his village named Ortega. It seems there has been some bad blood between Cornell and Ortega over the years. In fact, its finally revealed that Ortega has aligned himself with Dracula’s cult in order to finally defeat Cornell in battle. All the chaos and destruction of Cornell’s village was a result of Ortega’s treachery.

Ortega gets his chance and confronts Cornell in one of the towers of Castlevania. After the battle is over, he is remorseful for selling out his village and Cornell’s sister Ada to Dracula and he reveals her location to Cornell.

Rushing to save his sister, Cornell finds her trapped inside of a red crystal. Having no alternative, Cornell shifts into beast form and breaks the crystal to free her. However, in doing so his “beast form essence” is absorbed by the crystal and used to resurrect Dracula. Ummm… ok.

The next portion of the game takes place 8 years later. You plays as Henry Oldrey, the young man rescued by Cornell in the first chapter. Henry is now a knight of the Holy Catholic Church and he has been dispatched to Castlevania to locate several young children that have recently been kidnapped by the Dracula’s cult. You see, it seems cult was able to use the power siphoned from Cornell to resurrect Dracula in the form of an infant. However, they do not know which child born at that time is this “resurrected being”. So now, eight years later, the cult is snatching up kids left and right trying to find their master.

In the third portion of the game you take control of Reinhardt a young man that shares some family ties with the Belmont clan, and in fact has come to possess the legendary Vampire Killer whip. Reinhardt’s mission takes place at the same time as Henry’s. While Henry is freeing kidnapped children, Reinhardt is hunting Dracula. Eventually, after tackling several of Dracula’s minions, he comes across a mysterious young man named Malus. As soon as he is about to escape the castle with Malus he encounters another vampire hunter by the name of Charles Vincent. Vincent reveals Malus  is actually the resurrected Dracula! After an epic final battle, Reinhardt defeats Dracula and as always, Castlevania fades into nothingness.

But that’s not all! there’s another character named Carrie. Carrie’s portion of the game follows the same exact same storyline as Reinhardt – except you play as Carrie, a blood relative of the Belnades clan. So, it exists as sort of an alternate take of the final chapter.

Overall, I found the game to be a nice change of pace, it is very enjoyable once you get the hang of the controls. (That was the hardest part for me). The storyline is intriguing even if it contains a cast of unfamiliar faces.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
1797: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Alucard vs. Dracula
1844/1852: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness – Cornell, Henry, Reinhardt, & Carrie vs. Dracula
1897: Dracula the novel
1917: Castlevania Bloodlines – John Morris and Eric Lacarde vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Medium The first 3D entry into the series was difficult for me to get a handle on at first. Most of the challenge in the game does not come from battles or puzzle, but from the playcontrol. After a while, I did sort of get used to it, but I found that many of my deaths were the result of being unable to control the character than they were from the game itself.
Story: The Legacy of Darkness version of CV64 does an amazing job in terms of storytelling. Each character has a somewhat overlapping destiny that is both well done and intriguing. I have to give the game high marks here.

 

Originality: The developers really stepped out of their comfort zone with this title. Transitioning the series to a 3D world really took some guts. Sadly, the first incarnation of the game was pretty bad, but many of these issues were set right with LoD.

Soundtrack: Not my favorite. Most the tracks are very ambient. They seem more like background noise than actual music. There are some exceptions, and a few of the tunes are pretty fun. But overall, the soundtrack does not stand up to par.

Fun: For the first half of the game I was extremely frustrated with things like the camera control. But in the end, I do have some very fond memories of the game itself. The mansion and tomb levels are some of my favorites. The game will be be remembered by me for its fun characters and levels.

Graphics: When compared with the previously released SotN, this game suffers graphically. That being said, it’s actually quite good for the Nintendo 64. LoD is also a step up from the original CV64. I personally have never been a fan of the look most N64 games have.

Playcontrol:   This is the game’s worst area. Even though much improved over CV64, the camera controls seem very buggy to me. But that being said, I’m also one of the few people I know who absolutely HATE the N64 controller and this game is no exception. I just found the controls to be substandard and lacking any logical sense. Yes, after a while did get used to them, but in my mind that doesn’t make them any better.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – While this game does have it’s moment. I do find it a little hard to recommend. If you have a Nintendo 64, I do feel this is a worthy title to get your hands on. However, I wouldn’t advise buying the system just for a chance to play the game.

This game is not current available.

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Castlevania – Symphony of the Night

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The next installment of my Castlevania playthrough is complete. The legendary Symphony of the Night! This title is considered a classic, and is often considered one of the “must-have” Playstation titles. This is the game that revitalized the series, and set the bar for many of the future installments in the franchise.

Symphony of the Night is a direct sequel to Rondo of Blood. The intro to this game showcases the final battle between Richter and Dracula. Five Years later, Richter mysteriously vanishes at the same time that Castlevania reappears (that is, before the normal one hundred-year cycle). Rondo’s beloved Maria heads to Castlevania in search of Richter. While she’s there she runs into Alucard, who has also ventured to the Castle to investigate it’s mysterious return. This is where the game beings.

During the course of the game, you control Alucard as he explores the castle, and overcomes its many obstacles and monsters. Over time, he finds stronger weapons and armor, and develops new abilities.

This is the first is what is known as the “Castleroid” (or “Metroidvania”) games, due to the similarities it shares with Metroid (finding items to gain access to new areas, giving the player free-reign of the environment, etc). Progress can be saved by having Alucard rest in a coffin, much like the save-rooms in the later Metroid titles.

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As the game progresses, Alucard has several encounters with the various minions of Dracula. Eventually he runs into Richter, who seems to be possessed. Richter claims to be the “lord of the castle”, and he summons a mighty beast to fight Alucard. Alucard also has several encounters with Maria. On their last meeting she gives him a pair of blessed glasses. These will enable him to see “things which are hidden by evil”. At one point, while Alucard rests, he has a surreal dreams that depicts the death of his mother, Lisa. It seems that Lisa, who was a human woman, was condemned to death by humans for her relationship with Dracula. This finally explains the logic behind Dracula’s hatred for humanity.

Eventually, Alucard makes his way to Dracula’s throne room and finds it occupied by Richter, who attacks Alucard. When putting on the glasses, it becomes clear that Richter is being controlled by some phantom magic. Symphony of the Night features multiple endings and defeating Richter results in one of the poor endings of the game. But if players attack the magic orb controlling him instead, this allows Alucard to free Richter. Once Richter is free of his spell, all hell breaks loose… the clouds above the castle begin to swirl, and a dimensional portal appears in the skies above the castle. A mirror image of Castlevania descends from the portal, and this “Inverted Castle” becomes accessible.

This castle is a mirror image of Castlevania (although you must transverse it upside down this time). Now, just like Simon in Castlevania II, Alucard must recover the remains of Dracula. Once clearing this castle, Alucard finds his way to a hidden room occupied by the dark priest Shaft. He manages to slay Shaft, but moments too late – Dracula’s resurrection is complete, and Alucard’s battle with his father begins. If Alucard is successful in defeating his father, in Dracula’s last moments, Alucard will reveals Lisa’s final words to Dracula. As he returns to dust, Dracula seems to express some remorse for his evil ways.

The ending of the game depicts Alucard, Maria and Richter watching the Castle crumble. Alucard, still dealing with having to battle his own father, declares that he is going to go into seclusion. Richter pledges to continue to maintain the Belmont legacy, while Maria hints that she might attempt to learn more about Alucard and learn the secrets of his secluded nature.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
1797: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Alucard vs. Dracula
1897: Dracula the novel
1917: Castlevania Bloodlines – John Morris and Eric Lacarde vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Medium This title is fairly easy-going for the most part. Unlimited saves make things much less stressful than the Castlevania titles that came before. Anyone with a bit of patience can manage to power up before taking on new areas and bosses. This game sort of sets the standard for the future titles in terms of difficulty. The challenge here comes from exploration and finding all of the hidden and secret rooms.
Story: Very well done. We finally learn a bit of history behind Dracula, as well as backstory on Alucard. Of all the Castlevania titles thus far, this game focuses the most on the lore and storyline behind the game.

Originality: Overlooking many of the elements borrowed from Metroid, this game represents the new direction of the Castlevania series. Out with the old and in with the new.

Soundtrack: Excellent stuff here. New original tunes, CD quality audio. The music matches the game perfectly in most respects.

Fun: Very fun title. For a change, I found myself wanting more once the game was over. I can’t say enough good things here.

Graphics: This game is an excellent example of the what the Playstation could do. Excellent character models and background scenes.

Playcontrol:  Another win here. Everything feels natural with this title. The buttons do what they “feel like” they should do. Whoever mapped the controls to the in game abilities did a masterful job. Probably the best in the series thus far.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – For many, this game IS Castlevania. While completely different from the older games, there is no denying that Symphony of the Night was responsible for bring the series back into the attention of the mainstream audience. This is one title I think no gamer should be without.

Currently available: Playstation Network

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Castlevania Bloodlines

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This installment is a rather obscure chapter in the history of Castlevania. Today, I’m going  to discuss Castlevania Bloodlines. This title was released on the Sega Genesis, and for this reason alone, went largely ignored by many.

This title takes place in 1917. You can choose to play as either Jonathan Morris (son of the Dracula character; Quincey Morris), or strange spear-wielding vampire hunter known as Eric Lacarde. (Often believed to be Alucard is disguise… although this is not confirmed in the game in any way)

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It is through some unknown twist of events that Morris possesses the legendary Vampire Killer whip, and when the evil countess Elizabeth Bartley tries to resurrect the soul of her uncle Dracula, John takes up arms to stop her. The general consensus seems to be that the Morris family branches-off from the Belmont family tree. Hence the title: Bloodlines.

This game starts at Castlevania itself, but when Jonathan learns that Bartley has fled, he chases her all over war-ridden Europe. Finally catching up with her in London, just in time for the final showdown with the newly resurrected Count Dracula.

This game was Konami’s attempt to link the Castlevania storyline, with the actual Dracula novel by Bram Stoker. Admittedly, it is was a good attempt, although several plot holes do exist,. But, the fact that they tried can at least appreciated.

Overall this installment is similar to previous Castlevania games, but to me, at least, it just didn’t feel right. The graphics on the Genesis, while just as good as the SNES, felt different, maybe a little too polished. Also, for the most part, I found the soundtrack to be somewhat lacking.

In my opinion, the first and the last level in the game are by far the best. The whole rotating staircases, and warped/upside down levels seemed more about showing off the 16-bit power of the Genesis, than about actual gameplay value. All that aside, on its own, I think Bloodlines is a solid title – but perhaps a little overshadowed by the legacy of the franchise itself. At this point, I think it is safe to say that the formula is starting to get stale.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
1897: Dracula the novel
1917: Castlevania Bloodlines – John Morris and Eric Lacarde vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Medium Very similar to Rondo and Super Castlevania in terms of difficulty. By now, if you’ve played through the other games, there’s not much that will surprise you.
Story: This title is unique for it’s attempts to link Bram Stoker’s vision of Dracula to the Castlevania series. Most of the game takes place during World War I, and countess “Bartley” is really believed to be Elizabeth Bathory.

Originality: Aside from the story elements and the historical settings in the game, there’s really nothing new brought to the table with this title.

Soundtrack: This soundtrack is pretty mediocre in my opinion. The new music in the game is not very attention grabbing in my opinion. The few throwbacks that are included sound watered down. I’m wondering if perhaps the soundchip of the Genesis was a bit more limited than the SNES. That may be the problem here.

Fun: The game is itself is sadly more of the same. But I did take some enjoyment seeing the design of the various European-based levels. The game takes you exotic locations such a Greece, Germany, and Italy. Many of the token landmarks appear in the levels.

Graphics: Visually on par with most other titles of the 16bit era. Perhaps, maybe even a bit sharper than the SNES titles. It seems like the designers took a lot of time in the presentations of the game stages. High marks here.

Playcontrol:  The controls in this game feel a bit wonky. I think this may be by design but I cannot be sure. There is a definite difference in the feel of the two lead characters. But many of my deaths were the result of a misplace jump that just didn’t really feel misplaced. — That being said, I have to confess I do not own a Genesis. Therefore, I have to admit that I was relying on an emulator for this title. My problem with the playcontrol could be nothing more than bad emulation.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – This was one of my least favorites so far. While undoubtedly “Castlevania” – something didn’t feel right and I can’t really put my finger on it. I do think that stage-by-stage concept of the Castlevania series was starting to grow old by this point.

Not currently available.

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Castlevania – Dracula X – Rondo of Blood

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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.)

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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.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Medium Compared to the other games in the series, Dracula X is a bit tamer. While, still challenging at times, the PSP version is not quite as hair pulling as the older titles. (I cannot say the same for the old SNES or TG16 version). Finding all the hidden stuff may present a bit of a challenge.
Story: Again, we have the simple, Dracula has returned set up. But unlike previous titles, we get to see a little more detail. Also, the cutscenes are a great addition to the series.

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

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Super Castlevania IV

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 Castlevania, the company surprised everyone by releasing a revamped version of the original game instead of launching a brand new title. Sold in the USA as Super Castlevania IV, many bought it thinking it was one of Simon’s “further adventures”. However, as mentioned above, it has since been declared to be a glorified re-telling of the original story.

Taking full advantage of the technical prowess of the SNES, the developers were able to give the first entry in the saga a well-deserved refresh. It’s very obvious that the developers took their time and really added a nice coat of polish for this release. The remixed music is eerie and appropriate, the graphical effects are awe inspiring. It’s fun to see the translation of the old levels to the new 16-bit format. But, aside from some background art, the levels have been completely revamped. Many of the bosses are also familiar, but there’s also a few new ones tossed in to the mix this time around.

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Of all the console Castlevania titles released up to that point, Super Castlevania offers the best playcontrol experience. The controls are loose and precise, something that was much needed for this type of game. Technical upgrades aside, this game piggybacks on the previous entries in the series pretty heavily. If you’re familiar with the other games, you already know what you’re in for with this title.  But despite that, I had a blast playing through this title again. It has been one of the my favorites in the playthrough so far.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
Super-Castlevania-IV-05-5B1-5D

 

Difficulty: Difficult Compared to most games of today. This title is still pretty tough, but not inhumanly hard. When compared to the earlier games in the series, this one is much more balanced in terms of difficulty.

Story: For whatever reason, Konami decided to re-imagine the original scenario of Simon vs Dracula. When I was younger, I didn’t really understand why they would do this. Looking back today, I imagine that when faced with all the possibilities the SNES was able to offer, the creators decided to reintroduce the series using the latest technology.

Originality: This game follows the formula of CV and CV3 in terms of design. Most of originality presented in this title comes from the graphical effects and the twists and turns of level design.

Soundtrack: The music in this title is really good stuff. We are treated to some new original tunes as well as some remixed songs from the previous games in the series. It’s a lot of fun to hear these tracks enhanced by the SNES soundchip. The music is very action oriented, yet spooky at the same time.

Fun: In my opinion, this game has provided some of the best fun in the series so far. It’s still tough, yet not maddeningly frustrating. This would make a great late night playthrough with a family member or friend.

Graphics: This game is a great example of the what the Super Nintendo is capable of. Here we have well-detailed objects, moving-layered graphical effects, and an independent side scrolling background. Even by SNES standards, I think this game is a great example of good graphical direction.

Playcontrol:  This is the first title in which I have no real complaints. The character movement responds perfectly to the physical controls. This is true on the original SNES gamepad or the Wii gamepad. The ability to swing the whip is a nice touch.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I can’t praise this title enough. Setting nostalgia aside, I can claim that in my opinion, Super Castlevania is so far the greatest title in the series. Everything about the game was executed almost flawlessly.

Currently available on: Wii/WiiU Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Castlevania Adventure II – Belmont’s Revenge

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I’ve moved on the the next installment of the Adventure series, Belmont’s Revenge. This game takes place in 1591, several years after the original. In this chapter, Christopher Belmont’s son, Soleiyu, goes exploring and discovers four unmapped castles. During his exploration, he is enveloped by a supernatural mist and disappears. Suspecting the forces of evil are at work, Christopher Belmont takes up his whip in search of his missing son.

This game, while similar to the original Castlevania Adventure, features much improved playcontrol and slightly better graphics. But on the flipside, the soundtrack actually seems to suffer a bit compared to the previous game. The difficulty of this title remains the same; very frustrating.

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What sets this game apart from most other Castlevania titles is the “level selection” screen. When starting out, you are given the choice between four stages. This option felt very similar to the way Mega Man games allow you to choose which level you wish to tackle. Once the four castles have been conquered, Castlevania itself appears .

At the end of  the final stage, Christopher encounters his son – who is now possessed by the spirit of Dracula. After the battle, Soleiyu comes to and points his father towards Dracula’s secret chamber. The final battle is, of course, between Christopher and Dracula.

Overall,  I found this game was an improvement over the original. However, I still believe it is too difficult for most casual players. Personally, I  was able to complete it, but not without much frustration. It took me a few days to clear the game. But, in theory it could take a little as a couple of hours.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania  – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Very DifficultMuch like it’s predecessor. This is a very frustrating platformer. Overly difficult by today’s standards. Thankfully, there is a password system in the title that makes things a bit easier.

Story: The concept of Christopher setting out to find his son is a bit weak. Personally, I feel this game was created as a way for Konami to redeem themselves and attempt to make a better GB title. The story is just a means to an end.

Originality: Despite being very similar to the last game, Konami did take some steps to make the game stand out. The level selection makes this game a nice touch.

Soundtrack: In my opinion, this is a step down. The music in this title does not have the same level of quality seen in the first GB title. Other aspects of the game sound do seem a bit improved, however.

Fun: It’s interesting to see the difference between the various castles, but the difficulty of the game again often leads to frustration.

Graphics: A step up from the previous release. The main characters still retain a low level of detail. But the stage design and background are a definite improvement.

Playcontrol:  Much better than CVA. I must not have been the only one who hated the way to previous game felt. It seems that the developers really took the time to tweak it for this title.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Despite many of my complaints, this game is a solid improvement in most ways over the original. I suppose you could say it is the definitive Game Boy Castlevania title

This title is currently not available.

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: The Castlevania Adventure

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The Castlevania Adventure is the first handheld Castlevania title. In the early days of the Game Boy’s release, developers were in a rush to make a GB title for their franchises. Many of these early games were thrown together and done rather poorly. Fortunately, as time went by, developers figured out how to better implement their ideas on Nintendo’s new mobile platform. But, this game, The Castlevania Adventure, was one of Konomi’s first GB titles, and it really shows.

The graphics and playcontrol are horrid. The storyline is weak. In fact, the only saving grace for this game is the soundtrack. I have to give Konami credit here, the things these guys could accomplish with the Game Boy’s soundchip was astounding.

As far as story goes, this title hearkens back to the original Japanese manual for Castlevania 1. There was a passage in that instruction booklet that read; “Simon Belmont, ancestor of the fabled vampire hunter Christopher Belmont…” Well, The Castlevania Adventure is the legendary story of Christopher. It takes place in 1576, generations before Simon ever took the whip in hand. The tale is typical, Dracula has reappeared on Earth and the Belmont family rises to stop him. The usual… In the end, Christopher is successful and Castlevania crumbles to the ground soon after Dracula’s defeat. As Christopher turns away to head home, a giant vampire bat is seeing flying from the ruined castle.

The game is fairly short, there is no saving or passwords. It can take as little as thirty minutes to play through it, but it will likely take much longer than that seeing as the game is so difficult. Seriously. These games keep getting harder. This title is DAMN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE unless you were an obsessive/narcissistic child like me and somehow managed to remember all the tricks years later as an adult.

The playcontrol in this game is very stiff and unforgiving. Some of the jumps require pixel-perfection, and let’s not even talk about the final battle with Dracula….

All that being said, the game is nostalgic for me. I love the music and as much as I hate the game itself, I also love the game… Does that even make any sense? I suppose I can chalk my affection up to good memories with the title, but even then, I wouldn’t give up my copy for anything.

 

1476: Castlevania III – Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs Dracula
1691: Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
Difficulty: Very DifficultThis is another example of extreme difficulty. Of all my friends growing up, I’m the only person I knew that actually bothered to finish the game. After the 2nd or 3rd stage, it’s ridiculous.

Story: Again, Konami has decided to focus on a new hero. It’s starting to become clear that the Belmont family has long been the saving grace against the forces of Dracula, which seem to return approximately every 100 years. Aside from the backstory in the manual, there’s nothing in the game that really elaborates.

Originality:  I get the impression that the team wanted to try to bring the feel of CV and CV3 over to the handheld market, but wasn’t sure how to do it. There’s really nothing new to be found in this title.

Soundtrack: For the step-down that the Game Boy was, sound-wise (at least compared to the NES ), the music in this game is surprisingly good. This game is proof that you really don’t need fancy sound synth or redbook quality audio to make a good soundtrack. All you need is some catchy tunes.

Fun: Most the fun in this title is quickly eroded by it’s high level of difficulty. For me, I take most of my pleasure out of the novelty that this game provides.
Graphics: Mixed bag here. The backgrounds are actually fairly well done. However, the main character and monsters are pretty basic looking. There’s little to no detail in the character art. Very generic looking, even for an early Game Boy release.
Playcontrol:  The worst. Controlling Christopher Belmont feels like walking around with a steel rod stuffed up your backside. Personally, I find the controls to be very unresponsive and somewhat laggy. This is probably my biggest complaint with this title.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Overall, this is not a very good game (at least in my opinion). But, it is Castlevania and it’s worthy of a look. Being the first handheld CV title, I can be a little forgiving to the developers, but not by much.
Available now on:  Nintendo eShop

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Castlevania III – Dracula’s Curse

castlevania-iii-box-art-5B1-5D

Finishing off the original trilogy is Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Despite its name, this game actually serves as a prequel to the first two titles in the series. In it, you play as Trevor Belmont, one of Simon’s ancestors. After years of exile due to their Supernatural powers, the Church calls upon the Belmont family to rid the countryside of Draula’s evil legion. Trevor is eager to find favor with the local folk and accepts the request.

For this game, Konami decided to go back to their roots, thus making CV3 more like the first installment of the series. The game plays very similar to the original Castlevania. Both the level-design and music hearken back back to that first installment as well. One thing that does make this game stand apart is the ability to choose which levels to tackle, as well as being able to switch between characters.

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While Trevor is the main hero of the game, depending on which path you take you may also encounter the following other playable characters: Grant the pirate, Sypha Belnades, a female vampire hunter, and Alucard, the son of Dracula. Each character has their own unique attacks and style. Some characters are better suited for specific levels, so it’s up to the player to experiment and  determine which to use.

Graphically, the game is one of the best that the NES had to offer; moving backgrounds, detailed textures, etc. The Japanese version also contained a special music chip that offered some incredibly enhanced sound. Sadly, due to budget restraints, the American release did not.

The biggest drawback to the game is its level of difficulty. Even with a password system in place, the game is damn hard. There is a strategy to many of the bosses in the game, but even so, the levels themselves are maddening. But, strategy of not, many of the fights just seem almost unfair. For example, in the final fight with Dracula, he has three forms. Each giving him a full bar of energy, while the hero only retains his single bar through the entire battle. To make matters worse, in most boss fights, all it takes is three hits and Trevor is out.

During my playthrough for this review, I collected Sypha, and then Alucard. Alucard comes in handy making it through many of the later levels, but I always turned to Trevor when it comes to defeating the final battle.

All in all, this is a good installment to the series, but I do believe it is a little TOO hard for most. For this reason, ultimately will may not be enjoyable for most players.

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1476: Castlevania III – Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1691: Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula

 

Difficulty: Very Difficult – These days when people talk about difficult games, they often use the phrase “Nintendo Hard”. This is an example of “Nintendo Hard”. If you die, you start the level over. You get three chances to complete the level. That’s it. A well known cheat for this game, is entering the phrase “Help Me” as your character name at the start of the game, this gives you a few more tries per level. But, even with that enabled, it’s still much harder than most people find enjoyable.

Story: Konami takes things backwards by giving us a prequel. I found that to be an interesting idea at the time the game was released. We are also introduced to Alucard, a character that becomes very important in future titles. While still a bit shallow, the back story of the game does begin to lay the groundwork for what the series is eventually going to become.

Originality:   CV3 is a throwback in many ways to the original. However, Konami manages to keep it fresh by giving us optional levels to explore and offering alternate characters with various strengths and weaknesses.

Soundtrack: The grooves in this game are up to par with the series so far. The Japanese version of the game included a slightly improved soundtrack. But there’s not enough difference to really ponder on.

Fun: This game has a lot of fun and appeal. I enjoyed the scenery of the various stages and characters, but after a while the challenge tends to become frustrating. Trying to get through the last stage AND beat Dracula on three lives begins to seem much more trouble than it’s worth.

Graphics: This was a title that came out late in the lifecycle of the NES and it shows. At this point, game designers had really learned how to push the NES. Castlevania III represents some of the best art you’ll see in an 8bit era game.

Playcontrol:  Much like the first title, Castlevania III seems a lot stiffer. Your character will meet more than one death due to poorly placed jumps. It takes a little time to get used to the feel of the character. Switching characters seems to change this a bit, so I assume this is by design. With that in mind, there’s not much really to complain about.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – When many people think of classic Castlevania, this is the title that comes to mind. It’s a definite upgrade to first game. Part two of the series was so radically different, that it’s hard to make a comparison. Aside from being frustrating at times, this is a great title. For many, it served as the introduction to the series.

Available now on: Wii/WiiU Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II