Written: 10.30.11 Acquired: 3.24.06 Status: Cart only Price: $40
CASTLEVANIA. The mere mention instantly conjures a many warm memories for gamers of all ages and faces. The very title itself is nearly synonymous with NES and classic gaming itself. Play through any of the pre-N64 renditions and it's not hard to see why this most beloved franchise is lionized by so many throughout the years. The epic NES series moved onto the SNES naturally, with Dracula X being the final 16-bit Castlevania game as we know it. Let us take a look... Does Dracula X end things with a BANG, or with a WHIMPER?
THE REAL DEAL DRACULA!
In my previous SNES review The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang, we met a cute junior vampire warrior in training named Spike McFang. Well well, here's the REAL McCOY, Dracula, at his best! An appropriate follow-up, if I do say so myself. By the way, when I restarted my SNES craze in those glory days of 2006, my goal was to never spend more than 40 bucks on any one SNES cartridge. Bought Dracula X off a guy on a message board who kindly reduced his asking price to my max. I never did buy a Super Nintendo game beyond $40. It required some patience and luck!
"Outta my sight, Spike. Time for the adults to have a little fun...."
Three years ago I wrote Super Castlevania IV. Man, time flies! This was yet another massive effort and review which took many man hours piecing together, but was also one of the best reviews I've created, in my humble estimation. The liberal plot re-imagining using shots from a classic scene found in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers really fitted in well and the whole review just has an impeccable Halloween feel to it
"OH -- you're HUNTING IT all right, yeah... JUST LIKE ME..."
Growing up, Halloween was one of my favorite film franchises. I look forward to Halloween 3D in 2012, and am glad Rob Zombie's vision is no longer at the controls. I still recall first watching the original in 1989 as a wee six year old and having Michael Myers stalk me later that night in a terribly lucid nightmare. I became a fan from then on, go figure! Every Halloween I try to watch at least one of the Halloween films as well as play through games like Super Castlevania IV Michael Myers provided a haunt or 2 for me during my childhood
These images really evoke the spooky / atmospheric 'pulse' of the Halloween season. I don't think I have the energy or desire to ever produce another review quite as insane as the one I crafted three years ago! It's a fond trip down memory lane for me, and is one of those things that won't be replicated ever again. I hope you enjoyed the Halloween 4 Simon Belmont intro as much as I had fun making it. After all, Halloween is incomplete without a little Dr. Loomis / Boogeyman! Part of me will always love Halloween. Had some great memories!
In the review I also made a confession. Other than playing Super Castlevania IV for brief moments here and there back in the day, never had I really played it. Not until April 8, 2006, that is. The same day I first acquired this game from a flea market trade on a Saturday afternoon. I'll never forget firing it up for the first time later that evening. I was instantly hooked and thrusted into a horror-dwelling universe slaying the minions of the undead. What a game!
Super Castlevania IV is awesome. But, how does Dracula X fare?
Super Castlevania IV instantly became one of my SNES favorites. It lived up to the hype I had read and heard about for nearly 15 years at that point in time. Now, it's been out almost 20 years, and I still believe that it's one of the finest action games you could play on any gaming platform. There's just something about it. To me it just misses the mark of being virtually flawless. I never tire of playing it, especially around Halloween time. After beating it for the first time ever on April 29, 2006, I decided there was no better game to follow it up with than Castlevania: Dracula X. I had briefly read how "consensus" preferred the first SNES game, but you never know how you will feel about a game until you go through it for yourself. If it came anywhere close to part IV, man, was I in for a treat...
At the very worst, at least we'll always have Super Castlevania IV
My initial impressions were certainly not too favorable. Here's what I wrote in my gaming journal: Hmmm. First impressions: this ain't Super Castlevania IV! Hey where's my up and diagonal whip? Where's my rotating whip? Why is the attack "shorter" on time? Why does Richter walk up stairs like he just crapped in his pants, eh? Although, it's pretty cool how the very first two skeleton enemies you face are kinda somewhat reminiscent to the bad guys found within Shinrei Jusatsushi Taromaru.
So, yeah, not too good first thoughts. But don't judge a book by its cover right? After some help and motivation from various gaming pals, I marched on determined to see if the game didn't get better... after all, it's not how one starts, it's how one ends. Let's see how Dracula X fares then shall we... Had to recalibrate my attitude before sinkin' my teeth into Drac X
THE STORY GOES...
The moon hovered ominously over the village... something afoul was brewing...
HERE WE GO AGAIN...
An evil DARKNESS had befallen the land, giving rise to sinister vampire legends
Until now the people of Transylvania had grown accustomed to their nice peaceful existence, secure in the knowledge that their famed hero, Simon Belmont, had sealed the fate of one, Count Dracula, several hundred years prior
Their battle was epic but some things NEVER die
But as we all know, peace never lasts for very long... and as the folks became complacent in their so-called security, late late at night, at all matters of the witching hour, wicked townsfolk, possessed by the darkness, gathered in secret holding demonic séances in an attempt to bring back the Prince of Darkness... Sir Dracula!
Nobody in town knew what was really going on behind closed doors...
Night after night, they gathered. They chanted relentlessly, calling out to revive Count Dracula again. While everyone else was getting ready to retire for the evening, these heathens scurried out from their dark holes to convene in an ancient abandoned abbey, where deeds of the dark were conducted and carried out with much conviction
Thunder rumbled across the night sky, as lightning cracked the foundation of the abbey where the evil townsfolk were gathered in and from the dead rose ... the Prince of Darkness!
ONCE MORE... THE DRAC... IS BACK!
Dracula, now undead once more, plotted to exact revenge upon the descendant of the family that destroyed him... Richter Belmont
The Prince of Evil viciously attacked the town with his unholy legion. In a single night, lives young and old alike were wiped out. This time Dracula brought with him some brand new allies. True abominations, towering monsters of destruction and nightmares becoming reality. The townsfolk never stood a chance -- it was a blood bath
Shrieks of terror filled the blood-soaked night air
And this Dracula was more ruthless than ever before. Drac kidnapped Richter's girlfriend, Annet, as well as her little sister, Maria. Imprisoning them in his vile castle, he lies in wait for Richter to attempt a rescue; a moth to flame
"Richter, where are you when I need ya?! Please save us soon..."
Richter, burdened by his destiny, left for Dracula's castle with his legendary ancestral whip, the stout determination to save his loved ones and the resolve to send Dracula to eternal damnation once and for all!
Will Richter succeed, or will Dracula be the one?
As the full moon casts an eerie glow overhead, Richter Belmont gazes at the castle where Dracula dwells ahead. He knows once he steps foot inside, there's a chance he might not make it out alive. But in order to save his girlfriend Annet and her sister Maria, he'll risk life and limb. The chilly night air sends tingles up and down his body, as if someone took electrical wires and brushed them against the back of his neck. There is much terror and pain before him, but this is the life of a Belmont...
The destiny of Richter Belmont!
The age-old rivalry of Belmont and Dracula returns!
For one last time on the Super Nintendo...
Repeat to yourself "It's not Dracula X: Rondo of Blood"...
Not as versatile as his descendant, but still a mighty Belmont!
Ol' Drac's as evil as ever, and has never looked so stylish!
Unlike the PCE version, Maria is not playable here. Boo-hoo
They each have their pros and cons. The boomerang's my favorite
Ooooh, ahhhh. Dracula X starts out a'blazing! What you see in the background are merely the results of Dracula's calling card!
THIS GAME IS ON FIRE!!! [You're fired -Ed.]
Gotta love these low level entry foot soldiers. The hunchback's a nice touch; best to put 'em out of their misery, and pronto!
These sluggards mill about the platforms like lemmings!
Here's a more classic vintage traditional looking Castlevania skeleton. The two just go together, like Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly, and reality shows and, er... hot tubs [Also, it's like you and the unemployment line -Ed.]
It's so simple, yet so beautiful. Castlevania will always be classic!
Of course, one thing you do have to put up with is the less than athletically mobile control of Richter Belmont. But thankfully, having a subweapon like the axe certainly evens the odds up a bit, POW!
Flying bones, hearts and axes all the order of the day!
And what would a Castlevania game be without bloody annoying bats that fly and swoop at 'cha? This is definitely where you'll miss the incredibly versatile whipping skills of Simon Belmont. Without question this makes Dracula X harder, not to mention not as fun or cool. To those who complained Super Castlevania IV was far too easy, you might find Dracula X to be a smidgen too hard...
Richter's whip only goes forward -- sorry, and good luck!
The skeletons in Dracula X are a bit more nimble than the ones we saw in Super Castlevania IV. The ones here tend to leap around like Mexican jumping beans (!)
Do I smell a Castlevania Street Fighter game? Maybe not..
For all the complaints I've heard regarding the SNES version of Dracula X here is one definite cool aspect. Remember how frustrating it was to lose your favorite subweapon by accidentally touching another? Well, here, they give you a few seconds to pick up your previous weapon should you grab (accidentally or not) another weapon
Gone are those "DAMNIT, NOT THIS LOUSY WEAPON!" moments
Believe it or not, this guy ain't the boss! In fact, you can't even kill it. All you can do is walk as briskly forward as you can ('coz you know, these Belmont boys just don't run -- they're too cool for it, you see). A neat touch and twist on the old force scroller bits. Of course, you'll be required to make some pixel-perfect jumps, which if successful, will land Richter right on the edge of the next platform he needs to be on. Get used to doing that....
[You know, Richter, there are PLENTY of fish in the sea... -Ed.]
Castlevania brings the classic creature from Greek mythology to life. If you, like me, were a child of the '80s, chances are then, you probably saw the original and superior Clash of the Titans movie. Who could ever forget the scene with the Cerberus?
Man's Worst Nightmare!
Level two opens with a bang as your ears are suddenly treated to a familiar tune... *wink* If this doesn't get you feeling all tingly inside, you are without pulse!
Music here is a nice nod to fans of the franchise. Well done
Murderous merman and bridges that break -- all classic staples of the famed Castlevania franchise!
Huh, who knew candles could float in the sky like that... heh
The drawbridge lowers as you reach the end... another nod to Super Castlevania IV fans!
With the epic music blarring, how can you NOT love this?
I love this barrel chucking baddie. In general I just love it when games add a wrinkle or two to their bad guys. Little touches here and there that help to spice the game up
Thankfully the barrel's no match for Richter's mighty whip!
And of course, what would a Castlevania game be without a haunted castle hallway? Those classic ghouls return, and mighty armor suit mad men guard the stairs. By the way, wouldn't it be awesome if you could enter through that door there, branching off into multiple paths? Or you could play PlayStation's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, one of the best action games around
Another great sight that screams CASTLEVANIA
Their shields are no match for your knives. I like how you can pick this fool off safely from this perch... like taking candy from a helpless baby, mwahahaha...
Once he loses the shield, he's really RIPE for the pickings
A new feature in Dracula X is the Weapon Crash. This allows Richter to launch an all-out assault of his subweapon. It causes more damage and not surprisingly eats up more of your hearts, too. Each Weapon Crash is different with their own pros / cons
"Congrats -- you're the millionth customer at KNIVES R US!"
These purple spearmen are a true menace in every respect of the word. Not only are they tough, but if you find yourself crowded by a couple of them, it could be Game Over before you know it
Gotta love the colors here. Rather atmospheric, init?
In true Castlevania fashion, certain blocks can be destroyed, revealing in them hidden goodies like meat! So swing your whip around -- you never know where you might find a breakable block and some much needed help
You could say Richter has BIG heart [Oh dear... -Ed.]
This gigantic vampire bat is boss number two. He looks rather nasty, but his bark is bigger than his bite. Whack him down to size, literally!
Being able to whip diagonally sure would help here...
See -- whipping the big daddy version reduces it to a gaggle of smaller ones. Although Richter doesn't control as nicely as Simon did, he does have two cool features. He can perform a backflip as well as do the moonwalk. Both come in handy at various points. Moonwalking here helps
GO RICHTER GO RICHTER GO! BATS BATS, BABY!
More old foes show up for this "reunion" bash
More like the other way around, M I RITE?! At least here anyhow
How I loathe Medusa Heads... but it's nice of the Pillar Bones to give ol' Richter a boost!
"WHY CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS, WHY CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS"
Those bloody damn spearmen!
Right up there with Medusa Heads for being most annoying enemy in the frickin' game. Get rid of one as quickly as you spot one... or else their friends will gather around and it quickly goes downhill from there
By the way, it's amazing how they could poke a spear through SUCH a thick block, but alas, I digress...
Don't worry Richter fans, he shall get his revenge...
"Damn, what am I to do? Hmmm... OH! I know!"
He's about to get quite a nasty little surprise...
You gotta love this bit. I love moments where you know the programmers had some fun making it. I've always preferred the cross/boomerang but Holy Water has its uses as well ;)
Richter Belmont gets the last laugh -- HA!
Super Castlevania IV features 11 stages, while Dracula X has nine total, but you can only trek through seven at a time. Levels 4 and 5 have two different levels you can take, depending on what you do (or don't do). And this will also change the outcome of the game; there are three possible endings: Best, OK, Bad
Going here allows you the opportunity to save Annet and Maria
You will secure the best ending if you can save both and kill Dracula once and for all. It's not easy, and if you lose a life, the key is lost for all eternity!
The key to rescuing Annet and Maria is, well, the key [Oi... -Ed.]
How can you not love Castlevania? They're well regarded for good reason! <3 Konami :)
Some 3D games are cool, but I'll always prefer good old 2D ^_^
Unintentional humor abounds when Richter's arm goes straight through the door. Oops! It's all good, Konami. It's what makes video games so special. They don't have to adhere to rules of the natural world. I know one reason why I still love to play games is to be swept away to another world, where 6-lane clogged freeways and junk email are nowhere to be found. Go save your woman, Richter Belmont!
Remember how in Super Castlevania IV after you take a hit you're granted a moment of invincibility? Not so here. BUMMER
Those skull heads get real annoying, REAL FAST
Sweet background here. Ancient ruins, I'm a sucker for 'em, no doubt. This is the alternative level 5 by the way. There are two different level 4's and 5's, but 6 and 7 are one path each
Dracula X is a tough cookie, especially the last 3 stages
Pleasure seeing you too, Mr. Long Neck
It would be like owning a Super Nintendo without Super Metroid!
Well, technically, they can't die, you see, but damnit if I don't try!
I know it may look a little 'bare bones' here but.. [HA HA HA -Ed.]
They truly can be. Hopefully you've got a nice subweapon on ya with enough hearts too
Richter and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day...
Boomerang... Cross... whatever you want to call it. I call it highly effective!
Stack up on hearts and LET 'ER RIP!
Hmmm, I think Dracula really doesn't want you trespassing on his playground. This huge pile of Bone Pillars is quite a sight for sore eyes
They're no match for Richter Belmont, however. The final showdown is almost at hand. Tick, TOCK. TICK, tock. But before you can take on DRAC, you must contend with an old friend named DEATH...
They don't call him that for nothing, believe you me. It might not be Richter's fate but also your controller's as well, if you get my meaning...
I've heard of 2 heads are better than 1, but this is NUTS!
To say that DRACULA X is a difficult game is an understatement. It will test many a gamer's will, possibly breaking some along the way, too. There were moments when I was playing this for the first time back in 2006 where I literally was cursing like a sailor and punching walls. Neither are my style, but the pixel-perfect required jumps, swooping bats and Medusa Heads, and Richter's somewhat stiff mobility led to many moments of frustration
Dracula X: no wimps allowed, weekend warriors only!
After beating for the first time Super Castlevania IV back on April 29, 2006, I decided to fire up Dracula X the very next day. I was enjoying it somewhat at first, until I made it to the level 4 boss. He's got two forms, and I couldn't beat him. Frustrated, I vented on a gaming board and it was there that an old internet gaming pal urged me to stick it out with Dracula X. He defended it, saying it's got a stilted gameplay system that forces the gamer to be absolutely perfect if there is any hope to advance toward Count Dracula. For some reason, that sentence stuck with me. I decided to stick with Dracula X, and that fateful night finally defeated the Cloak boss. I would go on to face DEATH, who absolutely destroyed me more times than I dare to count, but then I got locked into the proverbial zone. I ended up perfecting his ass and went on to defeat Dracula for the very first time. I don't think I could ever accomplish that again. It was exhilarating. One of the most rewarding things in this hobby is persevering until that big breakthrough comes -- like life ;)
By the way, a special shout out to this bad guy right here. He's not a boss, but he's one of my faves. It's a shame then that he only appears once. He's sort of like the Abobo or Andore of Dracula X
Too bad he only shows up once in the entire game!
Many claim the Dracula showdown in this game is among the toughest in the franchise. Not so if you know where to properly position yourself...
Beating Drac on my very first try after killing Death was a RUSH!
NOW THAT'S a final boss. Kudos Konami; you always knew how!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Dracula X has been beaten up a bit over the years with gamers all over. The problem is, when compared to the PCE version, the SNES version just comes up short. You'll find as much criticism as you'd find praise for this game. It's kind of a mixed bag. However, it did fare slightly better with most magazine publications. It graced the cover of Super Play Magazine in one of their greatest covers ever. They scored Drac X80%. GameFan gave it ratings of 82,84 and 93. EGM rated it 6.5,6.5,7 and 7. Not QUITE up to the lofty Castlevania standards but fairly respectable marks still nevertheless
By far one of the best gaming magazine covers EVER, bar none
Those fine Super Play chaps pretty much sum it up here
Not having played the PCE import, I don't know what I'm missing with the SNES version. It's perhaps a "blessing in disguise." However, coming off the heels of playing through Super Castlevania IV, I had to put that aside and take Dracula X to be its own game. When I did, the game grew on me before I knew it. Sure, I would have love to seen a more proper 1995 SNES standards sequel, but so many times I feel we can get caught up with what wasn't, instead of enjoying what is. And Dracula X is, in my opinion, a fairly fine action adventure. Once I adjusted to the difficulty level and the stilted control of Richter Belmont, I found myself inching closer and closer to DRACULA as I disposed of his cronies one by bloody one. Most importantly, I found myself having a pretty good time. And that's what matters :) YO KONAMI -- "FANGS" FOR THE MEMORIES! ^_^
Being that it's Halloween time, I've been replaying the two Super Nintendo Castlevania games this month. I'll always love the first game, and over the years have also come to appreciate the second one. Taken for what it is and on its own merits, there's enough to like. While not the Konami swan song we were all hoping for in their final Super NES Castlevania offering, it's still a pretty good game deserving to be in any Super Nintendo library and deserving to be played every Halloween season or so. If you're looking for an action game with a high challenge, great music and atmosphere, you've found a pretty good candidate here. Stick with it, and you might find you're glad that you did. It's unforgivingly difficult, but extremely satisfying when you lock in and start slaying the big bad bosses one after the other. Dracula and his minions await. Don't be late! And oh, here are three handy tips from your friendly host: 1). Turn off all the lights 2). Tell yourself it's not Super Castlevania IV, or the PCE version and 3). Prepare a nice and soft pillow as your designated punching bag / "controller catcher" -- trust me, you will thank me later! For me, the game's good enough to be worth the trouble. So, I don't know about you but, another Halloween, another Castlevania conquest and Dracula beatdown! I wouldn't have it any other way
Graphics: 8 Sound: 9 Gameplay: 7.5 Longevity: 6.5
Can you put an end to Dracula and his minions once and for all?
And by the way... have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN! MWAHAHAHA!