Castlevania: Dracula X (1995)
Back in 1995, Castlevania fans everywhere were elated that the legendary PC Engine title Dracula X would be ported over to the SNES and released in America. Sadly, this turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments in the series. Rather than a direct port, Castlevania: Dracula X is meant to be more of a sequel to the original game (it's called Dracula XX in Japan). While the character graphics and controls are the same, the levels are completely different, and almost everything that made the original so appetizing is gone.
The plot is the exact same as its predecessor - Dracula has risen again, and has kidnapped the girlfriend of Richter Belmont. You must venture inside the castle in order to save you sweetheart, her sister, and of course, abolish evil. While you must traverse a total of seven levels, two are alternate stages that require a bit of extra effort to get to. Hidden within these stages are the hostages you must find - else you end up with the depressing ending.
For those that haven't played the PC Engine Dracula X, the controls have taken a slight step back from Super Castlevania IV. You can't quite control your jumps in mid-air, multi-directional whipping is gone, and you can't swing your whip around either. The invulnability time after being hit has also been reduced greatly, so you'll find yourself losing lots of life, very quickly.
Now here comes the bad parts. While you can rescue Maria, you never get to play as her, removing one of the most amusing aspects. There aren't nearly as many hidden levels or secrets as the PC Engine game. And, to be honest, the graphics are pretty bad. Granted, the graphic designers were restricted to the space confines of a cartridge compared to a CD-ROM, but the backgrounds all have a very dull, repetetive look to them, compared to the bright, extremely detailed look of the original Dracula X. Even Super Castlevania IV, coming out four years prior, had much better graphics. The only interesting visual effects are the flames in the background of the first level. If that weren't enough, the distinct anime look (and cutscences) are nowhere to be seen, replaced with incredibly ugly American comic book-style art in the intro and endings.
So, you say? That's not too bad - only a few missing features doesn't ruin a game. You might think that. Sadly, the biggest problem is that the level design is just incredibly uninspired - most of them are just flat out dull. Dracula X introduced a couple of incredibly irritating enemies, most noticeably the Spear Guards and Armored Knights, but they were never so overused as they are here. This leads to great annoyances, as you can imagine. And someone, somewhere, must've found the original battle with Dracula too easy, because the designers decided to have you fight the final boss on a series of columns, where a tiny misstep means your death. Castlevania has always been frustrating, but it usually keeps a somewhat fair sense of balance (the Original mode in X68000/Chronicles excluded.) Dracula X fails in this respect.
If one aspect survived intact, it's the music. Most of the music has been ported over the SNES sound chip with incredible skill, and all of the songs sound great. Personally, I even find a few songs (the first level, for instance) to be superior.
You'll notice that a good part of this review is comparing this game to the first Dracula X. To be objective, the SNES Dracula X is not a horrible game - it's still a competant, fairly enjoyable title if you can put up with its flaws. But Castlevania games have the reputation for being more than merely competant, and that's why this edition, sadly, falls a bit below the rest.
Dracula X Artwork
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Castlevania Games - Castlevania: Dracula X