Castlevania Chronicles
Platform:  PlayStation
Players:  1

    Castlevania Chronicles began its life as Akumajo Dracula in 1993.  Originally released for the Sharp X68000 computer for the Japan market, this game never had a release outside of Japan.  It also did not sell much by Castlevania standards due to the relative unpopularity of the X68000.  However, Konami decided they would re-release it in its original format, as well as an updated version for the PlayStation.  This, at the time of announcement, was both good and bad news for Castlevania fans around the world.  Good because they got their hands on yet another elusive Castlevania title along with reworked graphics and remixed music.  Bad because they had all hoped Rondo of Blood would be re-released first.  In any event, it gives players and collectors alike a run for their money with one of the toughest Castlevania games to date.

Description:  In standard Castlevania fashion, you play as Simon, a descendant of the Belmont family.  In this game, Dracula has been resurrected 100 years after his "demise" at the hands of Christopher Belmont, on Easter night.  Armed with a whip named Vampire Killer, a family heirloom with the sacred power to slay vampires, you set out to rid the world of Dracula and his evil once again.

The game has two modes, original and arrange mode. Original is just that, a direct port of the X68000 version.  The arrange mode version contains a more graphically advanced, 3-D textured cutscene, enhanced graphics and remixed songs, the last being the enhancement I enjoyed the most.  Arrange mode also gives you the ability to set the difficulty level and number of lives you start with, making the game much easier than original mode and some of the previous Castlevania titles.  The game disc also contains some bonus material, including an interview with Koji Igarashi, an image gallery with concept artwork from the Castlevania series, and a sound test mode.

Graphics:  Considering this is supposed to be a rework of a ported game, the graphics are very well done.  The improved character sprites for Simon are welcome and make the game feel more like an SNES version.  Backgrounds are much improved upon and some areas are slightly reworked in terms of layout.  Overall, a welcomed improvement from the original.  Compared to PlayStation hardware capabilities, this could have used some more spice.  While I understand the game was not meant to be a testament to what can be done with the hardware, I still have a problem paying $30 for a game that's almost 10 years old with retired hardware graphics.  This, however, is where the music makes up for the price.

Sound:  Wow. I've always been a fan of remixing and recreating classic video game tunes.  Most of you will know of a couple of very popular websites that are all about game music remixing.  Having remixed songs in the game are always welcomed in my book, and having a sound test mode so that you can access these songs directly is even better.  Sound effects are decent for the style of game, and the mood in which the combination of music and sound effects puts you for each level is perfect.  This is my personal opinion as to why the Castlevania series has become as popular as it has today.

Play Control:  This takes a little getting used to, but those who are die-hard fans of the preceding Castlevania titles will have the controls down already.  Jumping has always been an issue between myself and the first five U.S. Castlevania releases.  You know that jumping to the next platform has to be possible since the game has been programmed that way, but when you jump a pixel or two too early, you fall short and lose a life, sometimes having to start back further than you'd want.  Use of the whip is also in need of some sprucing up.  You can swing the whip horizontally and straight down if swung while jumping and pressing down.  This proves to be taxing in some areas and makes you wish you could swing in eight directions like in Super Castlevania.  Once you get used to these issues, the game control is decent considering the time period in which it originated.

Replay:  Well, not much since the game follows the same path no matter what.  There are some secrets to find, but nothing more than power-ups and a smoking Simon (if you don't know what I mean, check Google for "simon smoking castlevania chronicles").  You also have a time attack mode, but considering how hard this game is to begin with, there's no reason why you should torture yourself with it.

Final Verdict:  While certainly not the best Castlevania game, this is still a well-rounded 2-D action platformer that will give you one more reason to keep that PS1 memory card plugged in to your PS2.

Written on 07-09-06 by Shane,

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