I am, without a doubt, the luckiest videogame collector in east Tennessee. If any of you reading (or editing) this have ever been to Sevier County for Dollywood (Dolly Parton’s personal theme park, and NO, there are not giant titty rollercoasters) or the rod runs we hold for some reason, or to Gatlinburg for the Great Smoky Mountains, you have a pretty good idea what the videogame situation over here is like.
There isn’t one.
We JUST NOW got a GameStop of our own, and before that we had to go into what I generously refer to as an anal-soaked hellhole called Knoxville or hit the random pawn shops and hope there might be something between stacks of Madden 0X. Anyways, I’m the luckiest (or maybe only) collector in this part of the world because I found not one, but TWO copies of Dracula X for SNES that I didn’t pay $20 for combined. With boxes and instructions. In separate places. It wasn’t until the Internet started to get really popular that I discovered how hard it was to find this game how much it usually went for.
I also discovered how much shit this game gets, and I was surprised. We don’t know anything about the Dracula X: Rondo of Blood that this game spawned from, and still in these parts, no one does. To us (and by US I mean the other kids in the “hollars” who had Nintendos and rented games from the video store), it was just a slightly disappointing but still above-average sequel to the SNES Castlevania . Diving deeper into the criticism is what contributed to my everlasting hatred of the “hardcore” and jaded gamer. Player opinions mostly consist of nothing but comparisons to Rondo of Blood and that someone at Konami needs to be shot for pissing out such an abortion of a port.
Maybe I’m just as biased—I have never played Rondo of Blood, so I don’t know what I’m missing. I do know that this game is not worth the 60 something bucks eBay sellers charge for it. You’re not missing THAT much. This game is just a straight and simple Castlevania. Seven stages (with two alternates) is all you’re really facing here; from a gameplay point of view, this game doesn’t even stack up to Castlevania IV or even III. There is some difficulty, but its not really “challenge” difficulty that comes from really good level design or strategy. It’s just pain-in-the-ass difficulty that comes from jumps you can barely control, Medusa Heads that seem to know where you’re going to land ahead of time, and really ill-conceived knockback, among other things.
The level design is pretty disappointing in comparison to that of Rondo of Blood and Castlevania IV, but not totally barren. Every level features something like being chased by a half-formed Behemoth, a sinking bridge with fishmen inexplicably jumping onto it, or a flooding series of corridors. It’s good, solid Castlevania stuff; it just never impresses. You get two alternate levels (and therefore alternate bosses) in which you can switch out your subweapon for a KEY and rescue a couple loved ones so that you can get (marginally) different endings. That’s only really worth doing for the challenge of doing so, because the ending’s a joke no matter what.
Now, lets get to the good stuff. If nothing else, Dracula X is a showcase of what the Super NES can do. The graphics and presentation are SLICK. The backgrounds are probably hand drawn, but the character sprites and subweapons are just damn cool. The game’s sole improvement over Rondo of Blood is its soundtrack, which has got to be the best sound design and instrumentation I’ve heard from the SNES soundchip. Every single track adds life to an otherwise uninspired port (a lot of tracks from Rondo of Blood didn’t make it over here, but you’ve still got a quality-rich soundtrack). The game’s got some pretty cool boss fights, too; the fights with Death and Dracula himself are particularly interesting and challenging.
And Richter kicks ass. Period.
So you know that old saying “well, you kinda had to BE there…”? Well, if I wasn’t completely tapped out of creativity by now, I’d think of a better way to wrap up this review than that. Bottom line is that this game pushes the limits of the Super NES, not Castlevania gameplay, but it is a decent platformer that’s worth a place in your collection.