"I don’t make any pretensions to be a hardcore gamer, but I really love the Castlevania series. It doesn’t hold any nostalgic value for me as I was a relative latecomer to the series. I dabbled in the NES entries for a bit, but I didn’t fall in love until playing Symphony of the Night. It was from here that I started to seek out other games in the series, which led to my playing Castlevania: Dracula X for the Super Nintendo. It remains one of the most enjoyable 2D action games I have ever played..."
I don’t make any pretensions to be a hardcore gamer, but I really love the Castlevania series. It doesn’t hold any nostalgic value for me as I was a relative latecomer to the series. I dabbled in the NES entries for a bit, but I didn’t fall in love until playing Symphony of the Night. It was from here that I started to seek out other games in the series, which led to my playing Castlevania: Dracula X for the Super Nintendo. It remains one of the most enjoyable 2D action games I have ever played.
CDX has a strange history. It was intended to be a port of the Turbo Duo’s Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. Often touted as the best Castlevania game of the time, fans in North America were ecstatic to finally receive a port. Only…the game they received wasn’t Rondo of Blood. It had the graphics, the music…but somehow in porting the game the levels were completely changed. An outcry ensued. CDX received a lot of mediocre reviews and criticism as a result.
The fans were so obsessed with getting Rondo of Blood, that they didn’t freaking notice they got a game that was even better.
The premise behind both games is essentially the same. It follows Richter Belmont, a man who just wants to live a peaceful, slow-paced life with his lovely wife-to-be, Annet. A life of violence and adventure isn’t part of the plan. But while wedding preparations are underway, strange eruptions are undergoing. A cult led by a priest named Shaft is attempting to resurrect Dracula, the eternal enemy of the Belmont clan. The cult’s efforts are successful. Dracula is revived and plans to avenge his previous demise by going after the descendant of Simon Belmont – Richter. His village is attacked and his bride is kidnapped. In a fated manner, a Belmont must once again do battle with Dracula.
The game begins, with the village ablaze. It’s hard to help noticing the background – flames consume houses and beautifully scintillate in every direction. Though SCIV made better use of the SNES’s unique hardware features, CDX edges it out as a much better looking game. The excellent music begins the first second of gameplay and doesn’t stop until the very end. Some minor problems however are immediately perceived. Richter is very rigid and nonfluid, so movement feels very slow. However, he can do a backflip, which both looks impressive and allows for a quick dodge technique.
The difficulty increases as Richter treks through his journey, as is the case with most other Castlevanias. Pits and cliffs are placed liberally throughout levels and since Richter isn’t the most acrobatic person, jumping will many times lead to death. As usual, enemy hits will send Richter back a bit, creating another problem when traversing platform to platform. Skill and coordination are required in order to successfully traverse every section of the game. Enemies aren’t passive either, and often have to be dispatched intelligently. Just see how successful you’ll be running up and whipping a spear guard.
Several secondary weapons can be found and used throughout the game – holy water, axes, knives and others. These can relieve a lot of the difficulty by allowing the dispatching of enemies from a safe distance. When enough hearts (which are the currency for secondary weapons) are collected, a special attack can be unleashed allowing for large damage. Item crashing, as it is called, varies extensively for each weapon; the axe item crash creates several axes which encircle Richter and then fly off in opposite directions, whereas the knife item crash throws about a dozen knives rapidly in one direction.
Drac X keeps itself from becoming repetitive by offering a diverse variety of levels; from the blazing village of the start, to the ornate designs of the castles entry hall, and the dank, fetid sewers. The level design is fearful -- enemies guard key platforms, pits that mean certain doom if you fall, items and health are hidden within secret, breakable walls. Each level offers a myriad of enemies (of course, there are the ubiquitous medusa heads or bats) that put up much more of a fight than they seem capable to. The lifebar is quickly depleted.
Frustration seems to be a fundamental component of the Castlevania experience, and CDX will provide plenty of it. From Medusa heads knocking you clean off a platform into a pit, to a spear guard completely disallowing you entry by sending you flying back, CDX can get the blood rising. But there is so much opportunity hidden in this game. You may have been knocked off by a Medusa head, but this might allow you to access a completely different part of the level, giving you a second lease on life, but also disallowing you to obtain the best ending.
CDX may not be a long game, but there is enough depth – the multiple endings, and secret levels – to easily allow for multiple playthroughs. It is one of the most satisfying 2D action games I have played and gets my recommendation. Judge it not for what it was supposed to be; judge it for what it is – a thoroughly enjoyable platformer, and a great contribution to a great series.
Community review by draculasrevenge (March 09, 2009)
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