A few years ago we saw an old debate re-emerge briefly; whether games had gotten easier. Bearded retro-fanatics sat there, stroking their beards, pointing at titles such as Wind Waker as evidence that gaming was a far more difficult enterprise back in the day. Dracula X Chronicles seems to support this, however it also highlights all the problems which plagued old-skool gaming.
A remake of the previously-unreleased Castlevania title Rondo of Blood for the PC Engine, the game sees you playing as young Richter Belmont, trespassing on the castle of a moustachioed Dracula and an evil priest named Shaft (!). Skeletons, snakes, midgets and ravens- all must be whipped senseless if you wish to succeed.
And success in this game is tricky, as Dracula X Chronicles is a very bitter, difficult and frustrating game. Retaining the outdated mechanics of its original 1993 incarnation, the game delights in aggravating the player to the point of homicide. Cumbersome jumping arcs, sporadic checkpoints and a ridiculously sadistic lives system- all this might excite the hardcore thrill-seekers of the early ‘90s, but today they just seem wrong. Awkward controls also ensure that not only can you not attack upwards, but also that, bizzarely, poor Richter lacks the ability to run. And I assure you the sight of a hardened vampire hunter walking slowly away from a pursuing knight is so pathetic it can reduce a man to tears.
But the game, for all its faults, is still a nice diversion. There is a certain primal delight to be had in whipping the undead to redeath, whilst the game’s imaginative bosses raise a smile or two. Likewise, the game possesses a fantastic score and some lovely 2.5D graphics. It is a rather good overall package as well, with fan-favourite Symphony of the Night and the original Rondo of Blood also included. Unfortunately, they are not instantly accessible and prove rather tedious to unlock, but they are fantastic additions once found and certainly provide some good value for money.
So, what we have here is a snazzy remake of a crusty old title, which, though it might not have aged well, retains a degree of aged charm about it. Castlevania fans are sure to lap up this well-constructed package, and others should follow their example- for about £30 this really is a wise purchase for the discerning gamer.