The legend of Dracula has been passed down for centuries but only a few know the true story. These unlucky few tell a frightening tale about a monster who once every hundred years can be resurrected to spread his terror. There are some that fight this evil and are victorious, while others fail and become his newest victims. It’s been one hundred years since the last slayer, named Christopher Belmont, with his legendary whip vanquished Dracula in a terrifying struggle. Now however it’s Dracula’s time to again rise and start down his path of destruction, only this time he’s considerably more powerful than before. While in the small country of Transylvania in Medieval Europe, after being resurrected, Dracula begins plotting unknowing that a successor to the Belmont family, Simon Belmont, is already preparing for this ultimate battle. With the mysterious whip in hand, passed down from the last encounter, Simon sets off for Dracula’s castle preparing for the fight of his life.
Castlevania Chronicles is the remake of one of two Castlevania games that never made it out of Japan. Although, at half the price of most PlayStation games, this installment with probably only appeal to die hard Castlevania fans. With dated graphics and gameplay, if the story itself doesn’t thrill you, the rest of the game won’t either.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The first thing that needs to be understood is this is an eight year old game from a system called the X68000. That needs to be said as this is definitely not anything like the latest Castlevania installment,. This is an extremely dated game with little attempt to improve gameplay, graphics, or anything else as it’s mostly in its original format. There are two options available at start up which are the original mode and arrange mode.
The arrange mode is almost identical to the original except it offers a few new differences. The soundtracks for instance were re-mixed and some of the sprites like Dracula and Simon’s were redrawn to look more like they do in Symphony of the Night. These improvements are hardly noticeable but do show some time was spent on it before they sent it out the door.
The game itself is divided into eight areas with each area consisting of three stages. When you reach the end of an area, you’ll have to defeat a boss so a magical energy sphere will appear. Your progress can be followed after each area is passed, on a map of the castle. With more than twenty-five levels to get through, it will take some time and endurance to get to the end.
While moving through the castle, there are various things that can keep Simon from reaching the end of that stage. Simon could, for instance, receive too much damage, causing his life meter to empty; he could also step into a lethal trap, fall into a pit, or not reach the end before the time limit expires.
To help Simon reach the end of each stage, his whip can be used to attack enemies and destroy objects. When objects are destroyed, items are often left that either give another method of attacking like the boomerang, dagger, and axe, or help in some other manner. Some of these items have specific attributes, like the holy water which explodes into flames when thrown, the cross which destroys everything of the screen, the herb and meat that restores health, and the invisibility ointment. The most common item however is the heart. The hearts come in two sizes, the larger one counting as five smaller ones. This item is critical for using the special attack, as the hearts are deducted any time a special attack is used. One annoying issue concerning the items is the whip improvements. Every time you die and start at the beginning of the stage, the first four objects you destroy will have uncovered both whip improvements every time. What’s the point of having whip improvements if you get them immediately upon restarting the stage? It would make more sense to have to work harder in finding them, hence increasing the challenge and point of increasing the whip capabilities.
As far as the interface is concerned, it’s straightforward and what you would expect from an old Castlevania game. There is a score at the top of the screen along with the time remaining to complete the level and the stage number. Simon’s life gauge is directly under the score and the boss’s life gauge, shown from the beginning of the stage before the Boss is even seen, is under Simon’s. In the upper middle of the screen is an item box showing the current item Simon can use and the number of hearts collected along with the lives remaining is right of the item box. This particular interface works well with screen scrolling games as it’s easy to comprehend and doesn’t distract from the gameplay.
The controls are also simple, as you would expect from an eight-year-old system, and perform adequately. Although the full Dualshock analog controller is shown in the manual, very few of the buttons are used. Neither analog stick is used, as the directional pad controls movement and the circle and square buttons activate the whip with the X button performing the jump. You can also activate any attack item you’ve collected by pushing up on the control pad while pressing either the circle or square button. This may seem too simple for today’s games, as they can use multiple different buttons, but eight years ago two buttons was all there was and the games were designed around them.
If you’re actually able to complete the twenty-five levels of Castlevania Chronicles, you will get rewarded with a few bonus features. One is an interview with the producer of Symphony of the Night and another is artwork created especially for this edition. It’s questionable if it’s worth finishing for these extras, but if you’re aCastlevania fanatic, you’ll probably get a kick out of it.
There is little question that the X68000 must have been a 16-bit machine and these graphics do little to hide it. This being a PlayStation game, however, you would generally expect more, but one thing to keep in mind is Konami isn’t selling this as anything else than a remake of an old game, even cutting the price in half. Having said this, don’t buy Castlevania Chronicles expecting anything other then 16-bit graphics or you’ll be severely disappointed.
The audio is a similar story to the graphics as the technology is extremely old. Not bad for eight years old, it doesn’t hold a candle to anything released recently on the PlayStation however.
The bottom line here is this is an old game. Eight years ago this may have been a great game and probably should have been released then, but to Konami’s credit they obviously realized this, as the price was set to only twenty dollars. Castlevania Chronicles will probably only appeal to fans of the series who can’t ever get enough. To those of you who fit that criteria I’d recommend this game, but to anyone else, save your money and rent it.