Friday, December 12, 2008

Akumajō Dracula X Chi no Rondo (Rondo of Blood) - PC-Engine


People talk about Akumajō Dracula X Chi no Rondo (Rondo of Blood) in the same hushed tones usually reserved for stellar, groundbreaking RPG's, such as Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Trigger, that imbue it with a sense of grandeur rarely expressed for a platforming title. And damn - it's truely well-deserved.


Rondo of Blood takes the traditional Castlevania elements and further refines the excellent and addictive play style. Konami went all out, creating some of the best graphics of the traditional 2D Castlevania titles and adding unbeliveably good music to make this game much more than the sum of its parts.

It was first brought to the PC-Engine CD/Duo systems as a CD format game and later remade and ported to the PSP as The Dracula X Chronicles and with the original title and Symphony of the Night also unlockable. Many hail Rondo of Blood as the best 'secret' Castlevania as it wasn't available originally on these shores, unless you imported it for the expensive and soon-to-be-overlooked Turbo CD/Duo.


I never got a copy of the game when it came out, having almost no knowledge of its existence. Over the years, I heard little about the game, but when I did, it was always that it was the best Castlevania and my curiosity grew. When Konami announced their remake of the game for the PSP, I knew I'd have to try it out.

I bought my copy of Dracula X Chronicles, excited to play through the remake, but really taken aback by the original. The graphics and music are really amazing for their time and the classic Castlevania gameplay is honed to near perfection. Unfortunately, the original version unlockable on the PSP title suffered from some wicked blurring and made the later stages very difficult to play through and made the game massively frustrating.

So, being the Castlevania fanatic that I am, I set out to get a PC-Engine Duo-R and a copy of the game to play the original and see if it held up to all I had heard and come to believe about it. I found a Duo-R on the PC-Engine FX forums at an excellent price and went for it.

It arrived a few days ago and I cleaned it up and popped in Dracula X as soon as I got home that night. Each night since then, I have been playing until waaaaaaay too late in the evening, totally absorbed in what could be one of the greatest games of all-time.


You start off controlling Richter Belmont and he controls the way you expect a Belmont to control. The weapons are still the classic whip and sub-weapon type, but where the title totally shines is in the graphics, music and stage settings. Each stage has an attention to detail that is exceptional, with fantastic parallax scrolling and settings. A number of the stages have multiple paths with maidens to rescue, including Maria, another playable character that makes the game even that much more fun on a second playthrough.


For those of you wondering if its worth buying a console to play Akumajō Dracula X Chi no Rondo - I'd have to say yes. In much the same way fighter or STG fans purchase HORI joysticks at $200 a pop to get the most out of their favorite titles, it's worth easily that and more to play this Castlevania as it was originally intended. It doesn't hurt that there are a ton of other good games for the system, a few of which I have on the way, like the Valis series, Dragon Egg, Super Star Soldier, Gate of Thunder, etc, etc.

Konami truly crafted a gem in Akumajō Dracula X Chi no Rondo, a fitting end to the classic 2D platforming Castlevania titles, and an excellent pre-cursor to the outstanding Symphony of the Night for the next generation PS1.

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