|Console||Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Famicom|
|Purchase (SNES)||Click here to purchase from eBay.|
Dracula X is a strange entry in the Castlevania series. It is a remake of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the PC-Engine (basically, the Japanese TurboGrfx-16), albeit it’s a pretty loose remake in terms of gameplay and story. While it can be considered a “fifth” entry in the series since it came out after Super Castlevania IV, it’s an oddly named entry that’s technically not the “Castlevania V” we’re looking for and it also feels like it’s trying to do its own thing.
A New Descendant of the Belmont Clan
Dracula X made a pretty nice bound in terms of graphical capabilities. From the first level, you can see the erupting flames of a ruined town while one of the most badass VG tunes ever plays in the background.
Seriously. Dracula X is a pretty colorful game, giving it some of the coolest-looking stages in the series.
You play as Richter Belmont, a descendant of Trevor and Simon Belmont. Once again, Dracula rises from the grave. But this time, he wants nothing more than revenge against the Belmont clan. So in order to lure Richter into Transylvania, Dracula kidnaps Richter’s lover Annet and her little sister Maria.
…Which is wholly unnecessary. I mean, the Belmont clan is already dedicated to stopping Dracula whenever he comes back. All Dracula had to do is appear before Richter and go, “Boom! I’m back, bitches! I’m going to wreck this world again! Go find me at my castle!”
The Most Arduous Quest?
Alright, so let’s address the elephant in the room. Dracula X is best known as one of the series’ biggest disappointments, because it was originally meant to be a true port of Rondo of Blood from the PC-Engine. At least, it was advertised as such. But instead, level designs have been redone, some levels have been taken out, and plot elements have been completely altered.
For example, Annet (obviously supposed to be Annette) was never a sibling to Maria. They were both Dracula’s hostages in Rondo of Blood, but they had no blood relation whatsoever. And supposedly, the events of Dracula X happened several hundred years after Simon Belmont’s time. In Rondo of Blood, it was only a hundred.
So basically, Dracula X is just a weird remake of Rondo of Blood with shorter playtime and a higher difficulty level.
Seriously, Dracula X is one of the hardest entries in the Castlevania series. But let’s go ahead and address the actual changes in gameplay.
So Richter Belmont can’t whip in eight directions like Simon Belmont did in Super Castlevania IV, but he can whip diagonally downward on top of whipping forward.
One of the best advantages that Richter has is that he can jump on and off of stairs. This was a sorely needed feature in the Castlevania series, as stairways traditionally make the games a lot fucking harder.
Also, by quickly double-tapping the jump button, Richter can do a backflip. This… sometimes helps. I find it to be a nice way to ascend stairs more quickly. It can also be a decent dodging technique and help you reach candles even higher than you normally can reach.
Even the classic sub-weapons perform a little better. The Holy Water creates a wave of holy magic instead of burning in one place. The Throwing Dagger moves much faster, making it an even better weapon than before. I’m legit surprised how much more useful it is in this game.
Dracula X also has a small degree of non-linearity, having a Stage 4′ and a Stage 5′. The purpose of this is to find the correct route in order to rescue the game’s two hostages: Annet and Maria. However, you need to find a special sub-weapon: a key to open locked doors.
Maria is an easy find, but Annet is in a stupidly secret location. To find her, you have to whip away a specific wall which will open a new path to you. It’s pretty stupid and you won’t find this unless by complete accident.
However, you do not need to rescue Maria or Annet to complete the game. Finding them results in an alternate ending, and not much else.
…Awwww, no little girls throwing doves at skeletons. What a shame.
Overall, the new mechanics are helpful. But don’t worry. I’M ABOUT TO RUIN IT FOR YOU.
The crappy thing about Dracula X is the simple fact that there is no after-hit invincibility. In previous Castlevania titles, you get a brief second before you can recover. However, Dracula X simply doesn’t allow it. Because of that, it’s highly possible that enemies can juggle your candy ass before they turn you into dust.
And speaking of which, the enemy AI is greatly improved over past entries. Regular enemies are generally more difficult to deal with. The famous axe knight enemies can lob their axes so that they drop through the floor to attack you if you’re below them. And if you come close to them, they will quickly charge at you with a fierce melee attack.
But damn, those fucking spear knights. These are the most difficult incarnations of Castlevania spear knights I ever faced. Basically, they tiptoe back and forth slowly while waiting for you to attack. If you attack them, they will spin their spears to deflect. But if you come in too close, they will quickly swipe at you with a powerful attack that throws you backwards and takes a huge chunk of your health away.
Probably the best way to take on the spear knights is to spam the holy water sub-weapon against them.
But the stage designs of Dracula X further add to the game’s infamous difficulty. There are multiple instances where enemies are placed right above you through a series of stairways, which is more apparent in later stages. At this point, you’re going to struggle moving forward.
Also, bats and ravens. THEY ARE FUCKING EVERYWHERE. AND THEY DON’T STOP COMING.
Furthermore, Dracula X has some of the most brutal boss fights in the series. I even had some trouble against the first boss before figuring its attack pattern out.
I should also mention the Salamander boss (Stage 5′ boss), who I believe to be the game’s most difficult boss. Basically, it’s a snake-like dragon that attacks mainly by running into you. Its basic attack is jumping over a bridge before diving back into the water.
However, it can also quickly approach you horizontally in order to run into you. This is the most difficult series of attacks to dodge in the game, and the worst part is that it’s so damn unpredictable on where its body will undulate.
Also, this motherfucker is hard to hit because it moves around so damn much. I really despise this boss battle for those two reasons.
As expected, the soundtrack is pretty good for the Castlevania series. While there are remixes of old Castlevania tunes—namely, “Vampire Killer,” “Bloody Tears,” and “Beginning”—, the original tracks are superb. This time around, Castlevania had gotten a lot more… jazzy.
Well… we’re back to doing remixes of first stage themes of the NES trilogy. Again. This is going to be a frequent thing, isn’t it.
But seriously, had someone been taking lessons from Michael Jackson? Some of this is the kind of stuff you usually hear from the Sega Genesis.
My final argument: this game has one of the worst Dracula fights in the series.
This fight is actually stupidly easy if you know what to do. Dracula’s fireball attacks are easy to dodge. And because the arena is so big, you’re going to spend the majority of the time just waiting for him to come to you anyway. It’s a long and boring battle that ultimately comes down to how patient you are.
So far, I find the best weapon here to be the throwing axe. It has a pretty decent range to hit Dracula if you jump before using the attack. Eventually, he will transform into some purple devil thing with a speedo and he will constantly move towards you. This is pretty much the moment where you can easily finish him off.
Also, if Richter stays crouching, he doesn’t get knocked back. So without Dracula’s cheap death tactic, you can use this knowledge to your advantage and you will win the fight easily.
Boom. Oh, and apparently, this same fight in Rondo of Blood doesn’t have any bottomless pits. What in the actual fuck.
So there you have it. Dracula X is one of the hardest Castlevania games of all time. Very much like Castlevania Legends, this game is not considered canon in the main timeline. The obvious reason being that this is a weaker and heavily altered version of Rondo of Blood.
Despite that, I will concede that this is still a pretty solid game on the SNES. It’s a lot shorter than expected (considering the last game had more than ten stages), but the graphics made a nice transition from a stronger game console and the music is pretty damn good. And once you can overcome this game’s flaws, it’s not too bad.
Castlevania: Dracula XPrice Varies
- Despite the removal of improved whip controls in Super Castlevania IV, Dracula X makes up for it with being able to jump onto stairs, the double-jump technique and improved sub-weapons.
- The improved enemy AI, forcing you to come up with more strategies to attack regular enemies.
- The graphics and animations are bright and colorful in this entry,.
- The soundtrack has some of the most chill tunes in the series.
- Dracula X is a heavily modified version of Rondo of Blood from the PC-Engine, being more like a truncated remake rather than a port.
- For some reason, no after-hit invincibility like the other games.
- Some stages, particularly ones that require a lot of vertical platforming, can get ridiculously tedious.
- Salamander boss. Seriously, fuck that asshole...
- One of the worst Dracula boss fights in the series.