The Castlevania series is renowned for its simplistic yet brutally challenging gameplay and Dracula X is no exception. Castlevania: Dracula X manages to retain the classic feel of the original Castlevania games while boasting great 2D graphics and a phenomenal soundtrack.
Castlevania: Dracula X stars Richter Belmont whose ancestors include Trevor and Simon (stars of previous games in the series). Dracula is back from the dead and deciding against sitting around waiting for a Belmont to slay him, he opts to shake things up a bit. He proceeds to destroy the small town in which Richter resides in order to ruffle his feathers. Richter's girlfriend Annette and her sister Maria are kidnapped in the process. It's up to an enraged Richter to journey to Dracula's castle to rescue his loved ones and seek justice.
For those new to the series, classic Castlevania games are 2D platformers played by slaying monsters with the legendary Belmont clan's whip. Controls for Dracula X are simple and include walking, jumping, cracking the whip, and using sub-weapons. Richter is capable of a couple of other moves that help make the gameplay a bit more interesting. He can perform a back flip which helps to reach difficult platforms and dodge enemy attacks. He also has the ability to execute an item crash which is a special move that depends on the sub-weapon that he is equipped with at the time. Sub-weapons and item crashes use up hearts (which act as ammo) so it's a good idea to save them for boss fights. The controls are tight and reminiscent of older Castlevania games.
The graphics in Dracula X are fantastic for a Super Nintendo game. Everything looks detailed and pixel-perfect while characters and enemies are animated fluidly. Each stage has its own unique setting and most of the stages are quite intricately rendered. Some stages appear blander but the environments always suit the themes well. Like most Castlevania games, the music is incredible. Certain songs will get stuck in your head long after you put the game down while other songs are atmospheric and help set an eerie mood. Sound effects as you whip your way through the adventure make slaying enemies an enjoyable experience.
Enemies are as diverse as they are in any Castlevania game. You'll encounter plenty of familiar faces such as those pesky Medusa heads, skeletons, and bats. The bosses of Dracula X are great fun to take on. You will encounter such fierce opponents as a headless knight, Minotaur, werewolf, and death. Each boss is unique and it feels very rewarding to defeat them as most pose a significant challenge.
Stages can get incredibly difficult. Sometimes enemies are placed in spots that make them hard to hit while you struggle to avoid projectiles and infinitely spawning flying monsters. Castlevania experts will see moments like this as a welcome challenge while less skilled players will feel like it's unfair. Another mechanic that increases the difficulty is the fact that enemies will knock you back when you get hit if you don't ground yourself. This forces players to think ahead before they jump across gaps. These challenges are not new to the Castlevania series so fans will be happy to overcome them. However, newcomers should expect a high degree of difficulty and will be able to enjoy the game fully with that expectation in mind.
Castlevania: Dracula X features some components that help give it more replay value. Players can explore a couple of branching paths with alternative stages. Although this has been done before, it is an interesting way to diversify the otherwise linear progression. Also, players can choose to save the two captured ladies which affects the type of ending you'll receive upon completing the game. This is done by completing a very difficult series of events. First, you must take a certain path and collect a key which fills your sub-weapon slot. If you pick up another sub-weapon then the key may be lost if you can't pick it up again in time. Then, you must survive all the way to where Maria is held in order to use the key to rescue her. Finally, you must use the key in another door and find Annette in the next stage. If you get game over while the key is in your possession then it's gone forever and you must start the process again. Because of this, trying to rescue both ladies can get incredibly frustrating.
Although Castlevania: Dracula X doesn't offer much new to the series, its classic gameplay mechanics mixed with an amazing presentation make it a must play for Castlevania fans. That being said, newcomers to the series may be overwhelmed by the high level of difficulty.
- + Incredible soundtrack and awesome graphics
- + Tried-and-true classic Castlevania gameplay
- + Different branching paths, choices, and endings offer more replay value
- - The challenge can sometimes feel unfair
- - Rescuing Annette and Maria can be extremely frustrating