If you are a hardcore fan of the Castlevania series, you have come to the right place. If you aren’t, well, hang around, you might find something interesting here.
The Castlevania series has been one of the most well known and highly revered series in the history of gaming. So for all those fans of the series, Konami has released a 3D remake of the their 1993 Castlevania game, titled “Rondo of Blood”. Before you back away, I just want to emphasise that this isn’t one of those terrible situations where they have tried to recreate the game in a third-person, three-dimensional way and failed miserably. This game is almost identical to the side scrolling original, except that the graphics are now being beamed to your PSP’s screen using polygons, instead of sprites.
But wait, there’s more! Along with the 3D remake, you also have the ability to unlock not only the original version, but also Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. More about all that later.
Since this is a 3D remake of Rondo, let’s get the graphics out of the way. While the 2.5D graphics of the game are pulled off very nicely with great boss-fight cutscenes and special effects, i have a few issues to discuss. I find that the colour palette used for this game is slightly dull, problem being that right in the beginning of the game you will already run into simple issues like being hit by bats that are nearly invisible against the backdrops of levels in some areas. This is mostly a problem because sprites had tendencies to stick out against the background slightly, so the same colour palette would serve the 2D game better. Surely, this is something that can be easily ignored, but health is scarce and your character is about as tough as a twig, which means that little incidents like this can become quite frustrating.
The introduction of the story is now presented with a great opening CG cutscene explaining how a bunch of guys in robes have decided to summon Dracula and his castle by stabbing a poor innocent girl in the chest with a rather large and menacing kitchen utensil.
Enter the hero.
Anyone with any knowledge of the Castlevania series will know of the Belmont family, who are hell-bent on hunting down Count Dracula and stopping him and his minions. Unfortunately, it seems that this time round, most of the Belmonts were away on vacation and sent what could only be a second cousin, twice removed, to do the job. You take on the role of Richter Belmont, who I am sad to say, is not very good at his job. Richter would at this point like me to point to the gameplay mechanics as the reason for his inadequacies, but unfortunately, I can’t do that.
You see, very early in the game you unlock a second playable character who comes in the form of 10 – 13 year old girl name Maria. Now, granted, Maria is blessed with some special powers that have made her more useful than your average young girl, but once you play with her, you will almost certainly never go back to Richter. This is a problem, because what use is a hero in a story when he is very easily outdone by a small girl before you are even 5% into the game. That aside, lets move onto the gameplay.
This game is tough, really tough. This game was originally created for the superhuman japanese gaming market, a lot of your time will be spent in a blind rage of frustration as you slowly start to realise that this game plays a lot more like a puzzle, and not what you are used to. The gameplay comes down to learning the animations and movements of the enemies and then learning how to counter it or move around it. Health is quite scarce and the most simple miscalculation of a bat’s path can easily lead to a loss of more than a quarter of your health. If I can make a suggestion, stick a piece of paper onto the front of your PSP with it’s price tag on it, to remind you that throwing it at the wall is probably not a good idea. If however, this old retro game mechanic is something you love, you will be in side scrolling heaven.
Now as mentioned previously, the two character’s play differently. Richter is just outdone in every way, where he has a chain-whip that hits forwards in a straight line, maria uses doves, which not only move in a path that covers more ground, the doves are also able to hit enemies on their way out and again on the way back. There’s more, she can double jump whereas he can only do a backwards jump, making her way more maneuverable in almost every situation.
The level’s have been designed in such a way that there are always two ways of finishing a level. What’s great about this system though is that they do not lead to the same place. Take one path and you will reach stage 2, take the other and you will reach stage 2b, which is completely different. The game initially seems to have 6 levels, but because of this system, you realise that it actually has 12. This is important because the game has two endings, one for if you go through all the levels and save all four maidens in distress over it’s course, and another less satisfying ending if you don’t.
Okay, back to the unlockable games that I mentioned earlier. You can unlock the original Rondo of Blood, which is pretty much just the original game. This is a nice addition for the fans. Way more importantly is the second game that you can unlock, Symphony of the Night, the sequel to Rondo of Blood.
Castlevania: SOTN was originally released on the first Playstation console and was met with critical acclaim (93% on metacritic). When it was recently released for Xbox Live Arcade and PSN, it’s review scores were nothing short of amazing as well.
It doesn’t take long for you to realise that this game is absolutely fantastic. Even though it is the original game, with no 2D graphics and no added effects, it’s beautiful art and smooth animations put Rondo’s 3D remake to absolute shame. The gameplay is also way more accessible to those who want a great Castlevania game to play through, with a great RPG level-up element as well as the ability to obtain new weapons, armour, items etc.
Overall, I have to say that unless you are a hardcore fan of the Castlevania series or really want something like this to play while you are on the move, I can’t recommend this game to you. If you are however one of those fans, you will love every moment of it. With the remake being solid and true to it’s original version and the inclusion of said original together with Symphony of the Night, it’s a no-brainer. If you are more of a casual gamer that owns one of the next-gen consoles, then rather do yourself the favour of buying Symphony of the Night over PSN or Xbox Live Arcade, you won’t be sorry.
With this in mind, I am going to be giving this game two scores, one for the hardore fans, and one for the average gamer.
For the Hardcore Fans:
For everyone else:
Last Updated: May 2, 2008