My good friend Koji Igarashi (ok, I don’t know him THAT well) has brought to us a really cool game called Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP. First off, the game is about all you would want from a remake. There are new graphics, awesome remixes of old tracks, lots of unlockables, an ability to customize your soundtrack, brand new levels and bosses, and the original Rondo of Blood and a remixed Symphony of the Night – versions two of the best Castlevania games ever made – and all for $30! Considering Rondo was never released in the US, this is the coolest thing to happen to the series since Symphony of the Night! Did I also mention this came out in the US a whole two weeks before it is being released in Japan? (even though they get cooler swag with it through Konamistyle – I still can’t believe I am buying that thing!).
In terms of content the sound effects are actually the coolest thing they added. Sure, 3D graphics are nice and so are new levels and bosses (ok, the Hydra was definitely awesome), but the sound effects, the rattling of zombie bones as a new skeleton enters the screen, these are the little things that are just really great cues of what’s happening in the game and add a lot to the atmosphere. It’s the small things that really count – the perfection (and the devil) is in the details!
That said, there are some places where DXC doesn’t give enough or just falls flat on its face. First, why oh why does the pause button not actually pause the game during boss rush mode? Sure, you can press Start, but all it does is ask you ‘do you want to continue playing?’ while the game continues to run in the background and your idle character is being slaughtered by a giant monster! This is a serious continuity error with the rest of the game (and all sense if you ask me), and is annoying beyond belief, particularly for a segment of the game that is incredibly intense and can run for rather long stretches of time without breaks. Ever get be in the middle of a tense boss fight and somebody wants to ask you a question or is calling you on the phone and you can’t pause the game because it won’t actually pause! Seriously, I am definitely not inclined to play this mode again now that I unlocked all the music (but I STILL can’t figure out where that last 1% is I’m missing!). There is simply no reason good enough to have a design this frustrating.
Then there is the voice acting and script. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night used to have notoriously bad voice acting. Actually, the dialogue has usually been pretty poor as well. As a writer, this probably irks me more than as an audience. The dialogue needs to feel more natural and the voice actors have to be pretty good, too. For instance, Curse of Darkness had great voice actors, but the script was just terrible. The dialogue needs to feel natural, not forced or overly heroic or cliched. I probably made some of these mistakes while writing the script for Legends of Norrath, but it’s always easier to change things in retrospect. At least the new Dracula Battle dialogue is a bit better than the original – but not by a whole lot. I continue to intend to write a fanfiction that puts some of this bad dialogue to rest.
Oh yeah, as far as the soundtrack customization goes, I really wanted to see the ability to use mp3s I have loaded onto my PSP memory card. I really hope the next game that uses a memory card will have this function as it is simply too good to ignore.
There is also a really minor point I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t seen it online (and now I can’t remember where, but it was a list of 10 bad things about videogames that could have been on 1UP or Gamasutra) and this bad thing is: ‘Why do we have to press ONLY the Start Button to start the game?’ As this article pointed out, it would be completely sensible to simply press any button rather than START to enter the main menu – the only reason to keep this seems to me to be out of nostalgia, as any button would work better than THE button. But hey, at least you can customize your controls, something that Super Metroid was totally awesome for allowing you to do and that a lot more games should let you do.
Lastly, what’s up with Dracula XX, the Super Nintendo version? Sure, the game wasn’t as good as Rondo of Blood, but what happened to it? Was this game consulted during DXC’s development? Will it at least make an appearance on the Virtual Console (along with Rondo of Blood?!)?
And who is the dude on the bridge in the beginning of level 2′? Gamers too concerned with details will forever be asking this question along with ‘Who the heck was the dead guy outside of Kraid’s room in Super Metroid?.’ Ask Mr. Owl. (He apparently knows everything.)