Castlevania Chronicles Akumajo Dracula Hands-On

Castlevania Chronicles: Akumajo Dracula may whet the appetites of fans of the series, but others should not look at this as another Symphony of the Night game.

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Castlevania Chronicles: Akumajo Dracula is the first in the series of Castlevania rereleases on the PlayStation. Based on the X68000 version of the game, the game contains both the original game and an arranged mode. The arranged mode features revamped artwork done by Ayami Kojima, perhaps best known for Symphony of the Night. The original game is known for its steep difficulty--to combat this, the arranged version lets you start the game with up to five lives, as well as choose a difficulty setting. The arranged mode also features an unlockable time attack mode.

The premise of the game follows the traditional plot--you take the role of Simon Belmont in order to defeat Count Dracula. The arranged version features an intro CG, which is a reenactment of the original intro in the X68000 version. When playing the first stage, you'll immediately find it similar to the original Castlevania on the NES, but the game does have its differences. It features eight stages, as opposed to six stages in the original. And you can now save your progress. Simon's primary weapon, the whip, doesn't allow for versatile attacks, as in the later games in the series, but you'll be able to crack the whip directly downward and diagonally downward rather than just directly ahead. The game also has limited-use secondary weapons, such as a dagger, ax, time stopper, holy water, and cross.

The graphics in each stage of the arranged version have been revamped for a more modern look, but the basics are intact. The in-game graphics of Simon and Dracula have also been revamped to match the artwork--for example, it's a little weird seeing a redheaded Simon Belmont. The music in the game is definitely worth mentioning: The original mode provides several choices, including X68000 MIDI emulation, Roland's LA sound module in CM-64 mode, or Roland's GS sound module in CM-300 mode, which are enough options to satisfy hard-core audio freaks. The arranged mode features really excellent remixes. Unfortunately, the music skips in certain stages, which can be a nuisance and should have been addressed before the game's release.

Castlevania Chronicles: Akumajo Dracula is an excellent addition for serious fans of the series, but its now-limited gameplay has a fairly limited appeal. The game is currently in stores in Japan. A North American or European release has not been announced at this point.

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