Up until now, there were two Castlevania games--Akumajo Dracula for the X68000 PC and Dracula X: The Rondo of Blood for the Turbo Duo--never released outside of Japan. For whatever reason, Konami opted to port Akumajo Dracula, the more obscure and less impressive of the two games, to the PlayStation, and sell it in a package named Castlevania Chronicles. Fortunately, Chronicles features an arrange mode that includes a few redrawn sprites, a remixed soundtrack, an interview with the producer from Symphony of the Night, and an art gallery featuring Ayami Kojima's work. But none of these additions successfully mask the fact that you're indeed playing an 8-year-old game, because it certainly shows in both the gameplay and graphics.
In Castlevania Chronicles, you play as Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter and one of the mainstays of the Castlevania series. Simon's abilities are pretty basic--he can jump and flail his whip in multiple directions to dispose of Dracula's henchmen. He can also use special weapons--such as axes, crosses, holy water, and daggers--which are found by whipping candles or similar objects. Unfortunately, Simon still lacks the ability to whip in any direction while stationary or while in midair. In fact, the gameplay in general is a step backward from that in Super Castlevania IV, which was released two years prior to the original game in Castlevania Chronicles.
Unlike in Symphony of the Night, the eight levels in Castlevania Chronicles are linear, so there are no branching paths in between levels--you move straight from the castle walls to Dracula's hideaway in the tower. There are alternate routes within a few levels. Some might have better items with more enemies or fewer items and weaker enemies, but in either case, they all lead to the same level boss. The linear structure provides little motivation to go back through the game once you've beaten it.
None of the levels in Castlevania Chronicles have been significantly upgraded to take advantage of the PlayStation's added power. Much of the Grim Reaper's stage in particular looks dated with its drab colors and sparse amount of detail. A few changes have been made to the visuals in the arrange mode. Simon Belmont has a new sprite complete with leather armor and red hair, though his animation isn't quite up to par with Alucard's animation in Symphony of the Night. Dracula also sports a new character sprite, making him look more like his Symphony of the Night counterpart. Candles and other lights glow against the backgrounds. These additions are nice, but there are so few that you can't help but feel that Konami wasn't particularly interested in putting forth a great deal of effort in revamping the visuals.
But true to Konami form, the one area where Castlevania Chronicles excels is sound. The soundtrack has been remixed for the arrange mode, and just about every track--including classics like Vampire Killer and Bloody Tears--sounds excellent, and the skipping problems present in the Japanese version of Chronicles appear to be gone. Interestingly, Konami has removed the ability for you to select the type of music emulation for the original game. The type of music Konami has included, while not horrible, isn't exactly the best of the three that were originally available in the Japanese version and an early US build of the game. This is unfortunate because the soundtrack for the original game is quite good even when compared to the arrange mode's instrumental soundtrack.
The extras in the game seem to be as hastily incorporated as other parts of the game. There is an interview with Castlevania producer IGA, who talks about the series in general and alludes to The Rondo of Blood as being the next remake project. The art gallery, which you unlock by playing through the game, gives a glimpse of Ayami Kojima's artistic talent, but only a few of the illustrations are actually new. Many are older Symphony of the Night drawings. There's also a time attack mode where you can see how fast it takes you to get through various levels. All of these extra features are unlocked once you beat the game once, so unless you're incredibly interested in timing your trek through Dracula's castle, there's very little replay value.
Hard-core Castlevania fans will definitely appreciate the return to the classic gameplay style, but if your first encounter with Castlevania was Symphony of the Night or even some of the Super Nintendo games, you'll be disappointed by the dated graphics, static gameplay, and lack of replay value. However, its low price tag might offer enough justification for you to pick it up.