Posts Tagged ‘castlevania’

Death loves Dracula, goodbye Rondo!

March 19, 2010

If there’s one constant character that reoccurs nearly as much as Dracula (or more so even, if you want to include a the PS2 games), it’s got to be Death.  The Grim Reaper is like Dracula’s best pal, albeit a slightly bony, and mildly psychotic friend for the ages.  And of course, he makes an appearance in Rondo of Blood, once right at the beginning of the game, where he tries to punk you out before you even reach the castle grounds, and secondly by being the boss you fight prior to Dracula, which is where he generally pops up in all Castlevania games.

Regardless of your exposure to the different Castlevania titles over the years, chances are you’ve run into a Death fight a time or two (unless you’ve only played the original Game Boy titles).  You have a rough idea of what to expect in every single fight, he comes equipped with a large sickle, and likes to throw around a lot of smaller ones, all the while flying around the room in various patterns.  His fights aren’t typically multi-staged affairs like a Dracula fight, but certain games do sport different forms, like Castlevania 3 and Portrait of Ruin.  He also tends to be one of the toughest boss fights in every single game, and chances are if you can succeed against Death, you’ll be able to best Dracula as well. 

There’s only so much you can do with Death’s appearance in game, being the Grim Reaper and all, there’s a certain look you generally need to maintain.  His design doesn’t tend to go off the wall that much, but there are certainly some exceptions.  Circle of the Moon is one of the worst culprits, offering up a Fat-Man version of Death that flies back and forth at the top of the screen for most of the fight, and then turns into a giant slow moving spider form of Death towards the end.  Spider-Death?  Not his best look.  Of course, there’s also the much maligned anime version of Death from Portrait of Ruin, but I’m actually ok with that style.  Reminds me a bit of Skeletor, sure, but it fits in with the rest of the game’s art design at least.

Personally, I’m pretty fond of the traditional sprite of Death from the first three NES Castlevania titles, and to an extent the sprite used in Castlevania IV and Order of Ecclesia.  Or course, this being a Rondo centric week, I have to mention Death’s appearance there too.  He plays a bit of a second fiddle to your encounter with Shaft, but it’s a pretty cool fight overall, taking place on the mast of the decrepit boat that makes up the entirety of Stage 5.  It’s not the hardest Death fight in the series either, but comes with two forms that look pretty bad-ass, especially the ground based second form that goes at you with nothing but the Scythe.  Like I mentioned, Death is a precursor to the Shaft fight in Rondo, and Shaft is nothing but a boss gauntlet of the bosses from Castlevania 1, which I suppose Death fits into as well.  Of course, I imagine Death isn’t a big fan of playing second fiddle to anyone else besides Dracula, so this is about the only occasion where he’s not the second to last boss fight. 

The only other thing that’s as constant as Death is Dracula himself, who makes an appearance in some form or another in just about every Castlevania title, which obviously makes sense.  It’s also worth noting that he has one dominant style of form and attack, wherein he teleports around a room, fires off fireballs or other energy, and then changes forms to some big demon thing about halfway through the fight.  It’s an established set-up with the first Castlevania game, but was more or less ignored in the second and third entry. 

When Castlevania IV picks it back up, it became the default way his fight would go down in every Castlevania title past that point.  In Rondo, it plays out exactly the same as the beginning of Symphony of the Night, with tall Dracula tossing out three fireballs or two balls of black energy at differing heights, and then switching forms to his big Gargoyle like monster attack that hops around the room after you.  Rondo’s Dracula fight isn’t really hard, in part because I’m so used to the fight from all the times I’ve played Symphony of the Night, and because his second form is pretty lumbering and slow.  The fireballs are even easy to dodge, and overall this battle feels a hell of a lot easier than some of the boss fights that came before it. 

So yeah, if you’re ever looking for an indication that you’re playing a traditional Castlevania game, you never have to look farther than this particular team up that’s lasted for more than two decades worth of games.  Sure, one could argue that it’s kind of odd that Death is a second stringer in anything, but obviously his working relationship with Dracula has been pretty good.  At least good enough that if one of them dies the other does his damnedest to resurrect them.  Actually, Death does seem to get the short end of the stick more often than not, doesn’t he? 

And with all this talk about final bosses and last stages, it’s time to bring this week of Rondo love to an end.  The blog will pick back up on Monday with a new game of the week to focus on, (I’m thinking something featuring a particular rodent), so tune in on Monday for the next weeklong retrospective. 

GAME OVER.

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Dracula X vs Rondo, all Vampires must die!

March 18, 2010

When Rondo of Blood launched on the TurboDuo in 1993, import gamers were singing it’s praises pretty early on, but with some lackluster support for Grafx anythingl in the States at that point in time, the hope of an American release for the game was pretty much out of the question.  Konami,  however, had other plans. 

Enter Dracula X for the Super Nintendo, a re-imagining of sorts of Rondo of Blood, and the point of contention for many a Castlevania fan still today.  A lot of folks seem to look at this as the inferior version of the original Rondo, while others seem to appreciate it as another entry into the series that differs itself enough from Rondo to stand on it’s own two feet.  Personally, my experience with the game stems from being a lot younger, so my memory is a little hazy.  I do remember it being tough as nails, I never made it to the Dracula fight, so I can’t really form a total opinion on how it stacks up. 

But that’s why the Internet gave us Youtube! 

So here’s a couple quick and dirty comparison vids of different points in both games, just to give you a rough idea of what changed between the two:

The final Drac fight from Dracula X (I know, it looks easy!)

Versus the final Drac fight from Rondo of Blood.

A lot of  you guys will be pretty familiar with the Rondo take on it, since that’s nearly identical to the way Symphony of the Night opens up (it’s retelling this particular event and all).  It’s definitely different in style and art to the SNES version, what with the giant pillars and bottomless pits, and the big change in Dracula’s big monster form.  Also, notice the difference in how Richter moves between both versions.  Looking a little sluggish there, Rick. 

Here’s another comparison, this time on the Werewolf boss fight from both versions.

In Rondo of Blood, he’s the boss from Stage 2:

And in Dracula X, he’s the Stage 5 boss: 

These two fights are almost identical, as opposed to the Drac fight.  The background has changed a bit, but the moveset of the Werewolf hasn’t seen any change, just some animation differences, most notably with the fireball attack.  Notice though, the SNES version moves considerably slower, with both Richter and the Werewolf.  Current CV fans of the GBA and DS games will also recognize the Werewolf, who has become a more run of the mill enemy in the current Metroidvania style games. 

Finally, let’s do a quick music comparison too:

Rondo of Blood’s rendition of Bloody Tears, a personal favorite:

Dracula X’s version:

To be fair, these are pretty close too.  However, what a huge difference CD quality music makes over a cart, right? 

Overall, if I had to choose between Rondo of Blood and Dracula X, I’d say Rondo is a clear cut winner.  That said, I think Dracula X is totally worth playing, and something that I need to seek out again in the near future.  Maybe Konami / Hudson will grace us with a VC release of this too, before I have to shell out $50+ for the hard copy.

Maria unlocked, let’s double jump!

March 17, 2010

Continuing my play through of Rondo of Blood, I unlocked Maria last night, making the game inevitably easier by doing so.  Whereas Richter portrays all the classic control elements of the Belmont’s that came before him, with his slow gait, stiff jumps, and just an overall sense of bulkiness, Maria plays on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Some players are going to be familiar with the character of  Maria Renard prior to setting foot in Rondo of Blood, she had an appearance in the PS1 version of Symphony of the Night, and she was even playable in the import version of the game that appeared on the Sega Saturn.  Taking it one step further, the PSP remake of Rondo of Blood, Dracula X Chronicles, had an unlockable version of SOTN that also had a playable version of Maria present, but was actually different than the playable Maria from the Saturn import.  So yeah, chances are you’ve probably run into her a time or two by now.

In Rondo of Blood, she’s still a little girl, as opposed to the more grown up version you’ll encounter in SOTN.  Here she comes equipped with a double jump ability, which is ridiculously useful since you can change direction mid-air with it, and her standard attack uses two doves in quick succession.  She also has a completely different sub-set of weapons from Richter, using differnet animals, like a Turtle, giving her a completely different playstyle from Richter.

 

I know a lot of people argue that once you unlock her you kind of break the game, what with her ability to get to higher spots quicker than Richter, and a couple of her attacks being pretty overpowered by comparison.  I won’t really argue that either, but I’m always a big fan of secondary characters with different playstyles being introduced, and sometimes it’s fun just to see what you can get away with if the game hasn’t been super-balanced with that second character in mind.  She is prone to a quick death though, it only takes about four hits from a basic enemy to do her in, so while she might be ideal to use during a stage, she feels relatively weak in comparison to Richter when it comes to boss fights.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention her appearance in Castlevania:  Judgement.  You know why?  Because that game totally doesn’t exist!  >_<

Rondo of Blood makes this week awesome.

March 16, 2010

Pretty nice surprise to wake up and find out Castlevania:  Rondo of Blood was finally hitting the Wii Virtual Console, eh? 

Trust me, I was suitably amped.  My only experience with the game stems from the remake and unlockable port from Dracula X Chronicles on PSP, and I’ve been pretty aware of the emulation problems that particular version has.  Being a fairly big Castlevania nerd, I had given some serious thought to picking up a TurboDuo at some point, and hunting down a copy of Rondo to go along with it, but man, that’s a pretty expensive venture. 

So, I’ll gladly fork over 900 points of Nintendo brand currency for the chance to play the definitive version of the game.

I didn’t have a lot of time to sit down and play it this evening, only making it to the end of Stage 2 before switching gears to other things (hello Yakuza), but I really, really like it.  Great animation, fantastic soundtrack, and it’s nice to play this on a big screen.  Pretty happy that I held off on that TurboDuo purchase at least.  This will probably be my retro-focused game this week, so expect another post or two on the game down the line. 

One thing I wanted to point out about this particular game that I miss in the Iga produced era of Metroidvania titles, is the familiarity of the castle grounds that carried over from the sidescrolling titles.  Whereas most of the games post Symphony of the Night change the layout of the castle and area surrounding it, there were generally familiar settings between all of the games produced during the 8 bit and 16 bit eras.  Rondo capitalizes on that early on, giving you the familiar outside castle grounds, the village from Castlevania 2, and the interior first area of Castlevania 1 (complete with zombies), automatically striking a chord in my old nostalgic heart. 

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to playing through this one then, and I’ll keep the updates coming.

Obviously this blog is a new thing for me, something I wanted to make and tie-in at the site that I write for ( www.Gaming-Age.com ), and this gives me an outlet for old retro stuff that I enjoy that doesn’t really fit in anywhere else.  I’ll probably touch on a thing or two outside of the old-school, but for the most part, expect the musings here to be pretty much focused on a time where 2D was king.