Posts Tagged ‘dracula’

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.