Thursday 1 November 2012

Akumajo Dracula X: Chi No Rondo Review (PC Engine CD)

The now almost mythical Castlevania title was released in 1993 on PC Engine CD. Unluckily for the west the console was dying a death in America and so the game never made it out of Japan. Legal issues also meant that it was difficult to port it to any other systems . Eventually an altered and watered down SNES version did appear but it is far from the game it should be.

This time a dark priest named Shaft sacrifices a girl in order to resurrect Dracula. Shaft wishes to control the world and knows he needs the dark lords help to fight the powers of good. The forces of evil attack Richter Belmont's Village and capture four women, including his girlfriend Annette Renard and her sister Maria. Thus the stage is set and off our hero goes to save the world.

Chi No Rondo really is a master class in level design. Each stage is unique, with most having multiple routes. The fun comes in finding the secret exits, which take you on a completely different journey to Dracula's castle. Along the way, if you look hard enough, you can rescue Maria from sacrifice. Once you have done this she becomes a playable character and brings a different approach to how levels must be tackled.

Richter handles a little different from Simon Belmont. You are no longer able to attack diagonally and the whip always stays in chain form. To compensate for the lack of whip flexibility the sub weapons you pick up can be super charged to cause massive damage across the screen. A back flip move has also been added and you will need it if you are to progress in the later levels.

The level design may be excellent but there is no escaping that this game is hardcore when it comes to difficulty. The new moves are all welcome but removing the diagonal attack can create console-smashing levels of frustration as enemies taunt you from unreachable positions.

Of course in order to play the game you are going to need to be pretty hardcore as well. It certainly isn't a player afraid of a challenge that imports a Japanese console and pays a three-figure sum for an old two-dimensional platformer. Once the new moves have been mastered it is possible to make progress but you must be patient. At least the excellent electronic orchestral score will keep you amused as you plummet to your doom continually.

It was a real travesty that a game of this quality remainws so elusive for many fans. There is a PSP port but it simply is not the same and the PSP is hardly the perfect platform to take the game to a mass audience. However, there is now an much easier way to play the game in the form of the Wii virtual console. Chi No Rondo deserves its excellent reputation and we can only hope it makes it's way onto more consoles in the future.


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