Whip it average!
The Belmont family has not only faced the slings and arrows of a cursed lineage, but they've also met longstanding accusations for their kinkier tendencies. I mean, all that leather and all that whipping makes you wonder.
Perhaps to escape further admonishment, two Castlevania games from the 1990's have yet to immigrate to the States. On the PC engine Super CD came Dracula X, Rondo of Blood, considered by many to be the best Castlevania. I've played it, and yes - it does thoroughly rock.
The other unreleased Castlevania game was Castlevania on the X68000, a Japanese computer made by Sharp. Well, this latter Castlevania has been re-released in the States as Castlevania Chronicles. The game is comprised of the original game and an 'Arranged' update to the classic.
If you are expecting something on the level of Symphony of the Night, you'll be sorely disappointed. Castlevania Chronicles is in the same league as Castlevania 1 and 3 on the NES, with the graphics and control of 3, but the progression and level designs reminiscent of the first game. The result is just a middling experience.
The game is comprised of 8 linear levels without multiple character choices or paths. We're talking early Castlevania gameplay - no rotatable air whipping and no stair jumping. You can whip ahead of you and can whip diagonally or directly below during jumps, but not above.
There are touches here and there that have been inherited from other Castlevanias, like little animated events, classic bad guys and recurring melodies in the soundtrack. If you allow yourself to take the Classic game in as a little piece of history, it has its moments of fun.
The Arranged version doesn't quite cut it and feels like a half-assed effort. They added a remixed soundtrack, but then seemingly stopped midway through graphic retooling. What we are left with are piddling updates for the Simon and Dracula character, plus a few light touches here and there.
And honestly, the new sprite for Simon Belmont animates pretty pitifully. When he descends a staircase, he looks like he's convulsing. I have yet to understand why they suddenly gave him red hair. He's gone techno-rave boy!
Maybe it alludes to the trance style mix of the first stage. Other music tracks take on instrumental and rock styles. All in all, the new music adds a nice touch.
The Arranged mode also offers a selectable difficulty, so everyone and their mother can get into the act. In order to compel further replay out of the game, a Time Trial is opened up when you beat it.
The extras included are really skimpy. As you progress through the game, you unlock art from Ayami Kojima, the same character designer on SotN. Which is fitting, considering the fact that most of the unlocked art is from Symphony and not this game.
The other extra is a video interview with Koji Igarashi, producer of Chronicles and director/programmer of SotN. He seems like a pretty friendly guy, with the right ideas regarding the need for value in video game design. He even alludes to future Castlvania games that might be re-released. Of course, most gamers probably don't give a hoot.
It's odd that the game is called Castlevania Chronicles when there still is essentially only one Castlevania game being referenced. There are lots more Castlevanias to port on over, including some weird Japanese games with Castlevania cameos and even an arcade game called Haunted Castle (and most of all, Dracula X Rondo of Blood, so people wouldn't have to pay through the nose for used copies of it anymore). Hopefully Igarashi's promises will prove true.
Castlevania Chronicles is more of a footnote than a chapter in the history books. This game will really only make Castlevania devotees truly happy. If the original came out today, it would be quickly persecuted for how dated it looks and plays. Chronicles is best enjoyed with a backpedaled frame of reference. If the Arranged mode offered a little more quality 're-arrangment,' I'd see some more of that value IGA talked about, despite the fact that CC is only $20.