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Castlevania Chronicles
Review By:  Jared Black
Developer:   Konami
Publisher:   Konami
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Platform
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:   2-21-02

Quite frankly, the last year or so has not been kind to the venerable old PSX. Like most video game machines on their deathbed, itís effectively been turned into a younger siblingís hand-me-down with a lineup consisting of cheap budget titles, games aimed at elementary school kids, and re-releases designed to make a few quick bucks. Castlevania Chronicles actually falls into that last category; however, itís a re-release of a Castlevania title that never made it outside of Japan. That essentially makes it a brand new release here in North America, and combined with the fact that itís a Castlevania title, makes it one of the better games to hit the PSX in a while.

If youíre a Castlevania fan, you know the story. Dracula has been resurrected, Simon Belmont enters Draculaís estate to kill him and his cronies, blah blah blah. The storyline has never mattered in any Castlevania games before the 32-bit era anyway. Draculaís estate consists of 8 blocks (3 stages per block for a total of 24), with a boss to fight at the end of every level. Each stage is in the classic Castlevania mold, with plenty of gothic effects, moving platforms, death traps and whatnot. The enemies are exactly what youíd expect from a Castlevania title too, with skeletons, floating medusa heads, and plenty of downright bizarre and scary creatures.

The key thing to understand about this game is that this is a remake of a very old game (1986), and as such it falls mostly in line with the old NES Castlevaniaís in terms of complexity. Everything about this game feels old, from the controls to Simonís abilities to the graphics and sound. Simon is fairly limited in the moves he can perform, which include crouching (press down), whip attack (circle or square), jump (x button), and use attack items such as axes and knives (press up plus circle or square). Additionally Simon can whip attack downward in a horizontal direction (an ability NOT found in the NES ones), but itís very hard to pull off without getting out of position and youíll probably end up just avoiding using it. And of course, the bane of all NES Castlevania fans is still here Ė the dreaded "stuck to the stairs" syndrome thatíll lead to a lot of cheap enemy damage before the player adjusts to it. Thatís pretty much it. In comparison, Castlevania IV allowed the gamer to twirl the whip around, use it to swing from things, attack enemies above, etc. and Circle of the Moon expands the move set even more.

Similarly, the graphics and sound are underwhelming as well. Environments are completely flat and 2D, with not a hint of depth to be found (unless you count the occasional monster flying past a window). However, being that this is a Castlevania title the atmosphere is simply oozing style, with plenty of curtains, gears, paintings, torches, etc. to set the mood perfectly. Character sprites are rather simplistic and bland, and are animated poorly in comparison to todayís newer 2D titles. So in short, the graphics are technically lackluster, but acceptable due to the presentation and atmosphere. On the whole, the graphics fall just behind Castlevania IV (an early SNES game) but way ahead of the NES ones.

Sound effects sound like a mixture of 8 and 16-bit sound effects, with all of the classic Castlevania effects youíd expect to hear. Thereís a definite gap between the quality of the original soundtrack and the new arranged version, but on the whole the soundtrack still subpar technically when compared to other PSX games. However, itís still got that Castlevania flair the series has always been known for, and as a result itís downright atmospheric and fits the mood of the game very well.

HIGHS:

  • Classic Castlevania gameplay thatís a notch above the NES classics. Even without the enhancements that came later in the series, itís still an enjoyable romp.
  • The graphics and sound are technically underwhelming, but do a great job of delivering the proper atmosphere anyway.
  • Arrange mode features enhanced sprites for Simon and Dracula, as well as an easier difficulty level.

LOWS:

  • It looks and feels like an old game.
  • Limited to a print run of 25,000 copiesÖgreat for collectors, bad for gamers.

FINAL VERDICT:

Despite the age of the game, Castlevania Chronicles comes as a recommended purchase to any Castlevania or platform fan. If youíre a diehard fan of the series, you simply have to own this. Itís a new Castlevania title youíve probably never experienced, and you will want to play it someday. So go ahead and get it now, before they all disappear and youíre stuck shelling out the big bucks on eBay. If your first Castlevania was Symphony of the Night or Circle of the Moon, then Chronicles will help you understand and appreciate the seriesí roots in addition to simply giving you a good platformer to play. And if youíve never played a Castlevania game before, then youíve been given a second opportunity to play one of the earliest games in the series.

So while Castlevania Chronicles may be one of the worst 2D outings for the series (especially given the current state of technology at its release), itís still a 2D Castlevania title. As such, itís better than virtually anything else being released on the PSX these days.

Overall Score: 7.3

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