It seems like the Belmont family and Dracula have been going at it for centuries now with the whole vampire hunting/eternal resurrection thing (respectively). Yet it's provided players with many years of great Castlevania titles, where finely tuned classic platforming and baddie dispatching action are the orders of the day. Now it's Richter Belmont's turn to take up the whip and teach ol' Drac a lesson or two after the vampire hunter's girlfriend, Annette, is kidnapped.
Blood in your eyes
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is actually a PSP remake of 1990s cult fan favourite, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, brought into the 21st century and given a large dose of spit and polish. Although previously unreleased in Europe, Rondo of Blood still picked up a strong following through its solid gameplay, anime styling and multiple routes to completion, as well as influencing many of the Castlevania titles that followed.
The Dracula X Chronicles takes all of these elements and wraps them in a comforting contemporary package, taking full advantage of PSP's powerful hardware. The visuals have been enhanced with fully 3D cut-scenes and improved graphics in the main game, lending a superbly animated and richly coloured third-dimensional slant to the 2D side-scrolling gameplay.
New dialogue has also been added to compliment the wonderfully rearranged and remastered rock-orchestral soundtrack, along with the ability to tackle four of the game's bosses in succession through the Boss Rush mode, which can be played co-operatively with a second player using the Ad-Hoc Wireless connection.
Lashings of challenge
Richter represents the old school mechanics resting within the core of Dracula X Chronicles' gameplay. Blessed with only a special back flip and a small selection of weapons (including the ability to use certain items in a room clearing smart bomb fashion), his journey through Dracula's castle is a tough one. The game requires you to master all the hunter's abilities - especially his evasion techniques - to fully progress through the nine initial stages and secret levels.
However, if there's any series which demands repeated plays, it's Castlevania - and this inclusion is no exception. The game rewards persistence and perseverance through the vigorous trials of its retro mechanics. It's stern, but fair.
There are also ways to make the game easier through the use of its second character, Maria, who can be unlocked with careful playing. Maria's range of abilities, which include using a multitude of animals to attack for her, offer a slightly more lenient path, as well as opening up new areas out of Richter's reach, meaning most of the levels can be replayed in a different fashion to before.
With all that taken into account, it should be no surprise that The Dracula X Chronicles is an unbeatably high value purchase. There are different endings, new characters and multiple routes, and the chance to discover a pixel perfect version of the original Rondo of Blood to indulge in a little nostalgia.
Further to that, the masterful PlayStation classic, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, is also there to be unlocked, meaning one of the best chapters in the whole series is at your fingertips in its entirety, at no extra cost. Between Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night it's a Castlevania fan's dream.
From its dynamic opening where you battle on horseback with Death, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles demands your attention and refuses to let go until you've fully explored its riches. It packs a meaty challenge and there's no denying that beneath the sweat, tears and - naturally - blood, remains timeless gameplay encased in a beautifully modern exterior.