We are now in the second half of our series of articles that pit an original game against its remake and for this entry we’re turning down the lights and putting on some spooky music as we take a look at one of gaming’s most spectacular franchises – specifically Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and it’s PSP remake, The Dracula X Chronicles. Now this is as interesting entry in this series has both of these games earned a dedicated cult following but aren’t often remembered among the franchise’s high-points like the ‘Sorrow’ saga and of course the classic Symphony of the Night so revisiting these ‘pretty good’ games is a pretty interesting prospect.
Our story begins on the PC Engine in 1993 over in Japan when Konami brought their newest game in the Castlevania franchise over to Hudson’s console as an exclusive, however it wouldn’t stay exclusive for long… technically as about two years later the game would be retooled and released for the Super NES as Castlevania: Dracula X. And this is how most of us in North America would remember the game for years until the original PC Engine title would be brought over to Nintendo’s Virtual Console services for the Wii, 3DS and Wii U and we finally got to play the original Rondo of Blood… unless you had a PSP and a copy of the 2.5D remake – The Dracula X Chronicles.
The first stop on this comparison piece is the gameplay and in that regard both games are actually quite similar, despite being in completely different engines and with the original being a 2D adventure while the PSP game used 3D polygons. This doesn’t mean that they are exact clones however as the The Dracula X Chronicles is considered by many to be a significantly more challenging game than Rondo of Blood and one of the hardest available titles on the PlayStation Portable, a system which is no stranger to challenging experiences.
But the gameplay is where the similarities between the two version end and Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles starts to run away with this contest. For one the game disc actually includes a full port of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night which alone makes it a smart pick up. Add to the some general quality of life improvements and the fixing of a few nagging bugs and you have a clear-cut ‘definitive’ version of Rondo of Blood on the PSP. The game also looked absolutely slick on the PSP’s high quality screens aided but a return to the series visual roots.
Ditching the ‘anime’ aesthetic that the series had embraced and returning it to its more Gothic appearance was a smart decision by the developers at Konami since it helped the game stand out among not only it’s Nintendo DS contemporaries but helped bring back some of the ‘classic’ Castlevania look that had been seemingly abandoned when the series went in its former direction. This helped give the game a feel that was all its own yet also familiar to long time players and made the game feel both fresh enough for new players and welcoming to those that had moved on from the series.
All in all Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is simply a better game. It has more features, more refined gameplay and a sharper presentation than the old PC Engine game could have every hoped to deliver. That being said, it’s not like Rondo of Blood is a bad game and I invite fans of the series to check it out. Sure it’s not as iconic as Symphony of the Night or as challenging as Super Castlevania IV but its still a very enjoyable entry in the series despite it’s flaws.
FINAL VERDICT – Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is the better version
Of all the entries in this series so far this was the most clear-cut. And really it would be hard to argue that Rondo of Blood was superior to The Dracula X Chronicles in any way other than if you just happen to prefer 2D sprites over polygons. The only downside is that to play the game today you will need to track down an old PSP and a copy of the game as it hasn’t gotten yet gotten any sort of re-release. But if you do decided to check out the game you’re in for a great Castlevania adventure that definitely merits its place in the series storied history.