Akumajo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo
Super CD-ROM2, 1993
Ask just about any PC Engine owner what one of the must have games for the console is and I'm sure that 99% of them will tell you Dracula X. Part of the famed Castlevania gaming franchises, this 2-D side scrolling game never left the shores of Japan...kind of.
The game stars Richter Belmont in his quest to rescue his beloved Annette is kidnapped by Dracula's servant Shaft. On the way he rescues Annette's little sister, Maria Renard (who becomes a playable character in the game!). The game plays like most of the traditional Castlevania games that came before it. Most of the standard sub-weapons are included such as the dagger, cross, holy water, axe, pocket watch and the grimoire - a magic spell book. If you choose to play the game as Maria she has a set of unique sub-weapons: a cat, dragon, cardinal, turtle, egg or musical notes.
The game was such a success that Konami re-released the game on the Super Famicom in Japan two years later in 1995. Akumajō Dracula XX featured a few changes however. While the plot was the same, several of the levels were redesigned, a slightly different art style was used in the game and there are only 2 alternate levels. Maria was also cut from the game as a playable character. No surprise either than the music is of lesser quality being on a cartridge. The voice acting was removed in part of the cartridge's limitations. I believe the cut scenes remain...although they may have been removed for the U.S. Super Nintendo release, also in 1995.
I originally owned a CD-R version of Dracula X. The previous owner of the PC Engine Duo RX I bought included the burnt copy as a freebie. I can remember some rather graphic cut scenes featuring a human sacrifice and knowing Nintendo I can't believe they would have left that intact when the game was brought to the U.S. Now the original Japanese version was released on the Wii's Virtual Console in March of 2010, but I never downloaded it so I have no idea how faithful it is to the original (i.e. was it censored in any way).
It's not often these days that I care to own the original game in this day of digital download, but this was one game that I wanted the physical copy of. The problem is with it being an import and the large Castlevania fanbase that exists the game doesn't come cheap on the secondary market. If you're lucky you can get a complete copy for around $80.00, but usually it still fetches around $100.00.
Part of the reason I wasn't satisfied with a CD-R or the Wii digital version is the instruction manual and the awesome artwork. Now you can browse each individual page from the manual and see for yourself why this game is so awesome and coveted by many. (you can click on the images for a larger view)
Earlier I mentioned that the voice acting is done in German. Well one part of the story in the front of the manual is also written in German...odd. After you've input your name your adventure starts off with the Prologue - Mission 0. You can see in one of the pictures how there are differing paths between the levels. I like this as it adds more replay value to the game. I love the art used for all the characters. By the way, the other 3 girls you see are maidens you can also rescue in your quest to vanquish Dracula. The last two wide scans show some of the enemies and boss characters you'll run across during the game. Most of them are just as formidable in the game as they appear in the manual.
Looking at still pictures and scans is one thing, but when talking about video games you need video. A quick search on YouTube and I found a video featuring the opening sequence and the entire run. The video is over 3 hours long so I don't expect anyone to watch it all, but skip around and take a look if you aren't familiar with the game. I can't express how fun this is to play and just how awesome it is. Hands down this has to be one of the finest games in my library. I personally bought a PC Engine console solely for the ability to play this game. Of course that was before the Wii (or even the PSP) was released. Would I recommend someone today buy a PC Engine for this game? Not really...unless you are an avid gamer. It's a GREAT console and there are a lot of great games for it, but with the ability to download it to you Wii console or buying the relatively cheap Dracula X Chronicles PSP game, save your money. As I said it doesn't come cheap, but if you do decide to take the plunge I think you'll be one happy gamer like myself.