Basically, our hero, Richter Belmont, moves like a man with a nasty case of haemorrhoids. Worse, he can’t run if his life depends upon it – which it frequently does. Despite the fact that enemies can attack from all directions, he can only use his whip horizontally left or right, and he’s a painfully unresponsive platform leaper. What’s more, Richter can only go up or down stairs if you press the appropriate diagonal key at the right time to make him do so. Put these things together in the initial levels and they’re an annoyance. Put them together when the going gets tough later on – or in one of the more challenging boss battles – and you have a recipe for sheer exasperation. Dracula X Chronicles is the first game that has ever made me physically abuse my PSP. Having endured one solid thump, the poor beleaguered handheld even asked if I wanted to quit the game. Accident or heartfelt plea? I guess we’ll never know.
There are times, too, when the Rondo remake seems just too hard-edged for modern tastes. Many foes are crazily difficult, requiring an intimate knowledge of their attacks and movement patterns and several solid swipes before they’ll go down for good. There are annoying drops and sudden-death plunges a-plenty. When something fatal happens, you’ll curse because, while you have a limited number of continues which allow you to restart from the same area, run through these and you’ll have to kick through the whole stage from the beginning. Grrrrr!
Despite this, the new Dracula X does have a certain magic. I’ve sworn at it, screamed at it, and nearly thrown my PSP across the room on more than one occasion, but there’s something about the game, its different routes and its secrets, that keeps me coming back for more. Plus, take a particular route through level 1 and level 2 and you can unlock a second playable character, Maria, who moves faster and has a more flexible selection of weapons than rubbish old Richter. This makes the game almost decently playable, and so you’re more inclined to explore it. I’m still not sure I’d recommend this remake to everyone, but anyone with a love of retro classics should certainly consider it.
There is, however, another reason why anyone with a PSP might want to give Dracula X Chronicles a go. Hidden deep – annoyingly so – within the alternate third level of the Rondo remake is an icon that unlocks the full, original version of the next game in the series. This just happens to be the classic Symphony of Night, complete with a few enhancements like new (and less amusingly ridiculous) English dialogue plus Maria as a second playable character.