While the new Symphony is a straight conversion, rather than a remake, it’s a better game than the new Rondo of Blood in nearly every way. Sure, those sprite-based graphics look dated, but Symphony of Night was arguably one of the last great fanfares for the old 2D style, and the art and animation still just about hold up. More importantly, the gameplay still works wonders. New hero, Alucard, Dracula’s ungrateful offspring, is infinitely more playable than stiff-jointed Richter and his painful ‘grapes’, and Symphony was the game that brought aspects of RPGs and Metroid-style arcade adventures to Castlevania for the first time. You can choose and upgrade weapons, armour and other equipment, there’s a solid system of helpful familiars and formidable magical attacks, and you’re free to explore the castle as your equipment and your abilities allow. An awful lot of retro efforts don’t stand the test of time, but Symphony of Night is one that does.
Unfortunately for this particular package, this isn’t the only way you can get it. A 360 version has been available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for over a year, and you can also download a straight conversion of the PlayStation original via PSN. Konami suggests that this new version is the definitive one, but if you’re not desperately fussed about a few minor differences then paying £25 just for Symphony isn’t really that great an idea. Long-term Castlevania nuts might feel differently, and for them a second secret addition – the original version of Rondo of Blood – will be all the reason they need to buy Chronicles.
All in all, there are other ways in which I’d rather have seen Castlevania come to PSP, not least a 2.5D version of Symphony of Night (if Castlevania fans would allow it) or 2.5D remakes of the fine GBA or DS titles. Who knows? We could even have had (shock) a proper new, fully-3D Castlevania. All the same, I won’t be too hard on The Dracula X Chronicles for the simple reason that I’ve found it more absorbing than the vast majority of PSP games I’ve played. Whereas most games on the platform struggle to keep my attention past the first thirty minutes, this one kept me sweating and swearing last night until 1am in the morning.
For your £25 you’re getting not a woeful port of a PS2 game or some wildly ambitious FPS that falls flat on the hardware, but one flawed but oddly enjoyable game, one rather dated cult classic and one of the all-time greats of the PSX era. You’ll have to like your retro action to get the most out of Dracula X Chronicles, but if you do then you’ll have hours of satisfaction.
The remake of the legendary Rondo of Blood could have done with more work than just a 2.5D visual revamp, but even when it’s hideously frustrating it still has an odd fascination. The bundled Symphony of Night, meanwhile, is a genuine all-time great.