CASTLEVANIA: THE DRACULA X CHRONICLES / Konami / PSP
 
 
Rondo of Blood is a nearly-perfect game that really didn't need to be messed with. Konami didn't let that stop them from doing it anyway, delivering a "remake" akin to what Capcom did with Mega Man: Powered Up - the same basic level structure and gameplay, but "modernized" graphics (polygons that look barely better than PS1 standard) and "remixed" music (farting up what were already excellent tunes in their original form.)

This was a 2007 release, and nearly all of the team that worked on the original back in 1994 was long gone from Konami by that point. That 1994 team represented the last wave of the Golden Age of Konami; they'd built numerous 2D platformers before, and Rondo was a masterfully polished swan-song for the series before it moved on to the Metroidvania style (and before games in general abandoned detailed hand-drawn sprite art for the sort of ugly-ass polygons the remake offers up.) The PSP incarnation seems to suffer from the same problem that Mega Man: Powered Up did; when you inflate the size of the characters to accomodate 3D models, you throw off what was originally a very intricate balance created by people who were masters at their craft. Without that same level of mastery present in rebalancing all the level elements, the remake does not come out for the better.
 


I haven't played Rondo in about three years now, so I expected a bit of rust coming back. When I got slaughtered and had amazing trouble progressing in the remake, that was what I chalked it up to initially. Until I unlocked the original Rondo, and made it to level 5 with Richter on one credit on my first go, then beat the game easily on one credit with Maria on the next. Yeah, some of that may be lingering muscle memory, but I was able to take careful note of the differences after playing them so closely back-to-back, and from a level design standpoint the remake is just markedly shoddier.

And on the subject of unlocking - I can understand asking the player to unlock the original Rondo. You're trying to pimp the remake, after all (as misguided as it may be.) Having them unlock Symphony of the Night, on the other hand, is a much stranger choice. Its inclusion was probably a bigger draw for sales than the remake of Rondo. Granted, neither game is overly hard to get to, being in levels 3' and 4 respectively. For a completely new player it could still take a few hours of painful gameplay to stumble into them, however.

Before we move on to SotN, once you do unlock the original Rondo, I'm pleased to report that it has been faithfully emulated ... with the sole issue of being crammed into only in 2/3 of the screen for some reason. The PSP has a decent screen for a handheld, but there's still not a lot of real estate there to give up.

SotN is just as well-emulated as original Rondo is, aside from some odd flickering when the game shifts between different scenes (like from cinema to save screen, then save screen to gameplay.) Unfortunately, like Rondo, the screen is also condensed. It's a little bigger, giving you roughly 3/4 of the screen this time, but still. The only other issue is that they re-did the English voice acting. It's technically better written and more competent, but the festival of cheesy lines and hammy delivery that many fans loved ("DIE YOU MONSTER! PERHAPS THE SAME COULD BE SAID OF ALL RELIGIONS!") is completely gone now.

I'm giving it a 4/5 based solely on delivering fully functional ports of Rondo and SotN, since they're both 5/5 games, albeit with the screen significantly shrunk here. They're hardly the optimal versions though, and the Rondo remake that the package chiefly sells itself on it pretty much pointless.
 
 
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