Castlevania: Rondo of Blood is the only Castlevania to be released for the Turbo Grafx-16 PC Engine CD. It was also a Japanese only release until the compilation the Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP and the official release on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console.
It was worth the wait, because what a game Rondo of Blood is. Konami took full advantage of the system’s sound capabilities and managed to show off some stylish cutscenes as well. Rondo of Blood may not have the graphical tricks and whip controls of Super Castlevania IV, but the overall package is a fantastic one.
Originally, fans received Castlevania Dracula X on the SNES. Dracula X is a modified port of Rondo of Blood, with great music but it has an enormous difficulty curve and feels too much like a step back.
A new Belmont takes on Dracula in Rondo of Blood
Players will take control of Richter Belmont, the latest member of the Belmont clan to wield the Vampire Killer whip. One aspect of Rondo of Blood players will take note are the graphics. Not just with the creepy intro and anime-styled cutscenes, but with the game itself. It’s a well animated game, as backgrounds will also have life to them.
Enemies won’t have just one walk cycle, but will sometimes disintegrate or break down after being attacked. Richter himself is also animated in his confident idle pose. There is just as much color as seen in the SNES games, but the graphics are not quite as crisp. Regardless, Rondo of Blood is a nice game to look at.
Richter is not the only playable character, as the little girl Maria Renard joins him. Maria uses cutesy animals as weapons and is actually pretty fun to play as. Their initial meeting is actually pretty humorous, if not a bit awkward. The clip is translated from the Dracula X Chronicles port.
Controls are back to the usual two button format and the awkward jumps are back. Not to mention, Richter doesn’t know how to whip in all different directions. However, he does know a backflip which helps dodge enemies. He also has the Item Crash attack in which, at the cost of a few hearts, he will create a super attack based on a particular item.
Level design is not just linear, as each stage has more than a few exploration options. Richter is not only looking to defeat Dracula, but also rescue is girlfriend, Annette, and other maidens. Rondo of Blood’s levels are huge, and has a similar branching path system seen in Dracula’s Curse, except done in a more organic manner.
In order to get the elusive 100% rating it’s worth it. Every stage is well designed too. The opening stage in the burning village, the clock tower and rest of the castle are actually fun to play in. Rondo of Blood manages to make the boss fights fun as well. There is a lack of adventure feeling, but it’s still a great experience.
To complete this phenomenal game, the soundtrack is superb. The addictive sounds of Rondo of Blood are a unique mix of original music and classic Castlevania tunes. Combined with some crisp voice work from the characters, and this is easily one of the best sounding games in the franchise.
Challenge is a bit high, but does not bring down Rondo of Blood
Rondo of Blood brings the controls brought back to basics, which actually creates a lot of challenge in the game. Enemy’s attacks will send Richter flying back and precision jumping is a lot more difficult. His backflip doesn’t help in certain situations as well. Maria may be more agile, but she can’t take as many hits.
Enemies and bosses are also in complete defense mode and are borderline merciless in some stages. For example, the knights in the clock tower and dragon heads take a lot of hits, regardless if the player is using Maria or Richter. It’s nowhere near as brutal as its SNES counterpart Dracula X, but it will cause a few broken controllers. Especially in the later stages.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood succeeds in being a fantastic Castlevania game because of it’s impressive levels and gameplay. It also manages to capture the horror atmosphere well with the soundtrack and graphics, despite being on a unique system. It’s bizarre spikes in difficulty may turn players off and the true lack of any major gameplay changes may turn fans off. However, sticking through it, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood stands head and shoulders above many entries in the series and can be considered one of the best.