Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is an update of the PC Engine title/ Japanese only release, Rondo of Blood, albeit with a tidy up of the graphics (sort of 3-D, but closer to 2.5D).
You initially take control of the character Richter Belmont, with another character, Maria Renad, having to be unlocked later on in the game. Then the standard jump, whip, duck mechanic of the early Castlevania games is stuck to within the game, along with another tradition of these titles, a rock-hard difficulty level. Richter walks at a crawl and gets thrown backwards whenever he is hit by an enemy, which can then lead to being hit by three others. Maria, meanwhile, is the quicker of the two, but will die within three hits, giving this title a learning curve that’s more akin to just jumping in at the deep end.
Given time and lots of threats, the fiendish nature of the game gives way to cleverly designed levels that reveal themselves in a non-linear manner. They allows you to choose from a variety of paths to take your character down and, depending upon the road that you take, there are a number of different outcomes. This gives The Dracula X Chronicles a huge amount of replay value, and a sense of smug satisfaction whenever you move onto the next level.
Filling out the package are full versions of Rohan of Blood and Symphony of the Night, both of which are hidden extras on the disc. Finding these two games is more an act of luck than judgement (unless you’ve got a cheat guide handy), but they are well worth finding, especially Symphony of the Night. With this late 90s game, which was originally released on the Sega Saturn and then the Playstation, elements of RPG were added to the gameplay and the loose ends of the Castlevania narrative were tied-up. It gives conclusions to the the previous games while creating a new story arc for future releases.
If you do have the patience and are looking for some good old fashioned platform action, Dracula X is a rewarding experience that you’ll find yourself coming back to again and again, proving that there is life in the PSP yet. Be warned though: it ain’t easy…