|2D Action; Turbo Grafx CD; Konami; 1993|
|Richter Belmont: Anime version!|
Storywise Rondo of Blood is nothing special. It is the classic Castlevania set up, Dracula is revived, you're a Belmont, Apply whip directly to Vampire. What Rondo of Blood did with the story was to set it up with story events and cinematics that the CD based PC Engine (AKA Turbo Grafx 16) could deliver. This meant fully voiced sequences with crude (by today's standards) anime cinematics. While the Anime ascetic doesn't suit Castlevania at all (And still doesn't, thank you Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin) it was revolutionary at the time and doesn't over shine the gameplay aspect. Of course if you are playing an import version of the game, the Japanese only dialogue will leave the story lost on you, but don't worry, most of what is going on is pretty self explanatory.
|Only in Castlevania can you whip a rock and the whip wins.|
But what really sets Rondo of Blood apart from previous Castlevania's is size, there are 12 stages (13 if you include the brief Prologue) and several of them are locked away down alternate hidden paths in the game. Some require falling down pits behind breakable walls, others involve using devices hidden within stages. Each hidden path is different, but they are not hidden in such a way that it is infuriating to find them. Most are discovered by an amusing "hey, what's this?" rather than a frustrated "There you are goddammit!" Each of the "off the beaten" paths not only leads to a different boss fight but a new stage, and hidden somewhere in these stages are the 4 women that Dracula has kidnapped, including Richter's fiance Annette and Annette's little sister Maria. While the former does nothing but increase your completion counter and unlocks a heartwarming reunion, rescuing Maria makes her available to play as. Not only does Maria play completely differently from Richter, as she is faster, takes more damage, and has different abilities including a double jump, she has completely different subweapons which function completely differently and has different screen clearing Item Crashes. Also, it is amusing to play through the game as a little 12 year old girl who fights by throwing doves at enemies and just has a dragon at her beck and call.
|"EAT CRUCIFIXES WOLF MAN!"|
Rondo of Blood is often regarded as the best of the classic Castlevanias, and after playing through it for the first time, it is really hard to argue with that assessment. Rondo not only combined fantastic level design with breath taking graphics for the time and one of the best Castlevania soundtracks. It also introduced massive levels with branching paths within, secrets everywhere, and a framework that I seriously think could be employed to bring classic Castlevania games into the new generation (If Symphony of the Night didn't dominate what 2D Castlevania games where to be). The only bar to entry for players is it's high difficulty and more restrictive controls. That being said, it is Highly Recommended for all gamers but a MUST PLAY for fans. Get any version you can, even an imported Japanese version works as most of the onscreen information and menus are in English.
Until Next time.