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Castlevania Chronicles – PlayStation

Castlevania Chronicles – PlayStation

Castlevania ChroniclesPlatform:  PlayStation

Release Date (NA):  October 8th, 2001

Developer:  KCET (Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo)

Publisher:  Konami

Genre:  Action / Adventure, Platformer

Nerd Rating:  7 out of 10

 

Castlevania Chronicles started its life as a reimagining of the first Castlevania game for the Sharp X68000 console (available only in Japan).  Released in 1993, Konami sought to take advantage of the new hardware.  Many levels, enemies, and Simon himself were redesigned for the Sharp X68K release while a few elements were added altogether.  Fast forward some 8 years, and I guess Konami decided that us Americans were ready for the challenge.  In addition to the original X68K version, the PlayStation release includes an updated version with a few changes, dubbed “Arrange Mode.”  (Don’t ask, I have no idea what the hell “arrange” is supposed to mean…)  Many fans were thrown off by the old-school nature of the game and as such, it has slipped into minor obscurity.

Castlevania Chronicles

One of the most difficult portions occurs late in the 2nd level.

The differences are worth noting, but they don’t much affect gameplay except for perhaps one.  Levels, bosses, enemies, items, etc. all remain intact.  First of all, the sprites for Simon and Dracula’s first form have been redesigned.  The background music from the original has been remixed and a few new animations are added such as when whipping candles or foes.  New beginning and ending sequences are tacked on that take advantage of the PS1’s hardware, and finally, Simon no longer gets knocked back when hit but instead sort of freezes and drops immediately.  This last change has a profound effect on difficulty, because now one can choose to take a hit or two in order to get on a ledge instead of constantly being knocked off.

Castlevania Chronicles

Originally, Simon sports a tan/beige palette.

Castlevania Chronicles

In “Arrange Mode,” he wears full-on BDSM gear and has pink hair!

Castlevania Chronicles

CLOCKS!

Chronicles has an interesting look and feel to it; besides the obvious nods to the first game, it takes several cues from both Dracula’s Curse and Super Castlevania IV and, if you ask me, a few hints from the arcade-only Haunted Castle.  Simon’s sprite looks remarkably similar to a downsized version of his appearance in the latter, though with different colored hair.  Lastly, the artistic style overall resembles the variety and detail from Bloodlinesarguably the most graphically superior of the pre-Symphony of the Night releases.  As if to mark the end of an era with a bang, Castlevania Chronicles embodies the best aspects of what made several of the early games so special.

Like all early releases, gameplay in Chronicles is strictly linear.  The player, as Simon, moves through 8 different levels divided into 24 “stages” which seamlessly change from one screen to the next.  Those familiar with any pre-SotN games (with the exception of Simon’s Questwill have a good idea of what to expect.  Chronicles is straight up classic Castlevania.

Castlevania Chronicles

A blood-skeleton-crying statue.

What makes this title worthy of its own release is the level of refinement put into it.  Level design is perfected and absent any near impossible areas and the graphics are as clear and crisp as one could ask for in an animated game.  In short, there are no overlooked bugs or design elements that preclude normal gameplay.  It’s a superb example of old-school Castlevania style held up to more modern standards.  Don’t be mistaken, it’s still hard as hell, but at least Simon won’t be flailing around all over the place due to inadequacies in the game engine.  If choosing to play in “Arrange Mode,” the player will get a small reprieve since Simon is no longer knocked back when hit.  It’s interesting that Konami made this change; one of the greatest sources of frustration in many Castlevania games is being flung off of ledges when hit.

As mentioned above, Castlevania Chronicles borrows heavily from previous games in the series.  Aesthetically the game is stunning, and even for those thrown off by the gameplay, it’s hard to ignore the visual effects.  Besides upholding the typical Castlevania standards such as attention to detail and healthy amounts of variety, Chronicles throws new eye candy our way.  The multitude of effects seen in the art gallery (prior to the battle with Death), the reflections in the hall of mirrors, and the fire that breaks out in the foreground because of the falling chandeliers are just a few of the standout visuals with a level of panache not yet seen.

Castlevania Chronicles

Chronicles is also loaded with bonus content and unlockables.  From the beginning, one can view an interview with the producer, and upon completing “Arrange Mode,” art galleries for Chronicles and Symphony of the Night are unlocked.  Players will also notice an option for a “Time Attack” mode now available where one can attempt to move through a level as quickly as possible; records are saved to the memory card.

Castlevania Chronicles

This is, to my knowledge, the only Castlevania game so far to use the ol’ slippery ice mechanic. Some fans speculate the frozen creature in the background (which is cool as hell) to be Olrox from Symphony of the Night.

A few other tricks are tucked away as well.  In the earliest games, when one completed a playthrough, the player would end up back at the beginning to play through a second, harder version.  Normally this did not extend past the second playthrough, however, Castlevania Chronicles includes up to 6 additional playthroughs of increasing difficulty.  One can also alter the music played by holding L1 and R1 while selecting a mode of play.  Finally, but entering in a modified version of the Konami Code (to account for the differences on the PS1 controller), one can set the date and time.  Why does this matter?  There’s a large painting just before Death is encountered, and in the original X68K version, the scene in the painting would change depending on the season.  The game was able to determine the season based on the console’s internal clock, which the PlayStation does not have.  By using the code to modify the date and time setting, one is able to see all 4 intended paintings.  Give it a shot by entering the following code at the “Start” screen:

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Circle, X, Start

Castlevania Chronicles

Nice illustration of differences between Original and Arrange Modes – from L to R – Dracula, 1st form, Original Mode; Dracula, 1st form, Arrange Mode; Dracula, 2nd form, both modes.

For anyone interested in having an ideal experience with the older, linear formula of Castlevania, Chronicles is a must-have. It may not have been the new release that fans at the time were looking for, but 13 years later we can safely ignore all of that and enjoy it for what it is: a spectacular send off to a bygone era of the franchise.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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