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Top 10 Castlevania Games You May Never Have Played

Top 10 Castlevania Games You May Never Have Played

3.  Rondo of Blood (Chi no Rinne) – PC Engine Duo

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood

Here we are at one of our two 100% foreign games of the bunch.  Although I wanted to stay away from imports as much as possible since it’s simply too easy to make a list of “games you probably haven’t played” that were released outside of the country, Rondo of Blood deserves special mention.  Not only is it the direct prequel to Symphony of the Night, but it also sets gameplay and graphical precedents for what many consider to be the pinnacle of the series.

Had the game even made it to North America, you’d need either the Turbo Duo or TurboGrafx-16 + TurboGrafx CD add-on to play it on.  The PC Engine Duo was the Japanese equivalent to the Turbo Duo and though they’re considerably more easy to come by (and cheaper) these days than an actual TG CD unit, there wouldn’t have been many floating around at the time.  PC Engine and TG-16/CD games were mainstream devices in Japan, but never fared well over here and Konami chose not to port the title to something comparable such as the Sega CD.

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood

The only other Japanese Castlevania release to be so widely discussed on this side of the Pacific is of course the foreign “Akumajo Dracula X: Gekka no Yasoukyoku,” sometimes known as “Nocturne in Moonlight,” and best known as “the Japanese Sega Saturn version of Symphony of the Night.”  Although arguably more popular, Dracula X steers further from Rondo of Blood than the PS Symphony of the Night from the Japanese Saturn release, and the matter continues to fascinate North American Castlevania fans who feel left out.

How can you play it today?

Finally, an answer with a little more nuance than “buy it”or “emulate!”

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood

Perhaps the most attractive option is to use the Wii Virtual Console to download Rondo of Blood for roughly $9.  It’s ported from the original Japanese version so the English is scarce, but you’ll be able to get the authentic experience.  Another viable choice is to seek out Number 8 on the list, The Dracula X Chronicles, which includes an updated English version of the title.

I’m not an expert when it comes to emulation, and I know almost nothing about emulating disc-based games.  I believe that in at least some cases, the same image file used to burn copies of the game can be used for the emulation itself when mounted on a virtual drive running the appropriate software.   This snippet of theory is about the extent of my knowledge, but I’ll assume those interested in taking this path will understand what to do.

Now for the fun stuff!  Buying a disc and popping it in isn’t quite specific enough for this application, for several reasons.  First, we’re dealing with an import; second, we’re potentially dealing with 2 separate consoles, neither of which is too widely available; and third we’re dealing with optical media which we know (especially if you’ve read my articles about burning games) we can easily duplicate! 

Half of the equation is the hardware.  Without the right hardware, there’s little point in discussing the game.  I could just tell you that you’ll need to get a hold of a PC Engine Duo, but that would betray my long-winded nature, plus a short primer on these consoles and versions is good general knowledge to have when it comes to old and obscure platforms.  First we have to nail down the systems themselves, and then discuss what they can and can’t do.  If “get a PC Engine Duo” is truly good enough for you, skip down past the indentations.

Turbo Grafx-16

Turbo Grafx-16


TG-16 CD Add-On

TG-16 CD Add-On

We’re basically looking at 3 systems here (pay attention to the abbreviations, because I’ll be using them):

    • TG-16 with TGCD

      TG-16 with TGCD

      TurboGrafx-16 (TG16) with TurboGrafx CD (TGCD) Add-on – I’ll be referring to the combined unit as the TGCD since the add-on is incapable of functioning without the TG16 – The original TG16 is a North American system analogous to the PC Engine in Japan.  Games come in the form of small HuCards, about the size of a credit card but a little heavier.  Similar to the Sega CD for the Genesis and Jaguar CD for the Atari Jaguar, NEC (the company behind the hardware) released an add-on, the TGCD.  These units are pretty rare, and when they do pop up fetch very high prices.

    • Turbo Duo

      Turbo Duo

      Turbo Duo – NEC later came out with a model where both components were built into one device, and it looks very much like the Japanese PC Engine Duo.  It accepts both HuCards and CDs.  These items are damn near impossible to find.

    • PC Engine Duo

      PC Engine Duo – This is the device you really need!

      PC Engine Duo (PCED) – This is the Japanese version of the Turbo Duo, also supporting CDs and HuCards.  A moderately popular gaming machine in Japan, these can be found for roughly half the price of a single TGCD unit and are fairly common. 

So with this basic understanding of available machines, it’s important to understand which can do what.  Ultimately we’re talking about 4 types of media: North American HuCards, Japanese HuCards, North American CDs, and Japanese CDs.  I don’t know the exact details concerning the Turbo Duo, though I would suspect it functions identically to the TGCD.  It doesn’t really matter either way, because you’ll probably already have a PCED, and found and convinced yourself to drop the necessary cash on the TGCD by the time you ever even see a Turbo Duo for sale.

As expected, the TGCD can play both North American HuCards and North American CDs, and the PCED can play both Japanese HuCards and Japanese CDs.  However we do have some overlap here, and this is where things get interesting.  You’ll definitely want to know what’s next if you ever plan on buying/burning CD games or even collecting old HuCards.

The CD portion of the PCED is not equipped with any sort of region lockout feature, but the TGCD is.  This means that any Turbo CD will work on the PCED, but only American Turbo CDs will work on the TGCD.  In an unusual twist of fate, the cheaper alternative is actually the more functional one: buy the pricey TGCD and only North American CD games will work, but with the PCED, American and Japanese discs will play as intended.

What’s even stranger concerns the HuCards.  The HuCards, I’m told, do not  have any sort of region coding, and in theory should be compatible across systems.  However, some sort of unnamed, unspecified, unexplained glitch prevents American HuCards from working on the PCED.  Do Japanese HuCards work on the TG16?  I don’t know because I don’t have one to test, though the implication is that they do.  I do own the PCED which is build to handle them, so honestly I haven’t given the issue much thought.  Now what the hell does this all add up to?  It means that one can play all 4 types of media with the cheapest possible combination of equipment.  The PCED will play American and Japanese CDs as well as Japanese HuCards.  The plain old TG16 without the TGCD attachment can be used for American HuCards, and these units are relatively inexpensive and easy to find.

The take home lesson here is that you’ll need the PCED if you want to play Rondo of Blood, be it a bona fide copy or a burned disc.  Since the game is a Japan-only exclusive, the region lockout on either the TGCD or Turbo Duo units will prevent the game from working at all.

Castlevania: Rondo of BloodWith the hardware out of the way, getting the game is the easy part.  You can regularly find copies on the internet, though it’ll probably run you in the ballpark of $100, used.  Buying used optical media can be dicey as they’re often misrepresented in terms of condition, and I’m personally much less comfortable spending this kind of cash on something so easily damaged.  I know I’ve advocated owning “the real thing” thus far, but too many less than stellar experiences with alleged “good condition” CD/DVD-based media has led me to view such things cautiously.

Our other option is burning a copy, an easy process that I’ve outlined previously.

Cube’s Recommendation:  DOWNLOAD IT via the Wii’s Virtual Console.

Written by The Cubist

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