Over the past two decades, the Castlevania series has featured whip-wielding heroes fighting on over a dozen different game systems, some popular and some completely obscure. Up until now, however, 1993's NEC TurboGrafx-16 Dracula X: Rondo of Blood had been available only in Japan or in the hands of a few obsessive collectors. The Super Nintendo cartridge version that eventually arrived on our shores was a pale imitation of the acclaimed, unknown, well-crafted masterpiece—a turning point in the series that most have never truly experienced. Until now.
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP is an excellent remake of the original NEC version, only with slick graphics, new orchestral music, and revised, much harder gameplay. Hidden treasures, multiple heroes, and alternative endings encourage revisiting Dracula's castle, while the mixture of traditional 2-D and 3-D graphics push the PSP to its limit. The new gothic graphics and animation give the game a modern look while retaining classic Castlevania old-school action. The simplistic but challenging controls made me realize just how much I missed the series; it's not just a great mobile game, but a well-made game on any system.
Also included with the game is an unlockable version of the original, as well as its 1997 sequel, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Both games have new translations and sport a quick save feature for the PSP. Symphony of the Night is an equally polished and renowned masterpiece, well worth the price of admission alone. Its expansive environments and fluid animation is the epitome of the interactive art form.
Both versions of Rondo of Blood are extremely challenging, with an unforgiving difficulty curve—even being an experienced Castlevania player, I found myself cursing out loud several times. The original games are not selectable at first but are hidden items, making it one of the few game collections that hides a majority its games from the start. There is both frustration and joy, and the game gives a real feeling of accomplishment when you finally beat Dracula and get the best ending. The high difficulty may turn away casual gamers, but the challenge and artistry is too much for fans to ignore. Obviously a labor of love, this collection of the two greatest beloved Castlevania games is an incredible must-own—if you're up to the task.