Even I can only handle so many Castlevania games in a row, especially now that we’re into the days of the mostly longer games in the series. After a long hiatus I finally got back to it though, and so the Castlevania madness finally continues with…
Castlevania Chronicles is a strange, and often overlooked, entry in the Castlevania series. It’s a remake of Vampire Killer, which was a sort of alternate, enhanced version of the original Castlevania that only released overseas on the fabled MSX2 computer. So while it shares several of the same levels with Castlevania, it also has a lot of additional mechanics, levels, and enemies, as well as receiving some nice visual and technical improvements in this “modern” PlayStation version.
There are whole new areas with new bosses and some new sub-weapons along the way, and of course, it’s every bit as tough as a classic Castlevania game typically is. It’s not exactly a revolutionary entry in the series, but it’s worth a look if you were a big fan of the original or just into Castlevania history.
Circle of the Moon is the first of what would turn out to be many Castlevania games that would follow in the footsteps of Symphony of the Night. They might have gotten a little carried away with their attempt to emulate the style of Symphony though. The castle this time around is enormous and requires an uncomfortable amount of backtracking, even for a Metroidvania game. It also gets incredibly difficult as you dig further into it. I mean like near Dark Souls difficult. Enemies start getting surprisingly deadly surprisingly quickly, bosses become absolute nightmares after the first few, and to make matters even worse, the more bosses you beat, the more old areas become repopulated with much higher level enemies. There’s also no more shop and almost no healing items to be found in the whole game.
There is a way to ease this pain, if you learn to master the magic system, but this is difficult, as it relies entirely on cards that are found as random rare drops from enemies. You have to combine pairs of cards to activate different effects, most of which are just different types of weapon buffs, but there are also some super useful ones like healing and extremely powerful summon spells. Unfortunately, like I said, you can only get these by being extremely lucky or by looking up a guide and doing some annoying farming, and even if you do get the right cards, you might not know how to use them. More complicated spells like summons require additional special commands to activate…and the game doesn’t tell you what they are or that they even exist.
So, yeah, this one has a lot of relatively nicely-produced content, but you’re really going to have to work for it. It’s a solid Metroidvania game, but one that you might want to avoid unless you want a serious challenge.
Harmony of Dissonance eased up a bit on the player with a game that was still somewhat challenging, but nowhere near as sadistic as Circle of the Moon. The magic system has been hugely simplified, there’s a shop again and you can even buy healing potions now, and most of all, the bosses are mostly pushovers compared to the ultra-deadly beasts in the last game.
Harmony’s particular gimmick is that you come to learn that you’re not actually exploring a single castle, but two overlapping castles that follow an identical map layout, but are each filled with different backgrounds, enemies, items, and bosses. You’ll have to do some Soul Reaver type things like knocking down a barrier in one castle to clear a path in the other version, and naturally you’ll have to explore both of them almost entirely if you want to find all of Dracula’s body parts so that you can access the real final boss and true ending.
The downside of this interwoven dual-castle system being a heavy amount of backtracking, even by a Metroidvania game’s standards. Still, it’s a worthy entry in the series and yet another one with a terribly catchy soundtrack.
That’s all for now, but when I return to Castlevania again someday, it will be to tackle the final installment in the Gameboy Advance Castlevanias and the PlayStation 2 entries in the series. Until then, check out these previous parts of this horribly long-running series:
Or will I? This is a post I’ve had sitting in the drafts folder for a really long time for some reason and I thought I’d just get it out of the way…for reasons you’ll hear about very soon…