Top 100 Retro Games: Castlevania Rondo of Blood

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
PC Engine

I did not get to actually play Rondo of Blood until college. A friend had a copy and I played it at his house. I even owned a copy for a while after a girlfriend showed me this new website called eBay, but I sold a lot of that stuff at various points. I do not remember a lot about that play through specifically to comment about it, unfortunately. I would not play it again until the Dracula X Chronicles came out.

I did play this game in its “Dracula X” form on the Super Nintendo.

According to the World Wide Web, Dracula X came out in September 1995. I must have played through it sometime that winter or spring. Around this time, I was playing through Earthbound and then, later that year, Super Mario RPG, so I was renting other SNES games as I ran into them in stores. I remember seeing this in a store in the next town over from us and being surprised because I had heard very little about a game called “Dracula X” before this. I had read about Rondo of Blood in magazines, but did not immediately make the connection between them.

A friend of mine and I took the game home, and he left to go find another friend of ours and pick us up subs at the sandwich shop in the main part of our town. I sat down and began playing and quickly became deeply immersed in a play through. I made pretty quick progress with the game and was at least a few stages into it by the time they came back with our dinner. After eating we settled in and kept forging ahead through the game and by the end of the rental cycle I had beaten it.

I remember being very surprised at how simplistic the final boss battle was…as long as you have an ax, you can lob them at Dracula and just dodge his occasional attacks. The brutal fights with Dracula in earlier games were replaced by something a bit more straightforward. I suppose the one tricky aspect was staying on a pillar. I never have enough patience to just wait for a boss to come to me, so this fight does add that complication because I always want to rush into fights…

At the time I remember being bummed out on how quickly I had gone through it and ended up doing a run through Simon’s Quest in my spare time away from Earthbound to, in my mind, make up for it. At the time, Dracula X seemed a bit inferior.

In more recent years, I bought the Dracula X Chronicles for my Vita during a sale. I began doing a play through of Rondo of Blood during the spring and ended up playing it almost every morning at breakfast for a while. Rondo of Blood is a tough game, but what I especially love about it is that I can keep going back to it because it is so fun to play. I am not averse to a challenge, but what is lost in many modern games is the joy of playing a game that is, at the end of the day, focused on fun and replay value.

I got stuck on level four, but then found Marie and began wrecking the next few levels. Many bosses are mini puzzles that you need to figure out. Once you have the pattern down, like in a Mega Man game, they are much easier to approach. I am also grateful for all the gamers who have put up videos on Youtube, which greatly aided me in defeating a few bosses.

So, the plot of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood goes something like this: That Dracula guy is back again! This time it is Simon’s descendant Richter who must take up the Belmont Family’s fight. His lover Annette is kidnapped, and he teams up with a relative named Maria to yet again defeat Dracula.

Since this game originally came out on the PC Engine, and did not even appear in America in an English translation for another 15 or so years, coverage in American magazines was limited. Electronic Gaming Monthly did call it one of the best games of the year in its February 1994 issue, and lamented the fact that it would not be imported to America. This did seem a bit odd at the time, but grew the legend of the game for sure. When I finally played Rondo of Blood in college, I was on the edge of my seat, ready for it. Dracula X on the Super Nintendo, as noted earlier, was a significantly inferior remake for sure.

The cover for Rondo of Blood is a fantastic action shot of Richter, ready to strike, and Dracula’s face in the background. It does, from afar, look like Richter is flipping you off, but if you look a little closer it turns out, for better or worse, he is not.

Rondo of Blood has one of the best soundtracks ever made. It is incredible and is a great example of the direction that CD based games, and especially Red Book audio ones, were heading in the new decade.

Rondo of Blood has received a few reissues over the years. It was available on the Wii Virtual Console, but not the 3DS one like Dracula X is, and was also ported to the PSP and Vita as the Dracula X Chronicles in a bit of a 2.5D remake. If you beat that version of the game, you could unlock the original version and Symphony of the Night.

There is also now the Castlevania Requiem collection on the PS4, which combines Rondo and Symphony of the Night.

Rondo of Blood is one of my favorite games, and I greatly enjoyed replaying it again. This was a fairly breezy replay that I mostly did, once I freed her, with Maria. She is a powerful character in this game and makes the more difficult parts of it much easier to traverse.

The only level I really ran into a lot of trouble in was near the end of the game when you have to cross all the falling bridges. There is almost always one too many enemies on the screen and while you can luck out and get through with minimal damage, I found myself barely making it over and over, which did not lead to good outcomes moving forward in the level.

The ability to save in the new collection made this not really much of a problem. I did get a bit frustrated when we were streaming through the game, but not a big deal eventually.

Richter is oddly under powered and a little slow for many of the boss fights. I do not know if it is just this port of the game, but it is really noticeable to me this time around.

This was especially an issue in the fight with Dracula. Maria can dominate the fight pretty quickly, while Richter is more difficult. I have beat this game with Richter before, but it is definitely much harder.

Speaking of Maria, something I have not done yet is find all four maidens. I found Maria and Richter’s girlfriend, but still cannot quite get Terra or Iris. I have looked at multiple guides and am unsure what I did wrong. I will come back to it at some point.

This is a wonderful game that combines heavy homages to previous games in the series, as so many of them do, with updated modern graphics and sound. The soundtrack, as we have discussed, is phenomenal and well worth checking out.


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