Game Corner: Kid Dracula (Xbox One)


Released: May 2019
Originally Released: October 1990
Developer: Konami Digital Entertainment/Konami Industry Co. Ltd
Original Developer: Konami
Also Available For: Game Boy, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation 4

The Background:
Well, this is it; over the past few weeks, I have been reviewing each of the titles of the Castlevania Anniversary Collection and we’re finally at the end with perhaps the most obscure title in the collection. By 1990, Konami was pretty much knee-deep into establishing Castlevania as a successful franchise; Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (ibid, 1989) had released the previous year and both Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (ibid, 1991) and Super Castlevania IV (ibid) were due to come out in the following year. So, naturally, this was the perfect time for a chibi­-style, super-cute parody platformer starring Dracula’s son. No, not Alucard (or, at least, not explicitly…); this title would, instead, be a spin-off starring the titular “Kid Dracula”, a mischievous little imp with a super-deformed, cartoony aesthetic. His self-titled games released exclusively in Japan until the release of the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, which included the original NES version for the first time, in English, but was Kid Dracula worth the wait or is it just another example of a wacky Japanese title that never should have seen the light of day in the West?

The Plot:
After waking from a long sleep, the self-proclaimed “Demon King”, Kid Dracula, is challenged by the demon Galamoth. Arming himself with his father’s cape, Kid Dracula sets out to destroy Galamoth and his minions and retake his throne as the Demon King.

Kid Dracula is a 2D, sidescrolling action/platformer that, in a change of pace, has players take on the role of Dracula’s son, Kid Dracula (also called “Lil’ Drac” and, presumably (given their similarities), a super-deformed version of Alucard), and journeying across a number of levels defeating Galamoth’s minions. Rather than using a whip, Kid Dracula attacks with a fireball-like projectile, just like his Dad. You can blast enemies in the direction you’re facing, shoot upwards, and shoot downwards while jumping, making Kid Dracula a relatively versatile character. You can also hold down the attack button to charge up a shot, which will allow you to collect Medals that you can use to play one of the game’s four mini games at the end of each level. Rather than collecting the traditional Castlevania sub-weapons, you’ll acquire new attacks after defeating each of the game’s bosses; you can switch between them by pressing the “Select” button to assist both in disposing of enemies and your traversal through the game’s nine brisk levels, though there is a significant delay in switching between attacks and there’s no option to mix and match them.

Take out enemies with a fireball or charged shot.

Unlike the protagonists of other Castlevania games in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, Kid Dracula is a floaty, slippery little devil but no less sluggish in his movements. When you jump, Kid Dracula gets some serious height (even more so when jumping underwater) and floats his way downwards slow enough for you to make sudden course corrections to avoid instant-death spikes or attack enemies. However, he also comes to a dead stop when jogging, meaning it’s pretty easy to slip off platforms to your death, especially in the ice world, which has some of the worst slippery ice physics I’ve ever encountered. Kid Dracula’s health is represented by hearts; you start the game in Dracula’s Castle and with three hearts but very quickly upgrade to four and, eventually, five, by picking up bigger heart containers. Regular hearts will replenish Kid Dracula’s health and he can earn as many extra lives as he needs by playing the mini games at the end of each level.

Each level has its own gimmicks and hazards, ranging from the simple to the frustrating.

Kid Dracula features a fair amount of level variety and gimmicks; in level one, you’re tasked with escaping Dracula’s Castle, a journey that takes you from the throne room (traditionally the end of most Castlevania games) and through the obligatory clock tower. It’s a very vertical opening level but the game quickly switches it up in level two, which sees you hopping over clouds across a bottomless pit of death and riding a track. A significant portion of level three is underwater and, after jumping around on rooftops in level five, you’ll end up riding a subway train, dodging low-hanging ceilings and fighting off monsters as the level auto-scrolls you forwards.

Level six has probably the worst hazards in the entire game.

Generally, Kid Dracula balances these different gimmicks pretty well but you’ll be faced with the same issues that have plagued all of the Castlevania games in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection: wonky physics, tricky jumps, and knockback from damage. As a result, a lot of Kid Dracula’s levels can be more frustrating than enjoyable and the game can be a bit of a chore to get through thanks to some dodgy enemy placement and instant-death traps; in level six (a desert), you have to jump around falling spiked blocks (just brushing the edge of these instant-death spikes will kill you), are chased by a giant boulder that will kill you the moment it touches you, have to out run a collapsing spiked ceiling, and then have to battle the boss on floating hands, meaning that one hit will send you plummeting to your death.

Graphics and Sound:
Kid Dracula has an amusingly charming little art style; it’s hyper deformed, turning Castlevania’s traditionally gothic and horrific aesthetic into a chibi, over-exaggerated, cartoony style that is pure Japan through and through. Kid Dracula himself stands out at all times thanks to his massive head and cute little face but each of his enemies hold their own as cutesy-fied monsters that seem more adorable than threatening.

Some levels are more detailed than others.

It’s a good job that the sprites are so large and cartoony and expressive as the game’s backgrounds leave a lot to be desired. It all kind of falls apart after you leave Dracula’s Castle, which is when Kid Dracula throws such cliché level designs as a pyramid, an ice level, and a city at you. Though there are some interesting level designs outside of the first level (the second level being set in the clouds and the airship are quite interesting), a lot of the backgrounds are criminally plain and uninteresting at times which you would think would allow Kid Dracula to run quite smoothly but you would be wrong.

Kid Dracula suffers greatly from slowdown and sprite flickering.

Instead, Kid Dracula suffers from the worst slowdown and sprite flickering in the Castlevania Anniversary Collection so far…and I’m struggling to see why. It’s not as if the game is overly complicated or full of that many moving elements but you’ll stutter and jitter about during critical moments, slipping to your doom or making fatal errors when fighting the game’s various bosses because the game slows to a crawl and the sprites start bugging out on you. Thankfully, the game has a whimsical soundtrack and loud, cartoony sound effects, all of which add to Kid Dracula’s quirky nature, but none of which can help reduce the frustration the slowdown and sprite flickering brings to the title.

Enemies and Bosses:
Kid Dracula has to battle a whole host of wacky enemies in his debut game; level one features all of the staples you’d expect from a Castlevania title (bats, zombies, spear-throwing knights, and Frankenstein’s Monster) but, from level two onwards, you’ll come up against such enemies as a broomstick-riding witch, cloud-riding imps who throw lightning bolts at you, Olympic swimmers, axe-wielding maniacs who wear hockey masks, aeroplane-throwing apes, and even aliens dropped from flying saucers. Each of these is rendered in the same exaggerated, cartoony style as the kid himself, which can often undermine the very real threat they pose to your health. Sure, the skeletons in Kid Dracula look funny but they can still be a pain in the ass when they throw their heads at you, and the enemies still respawn once you leave the screen. Luckily, most can be put down with one of Kid Dracula’s regular fireballs and those that are trickier can be done in with either his charged shot or Bomb technique.

Most bosses are ridiculously easy but Lady Liberty challenges you to a quiz!

As for bosses…well, you fight a giant chicken at one point so what does that tell you? The first boss is a little ghost who runs off and gets his bigger brother after you’ve damaged him enough and most of these encounters are a pretty simple affair where you just dodge their attacks or run underneath them and blast them with your more powerful attacks until they are defeated. However, when you reach the end of level five, you’ll encounter Lady Liberty who challenges you to a quiz rather than battling you, which is an amusing twist. Things get a bit trickier with level six’s sphinx head boss; you have to jump precariously from its disembodied hands and avoid the bubbles it shoots out all while floating over a bottomless pit that spells instant death. Once you reach level nine, you’ll have to run a gauntlet of sub-bosses including an massively annoying, teleporting dragon who can only be damaged in a small window of opportunity by your Ice Shot and a giant mechanical drill and is so big that it’s difficult to defeat it without taking at least one hit.

Neither Galamoth presents much of a threat.

Eventually, you’ll go one-on-one with Galamoth himself not once but twice; the first time, you battle “Demon Lord Galamoth” at the end of level seven and he attacks with both a sword (easily jumped over) and a stream of fire (easily ducked). The second time, you battle “King Galamoth” at the end of level nine but, despite being the game’s final boss, he’s not much of a threat. He’s completely immune to all damage except in the small window where he opens his mouth to drop a fireball on your head; just stay between the lighting bolts he shoots down and keep as far left (or right) as you can and be sure to fire a charged (or Bomb) shot upwards before you miss your window and you’ll be back as the King of all Demons in no time.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Every time you defeat a boss, Kid Dracula learns a new technique; you can learn the Homing Shot (which fires a spread of projectiles that home in on enemies, but isn’t particularly strong), a Bomb Shot (which deals explosive damage and one-shots every regular enemy), and an Ice Shot (which, apparently, freezes enemies in place but I only ever used it against the aforementioned dragon boss). Kid Dracula also learns two useful techniques to help him progress further through levels and past hazardous obstacles; the first is the Bat transformation, which turns you into a bat, and the second is the “Up Up Down Down” technique that allows you to walk on ceilings. Both of these only last for five seconds so you have to be quick when using them and, while you can fire a standard projectile when on ceilings, pressing the attack button when you’re a bat instantly turns you back into Kid Dracula (and, generally, sends you falling to your death). It’s also worth noting that you’ll lose the bat transformation if you hit a wall and won’t be able to perform it at all if you’re standing too close to a wall, and it’s pretty difficult to control Kid Dracula when he’s in this form, so it’s best to have a route figured out before attempting this transformation.

Try your luck in the mini games to earn extra lives.

At the end of each level, you are asked to pick a route and, depending on how Kid Dracula makes his way downwards, will play one of four mini games: Roulette, Cancan, Garapon, and Jab ‘N Pop. In each, you must pay to play with your Medals, so it’s advisable to hit as many enemies as you can with your charge shot so you can collect a lot of Medals, and can win extra lives if your luck is in. These mini games aren’t especially difficult, just based more on chance than skill, and the instructions for their play can be a bit vague; I still don’t really get how Roulette works and I just tended to randomly select stuff and hope for the best and still walked away with at least one extra life each time.

Additional Features:
Like other Castlevania games, Kid Dracula features a password system that allows you to return to (or jump to) any of the game’s nine levels whenever you want. The Castlevania Anniversary Collection also awards you an Achievement after you clear the game, allows you to make liberal use of the save state feature, and apply different frames and display options to customise the game’s appearance to your liking as standard.


The Summary:
Kid Dracula is a quirky, amusing little title; the way the characters talk in cutscenes is charming and the game is clearly meant to be a fun little spin-off of the traditionally dark, broody, and gothic Castlevania series and I can appreciate its humour and artistic direction. Indeed, it’s hard to deny that the sprites look great; everything has this hyper deformed, chibi-aesthetic to it and it’s like playing a peculiar Japanese anime rather than a horrific battle against bloodstained monstrosities. Yet all the humour and artistic charm in the world can’t change the fact that Kid Dracula is a laborious experience; the controls are slippery, the level layouts frustrating, and the slow down and sprite flickering absolutely maddening. Maybe I’m just burned out on the series by this point, especially the issues that dogged the 8-bit Castlevania’s (and many other titles, to be fair), but I feel like Kid Dracula really doesn’t have any excuse to struggle as hard as it does to run at an appropriate speed and level of quality due to its more simplistic nature.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What are your feelings about Kid Dracula? Do you feel it was a worthy attempt at expanding the franchise or do you think it was maybe a bit too “out there” as a concept? What other Castlevania characters would you like to see get their own spin-off? Are there any other genres you think Castlevania could try to fit in to, like racing or a first-person shooter? Whatever your thoughts on Kid Dracula, or Castlevania in general, feel free to leave a comment below and check out my other Castlevania reviews.

Game Corner: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Xbox 360)


One of the things I love about Xbox Game Pass is that it allows me to play videogames I’ve either always wanted to play, haven’t played in a long time and can just farm for Achievements, or games I’ve always wanted to play, like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, 1997). Now, I’m not an especially well-versed player of the Castlevania series (Konami, 1986 to present); I’ve only ever owned one game in the franchise, the abysmal Castlevania (Konami Computer Entertainment Kobe, 1999) for the Nintendo 64, and I’ve only ever completed one title in the franchise, Super Castlevania IV (Konami, 1991), courtesy of the Super SNES Classic Edition. This, as I may have mentioned a few times before, is mainly due to growing up without the income necessary to allow me to own both a Nintendo and a SEGA console; however, I have been a fan of the franchise regardless and have always wanted to play more games from the series. After having a great time with Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Inti Creates, 2018), a fantastically well-crafted homage to the Castlevania franchise, I jumped at the chance to give Symphony of the Night a spin.

Alucard is on a mission to confront his father.

As I understand it, Symphony of the Night is a direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (Konami, 1993) and the game opens with the final events of its predecessor, with acclaimed vampire hunter Richter Belmont taking on and defeating Count Dracula. Despite this supposedly forcing Dracula into a one-hundred-year slumber, the Count’s castle, Castlevania, reappears four years later and, with Richter missing, Dracula’s dhampir son, Alucard (who had previously battled his father in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (ibid, 1989), alongside Richter’s ancestor, Trevor Belmont), heads into the monster-infested castle to destroy his father.

Without the right equipment, you won’t last long in Castlevania.

I remember Super Castlevania IV being a fun little romp; you explore a vibrant gothic landscape, upgrade your whip with easily-found power-ups, and battle enemies and bosses that naturally increase in difficulty. Symphony of the Night, however, is a steep learning curve to the uninitiated; it doesn’t take long to get a handle on the basics but you really need to be paying attention to your surroundings and what every weapon and skill does so you can proceed further and further into Castlevania. The voice acting is classic cheese but the music is atmospheric and fitting to the environment; more importantly, the gameplay and controls are tight and responsive. There are very few cheap deaths in this game; no bottomless pits or instant kill traps here. If you get killed, it’s probably your own damn fault as you waded in unprepared or took on a boss or swarm of enemies with low health or the wrong items equipped, making the game a test of your actual gaming skills rather than an exercise in frustration.

Death strips Alucard of all his weapons.

Alucard begins the game fully powered up and ready to take on the forces of evil but quickly encounters Dracula’s chief underling, the Grim Reaper, who strips Alucard of all his items and reduces the player down to simple punches. Alucard breaks from the franchise’s tradition of featuring a whip-wielding protagonist and, instead, favours a sword and shield, which can be equipped to different hands (and buttons), though other weapons (including rods, which are similar to the whip) and items can be acquired and equipped as Alucard makes his way through Castlevania.

Alucard can become a bat, wolf, or mist to reach new areas.

Alucard can also pick up sub-weapons by breaking pots, vases, lamps, and other items; these range from throwing knives, to Holy Water, to protective Bibles, and even fancy lightning. Alucard can only hold one sub-weapon at a time, though, but, whenever he picks up a new sub-weapon, his existing sub-weapon drops to the floor for a short time so you can pick it back up if you don’t fancy trading out. Also similar to other Castlevania titles, Alucard can pick up money, hearts (which, in a move I’ve never understood, allow him to use his sub-weapon rather than replenish his health) and restore his health by picking up pot roasts and potions. Power-ups to increase Alucard’s health and heart count can also be found scattered throughout Castlevania, as can better weapons and equipment, though these are often protected by bosses or hidden away in areas that will require Alucard to obtain other abilities or transformations. Being a dhampir, Alucard has some nifty abilities that other series characters were probably lacking; he can dash away from enemies with a press of a button (but not forwards, which is a bit annoying), cast magic, double jump, breath underwater, and transform into a wolf, bat, or mist to reach new areas. However, most of these abilities will need to be found by use of copious amounts of back-tracking; for example, you may spot a new area up on the ceiling that you cannot reach with Alucard’s standard jump, so you’ll have to acquire the bat or mist transformation to get up there and explore new areas.

Be prepared to face some messed-up enemies…

Symphony of the Night features a lot of RPG elements to its action-orientated gameplay; defeating enemies and bosses gains Alucard experience points and, with enough points, he will level up and his stats (attack, defence, and so forth) will improve. In addition to equipping weapons and shields to do more damage or reduce enemy attacks, Alucard can also equip armour, jewellery, and other items to boost his stats or for other perks. Item management is key here as some weapons require two hands to wield, some deal or defend against specific element attacks and will thus be better suited to certain bosses, and some weapon and shield combinations confer Alucard with very helpful buffs (such as the shield delivering massive damage while simultaneously restoring Alucard’s health). Alongside saving (which can only be done in designated save rooms scattered through Castlevania), exploring Castlevania is a chore in itself; the castle is massive, stretching vertically and horizontally, and the game never holds your hand once in trying to navigate through its maze-like rooms. You can visit a librarian to purchase items and a map but you’ll still need to visit every room and squeeze through every nook and cranny if you want to find the best items, skills, and weapons. As Alucard explores Castlevania, he encounters many nightmarish foes, from zombies and skeletons to monstrous gargoyles, possessed books, and broom-riding witches, all of which can pose a significant threat as the player must equip a healing item in place of a weapon in order to use it and such items are scarce.

Symphony of the Night has some massive boss battles.

Luckily, Alucard can also acquire familiars who will follow him around and provide assistance; the faerie will heal Alucard without the need to assign an item (though it can be easy to burn through your inventory this way) and the demon will attack enemies and press switches you cannot reach. These are extremely useful but also quite limited; it might be because I wasn’t quite sure how to use the familiars but it seemed like they wouldn’t attack every enemy or heal me as often as I would like, making them a little unreliable. Alucard also has to face some massive bosses, including a minotaur, a mummy, and a succubus, the gigantic, lightning-wielding Galamoth, and even evil doppelgängers of himself and characters from Castlevania III. Some of the bosses, like the Gaibon, Slogra, and Werewolf, even appear later in the game as regular enemies (though Alucard should be strong enough to wipe the floor with them by that point) and the majority of the boss battles require some level of strategy in order to get around their attack patterns.

Richter’s turned to the dark side…or has he?

While exploring Castlevania, Alucard comes across Maria Renard, who is searching the castle for Richter; however, when Alucard finds Richter, he is revealed to be plotting Dracula’s return in order to give his life meaning. The battle against Richter can quickly go sideways unless Alucard obtains the Holy Glasses from Maria (which can only be found by getting the Gold and Silver Rings from opposite ends of the castle and using a sub-weapon to activate a clock…because of course); the glasses allow the player to see a mysterious orb controlling Richter and destroying this will free him from the evil influence of the wizard Shaft. Shaft then taunts Alucard and goads him into following him further and it was at this point that I prepared myself for the final confrontation…only to be transported to an exact replica of Castlevania…only upside-down and filled with tougher enemies! The Reverse Castle caught me completely off-guard and added maybe another weekend to my playthrough; it seemed as though every time I seemed to be making progress and getting closer to the end, Symphony of the Night threw another curve ball at me that expanded the map and the narrative further and the Reverse Castle was no exception. It was simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating, especially as the Reverse Castle’s enemies often appear in large groups and strange combinations that force the player to flee more often than not.

Play as Richter for a more traditional Castlevania experience.

Alucard must battle five sub-bosses in the Reverse Castle to acquire Dracula’s body parts, which is the only way to unlock the final confrontation against both Shaft and the Count himself. However, the Reverse Castle is also home to some false sub-bosses, who instead drop power-ups for Alucard that you will need in order to succeed. If, like me, you missed a bunch of ability power-ups and transformations before entering the Reverse Castle, you’ll also have to backtrack to the standard castle in order to be able to swim in the upside-down water or damage enemies with your mist attack, two skills that are essential to safely navigating the Reverse Castle. In terms of replay value, Symphony of the Night features a huge map to explore and the chances are high that, even when you reach the final battle with Dracula, you won’t have explored all 200.6% of the game. If you’re playing the Xbox 360 version, there are obviously a few Achievements to get along the way (the 200.6% thing is one of them) and you can even play as Richter if you enter “RICHTER” as your player name, which makes the game both harder and more like Super Castlevania IV as you now control a whip-wielding vampire hunter. There’s also a bestiary to complete by encountering every enemy and boss in the game but the game favours extending its playtime considerably through the Reverse Castle, rather than any significant post-game features.

Dracula presents a tough challenge…unless you know what you’re doing.

In the end, I really enjoyed Symphony of the Night; it was tough but in a way that challenged me to be a better player. It’s annoying that Alucard’s shield doesn’t seem to block every enemy attack and that he can’t dash forwards but these are minor complaints (honestly, I hardly ever even used the shield so it’s a mute point, really). The music is great, the graphics, sprites, and backgrounds are all really well-drawn and heavily detailed, and the gameplay mechanics are solid. The RPG elements are just right for me; you don’t have to do a lot of arduous bullshit to upgrade specific stats or whatever. Alucard simply gets stronger and stronger as he levels-up and equipping the right items and equipment will buff him up further. As only the second Castlevania title I’ve ever played from start to finish, Symphony of the Night was a great experience and actually has me hungering for more from Konami’s franchise. Luckily, they have me covered as the Castlevania Anniversary Collection (ibid, 2019) is now available on Xbox One so I guess I know what I’ll be aiming to take on next…

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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