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Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles

As if the instant classic Portrait of Ruin weren't enough. Last night publisher Konami, lords of everything vampiric, announced Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP. This compilation includes a spruced-up version of the previously unreleased Rondo of Blood and, perhaps more importantly, a full conversion of PlayStation legend Symphony of the Night.

If that sea of italics and modified pieces of music don't ring any bells, listen up. Rondo never made it to the US, but is often considered one of the best traditional games in the Castlevania series. This remake throws in remodeled 3D backgrounds and visual effects that spice up the standard "walk left to right" gameplay. Rondo introduced a slew of things to the Castlevania universe, including the backflip, screen-nuking items and a host of character designs that are still used in the modern games. However, there's no diagonal whip-cracking here - Richter's a straight-shooter that has to jump to get enemies up high. Helpful items like axes, boomerangs and daggers appear too. Wouldn't be a Castlevania game if they didn't, would it?



The brief demo took us through Rondo's first level, a fiery town ravaged by skeletons and a duo of dragons. There wasn't much in the way of mind-blowing effects, but the secret path and alternate boss battle still made the cut (wouldn't be a true conversion if they were left out, would it?). Subtle touches like water dripping off of submerged barrels and dust falling from disturbed platforms helped bring the world to life, though Richter's walking-with-purpose animation could still use some work. If polygons aren't your bag, know that the original, 2D version of the game is included as well.

Rondo's outstanding music makes a return, though producer Iga said there was still work to be done on translating the title over to the US. There's a chance the rockin' tunes we heard could undergo some changes before the game's fall release. The gameplay, in all its linear glory, should remain untouched from the version we saw.

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