Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles

Rondo currently plays much the same in its 3D version as it did in its 2D version. The first level of gameplay was available for us and it's virtually the same, down to the point where power-ups were available in the same places. The lone exception is that it seemed a touch easier than the original version, with enemies moving a bit slowly, but Igarashi and others were quick to point out that the code was very early, and glitches such as Richter's sluggish walking animation will be fixed by the time the game's on shelves.

For those who haven't found a way to play the original Rondo, you're in for a treat, as well as one of the most challenging and elaborate 2D games on record. Rondo was, in many ways, the ultimate expression of 2D Castlevania, combining elegantly hand-drawn sprites with lengthy, impressively animated levels. The player's task, as neophyte vampire hunter Richter Belmont, was to free four maidens from captivity along the way to battling the evil Count Dracula; one of those maidens, the young magician Maria Renard, became a second playable character.

Richter plays much the same as any other Belmont has, wielding the magic whip known as the Vampire Killer as well as several of the series's traditional subweapons. Richter enhances this moveset with the addition of special moves such as a backflip, however, and the "item crashes": powerful super moves determined by the currently-available subweapon.

With Maria, however, Rondo becomes a very different game. She can double-jump, unlike Richter, and goes into battle accompanied by a set of animal companions. She's smaller and less durable than Richter, but she's far more agile. Her standard weapon involves sending a pair of birds out to attack an enemy, which allows her to land heavy-damage combos in a short period of time.

Rondo is, in short, one of the best games of its era, and with its 3D remake, it should appeal to both new and old players. Its announcement has already got many gamers counting pennies to buy a PSP, which is good news for both Konami and Sony. Barring spectacular mistakes or an act of God, this seems to be a guaranteed success.

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