Disclaimer – This review is part of an 9 part series of reviews for the the Castlevania Anniversary Collection for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC. Due to a full review of the collection coming soon, I will not be mentioning everything the collection brings – only mentioning those that pertain to Kid Dracula.
Thousands of years have passed since the time of Belmont, Belnades, DeNasty, Morris and Lecarde. Dracula awakes from his long slumber to find his domain has been conquered by an upstart demon hell bent of destroying Dracula, who now takes on the form of a small child – Kid Dracula. Onwards he must go to slay his newfound rival and reclaim the world that has long forgotten his name.
Kid Dracula was a Japan exclusive release for the Famicom that has finally been ported over to modern hardware thanks to the Castlevania Collection. Set in an alternate timeline (probably?), you take control of Dracula himself and have to battle through a series of stages in order to reclaim your title. How does this obscure spin off hold up though?
You will immediately notice a shift in not only tone, but also art style. From the word “go”, the game is very upbeat and whimsical. The sprites, background and music all play a role solidifying that feeling. There is certainly a chibbi-style going on, and it looks fantastic. For a game running on something akin to the NES, sprites are amazingly detailed with a surprising amount of animation and flair that elevates it well above most of its peers. As with many games of this era, especially ones that look this good, there is a fair amount of slowdown. That can be forgiven considering that kind of nonsense was the norm back in the day and it doesn’t massively effect the gameplay.
Speaking of which, the changes don’t stop with the art style – the gameplay has also seen a drastic change. This is no Castlevania, heck I would venture as far to say that Kid Dracula is closer to a Megaman game than anything. Dracula starts off with a simple fireball attack that he can fire left, right and directly up which makes him immediatly more versatile than any Belmont (or Megaman for that matter…). As you defeat bosses you will unlock numerous new abilities that allow you to deal with obstacles in new ways. These vary from a homing fireball attack, bombs, transformations and even the ability to flip gravity. Topping all of this off is Dracula’s navigational prowess. Unlike other games in the series Dracula can alter his direction mid air and feels just floaty enough without feeling unwieldy. This combination of power and mobility is truly befitting the Prince of Darkness.
Unfortunately your arsenal is far too powerful for the task at hand, as Kid Dracula is mostly challenge free in the combat department. You can decimate over half the game, bosses included, with your Homing Shot and the rest are easily dispatched with bombs leaving most of your arsenal unused. You transformations and gravity powers are incredibly situational and are only used a handful of times, which is also quite disappointing. Basically, if you have any experience with 2D Action Platformers, you will trounce any enemy or boss without breaking a sweat.
The “challenge” in Kid Dracula comes from its platforming. Whilst not difficult for the most part, most levels have a tricky, if not downright finicky, platforming sections that can be somewhat difficult. These increase in difficulty as the game progresses, but again, if you have any experience in the genre you shouldn’t have much trouble with tackling these challenges. What I will say though, despite the general easiness of the experience, the game is incredibly fun and is a perfect introduction to this kind of game.
Kid Dracula has one last little gimmick that might surprise you – gambling. Upon completing a stage you are taken to what is essentially a casino that will randomly select a minigame for you to play. To gain the funds required to play, you simply need to defeat an enemy with a fully charged attack. Your accumulated moolah gathered in the previous level can be used to gain additional lives through the child friendly pastime that is gambling. As bizare as this is, it is mostly harmless and is a really effective way to gain lives and encourages effective dispatching of your numerous foes.
The levels in Kid Dracula are very diverse. You will begin your journey in the iconic Castlevania, beautifully recreated and recognisable, new artstyle be damned. From here you will travel through cities, subways, the skies and even into space – and its awesome. The game may only be a couple hours long, but it takes you for one hell of a ride. This combined with everything else the game has to offer, makes for an incredibly memorable experience.
As this is not a Castlevania game, you would be forgiven for thinking the music would not be up to the usual standards the series has managed to maintain up until this point. Kid Dracula certainly abandons the Castlevania style, but makes up for it with a wonderfully charming soundtrack that perfectly encapsulates the games aesthetics and gameplay. It does sacrifice that catchy punch of its predecessors to achieve this, but I like it nonetheless.
Kid Dracula is a wonderful little gem of a game. It is very much a spin off and not at all like the series that its spinning off from, but that isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It successfully carves out its own little brand of gameplay and is undeniably fun to play from start to finish. If you are into 2D Action Platformers, this is a must play.
This a great entry point for anyone who wants to dabble in the genre and definitely worth playing if you are a fan. What are your thoughts on Kid Dracula? Have you played the original Famicom, the Gameboy port or the recent Anniversary Collection port? Let me know in the comments below!
Follow me on Twitter @gameswithtoasty, or join the Games With Toasty Facebook page here for exclusive updates on the future of the blog, as well as notifications for when the latest articles drop. Happy gaming.