Castlevania Special: I’m Kid Dracula!! [Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun] (NES) Review

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Review by tankMage (October 2015)

Score: B-

Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun, or Castlevania Special: I’m Kid Dracula is a quirky NES gem of somewhat middling quality which was released in Japan and only Japan. This game was an amusing take on the famed Castlevania series that delivered a solid level of quality throughout its levels, but never really managed to shine. The game was short (which didn’t bother me too much) and I got the impression that the devs decided to amp up the difficulty in the later stages to compensate for the lack of content. I would have preferred the game remain consistently hard or had more gradual difficulty curve, because Kid Dracula initially presented itself as an easy, but fun title whose main merit was it’s wacky subject matter and the sudden jump in difficulty at the end felt in-congruent with the rest of the game. There were also a few obvious bugs that needed ironing out. With that said, this was still a decent title, even if it only stood out thanks to its gimmicky plot.

Graphics

Akumajou Special - Boku Dracula-kun (Japan) [En by Vice v1.04] (~I'm Kid Dracula!!)-8
This stage is a lot like world 3 in Super Mario Bros. 3…except with more vampires and otters.

    Castlevania Special’s graphics remind me of Super Mario Bros. 3 and the big cartoonish sprites fit the whimsical theme of the game perfectly. My only complaint about Kid Dracula’s visual effects is Drac’s fireballs are really underwhelming (just tiny single shots as opposed to Dracula’s triple fireball attacks from other Castlevania titles). It does make sense that Kid Dracula’s fireball attacks are not terribly impressive, since he is just a child, but it does take some of the oomph out of the game.

User Interface

The controls handle very precisely and smoothly which is always welcome. There really isn’t much in the way of menus since Kid Drac is an action game, but the few menus that exist are what one would expect and work just fine. Players should be aware that Kid Drac’s bat form is tricky to control: Dracula tends to drift around when flying which can make clearing spikes and other hazards a bit more difficult than one would expect.

Music and sound effects

    There isn’t anything worth mentioning about Kid Dracula’s music and sound effects. The BGM is ok, but it can’t hold a candle to famous Castlevania themes like Bloody Tears. The sound effects were rather disapointing as well since they all seemed to be stock NES/Konami effects that were thrown in the game as an afterthought.

Gameplay

Akumajou Special - Boku Dracula-kun (Japan) [En by Vice v1.04] (~I'm Kid Dracula!!)-13

    Castlevania Special is slightly above mediocre in this department. The levels are designed well, the enemies aren’t overly repetitive and regular boss fights keep the action rolling. Special fireballs that hone in on monsters or explode on impact also keep things fresh. The quirky Japanese sense of humor really enhances the gameplay as well, since the player will see some things that are rather shocking or just plain silly.

Kid Dracula does have it’s fair share of problems. For starters it is short, which can be good or bad depending on how important play time is to you. Personally, I didn’t mind the game’s short length, but it bears mentioning. Secondly, the difficulty curve goes from super easy to kind of tough very quickly towards the end of the game. Many of the special abilities like Drac’s walk-on-ceiling skill  (sorry don’t know what it’s actually called) were underutilized as well, which is probably due to the game’s short length. Hit detection was also slightly flawed and there were a few areas where I died by touching the not very pointy underside of spike traps while trying to jump onto a ledge.

Story

Akumajou Special - Boku Dracula-kun (Japan) [En by Vice v1.04] (~I'm Kid Dracula!!)-2
Hmmm…I wonder why this game never made it to the states…

    The plot is fairly simple: you are a child version of Dracula and some uppity demon proclaimed himself king of all monsters while you were sleeping. It’s up to Kid Dracula put his foes down and reclaim his throne. It’s also a nice change of pace from the usual save the world blah blah blah plots so common to NES titles. Don’t expect much narration or plot development though, this game is more geared towards action than story telling.

Final Thoughts

Castlevania Special is really quite average and I would have given it a C+ if it weren’t for the fact that it’s concept is an amusing self-parody of one of my favorite series. Without it’s humorous setting, this title would be unremarkable. In part this is because, Kid Dracula feels a bit rushed and underdeveloped. The use of standard side stroller mechanics didn’t make Kid Dracula any less generic at it’s core, obviously, but the game at least plays very well. Generally, I prefer games that offer some challenge, but in the case of Castlevania Special: I’m Kid Dracula!!, said challenge feels tacked on at the end. I would have much preferred that this game remained consistently easy over the sudden difficulty spike in the final stage.

Recommendations

Anyone who likes platformers can hop into this game and enjoy it. Even at the end it is not terribly difficult, it’s just that the slight increase in difficulty that’s surprising. Castlevania fans in search of something different should give this game a go too, given that Kid Dracula is an interesting curiosity piece.

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