Konami made it official today that the PlayStation 4 is getting a bundle of classic Castlevania games Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood. The collection comes out on October 26. You probably know about Symphony of Night. It’s one of the best 2D games ever, and it helped define the Metroidvania genre with its RPG influences and nonlinear world.
But if you’ve never played Rondo of Blood, you should be excited now.
Rondo of Blood’s mechanics aren’t as ambitious as Symphony of Night, which is its direct sequel. It plays more like the classic Castlevania games of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. Levels are linear, and your character doesn’t dabble with RPG mechanics like experience points and equipment. But as for as those traditional Castlevania games go, Rondo of Blood might be the best. It has some of the best sprite animations and backgrounds of its time, its bosses are exciting and memorable, and the soundtrack is energetic.
So why have you probably never played it? It’s because Rondo of Blood only came out in Japan. And even then, it released on the relatively obscure PC Engine CD console. The system did have a U.S. equivalent, the TurboGrafx-CD, but it struggled to compete against the Genesis and Super Nintendo, even with its superior hardware. Konami did not bother bringing Rondo of Blood to the TurboGrafx-CD.
Instead, Konami remade Rondo of Blood for the Super Nintendo as Castlevania: Dracula X. This version has a similar plot and used many of the same art assets as Rondo of Blood, but it has redesigned levels and plays differently. Really, it’s a different game than Rondo of Blood, and it’s not a better one. It came out in the U.S. in 1995, late into the SNES’s life, making it a rare and expensive cartridge to track down now.
Our first real chance to play Rondo of Blood came when Konami remade it once again, this time more faithfully, with Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for PSP in 2007. This remake replaces the original’s sprites with 3D polygons. It doesn’t look as sharp or charming as the original, but Dracula X Chronicles also comes with a port of the PC Engine CD version. So if you aren’t feeling that 2.5D aesthetic, you can just play the original. Wii owners would also get to play Rondo of Blood in 2008, when Nintendo added it to the Virtual Console service.
These days, few people have a PSP or Wii handy. Even if you do still have a Wii, the Wii Shop Channel is closing on January 30, so you won’t be able to buy that Virtual Console version of Rondo of Blood anymore.
That’s why I’m excited about this new collection for PlayStation 4. This will be an easy way to access one of the best Castlevania games. Well, two of the best. And it will introduce Rondo of Blood to a lot more people.
I just wish the collection was coming out for Switch. The console’s portability makes it the ideal place for retro games. Maybe Konami will port it over in the future, but you’d think publishers would realize by now that these projects would benefit by launching on Switch.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.
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