After Castlevania 3, there was one more game that was made for the Famicom. Set as a spin-off of the series, Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun or better translated as Castlevania Special: I’m Kid Dracula was a more cutesy take on the Castlevania franchise and one that intrigued me after playing Kid Dracula for the Game Boy. We never got this one unfortunately, but thanks to Ebay, I was finally able to get it for myself and try it out.
Since it is not clear if this is Alucard or not (even though I agree with this speculation), I will simply call him Kid Dracula, as the game does. Our young boy has awoken from a long sleep and a dinosaur, Galamoth, has challenged him. Why or how I am not sure due to the game being in Japanese and I have no other sources than the internet, which tells me just about the same thing. Luckily: story is glanced over, so let’s get to the game itself.
Mega Man mixed with Castlevania
After a lightning bolt hits our hero’s coffin, you take control of Kid Dracula. Being a young incarnation of evil, he is much more agile than the Belmonts have lately been, with the ability to move in mid-air and shoot fireballs at great distances in 4 directions, including up and down. He can shoot rapidly or charge them up for one second for a powered-up version. Hitting an enemy with this shot will yield coins that can be used to obtain more lives in mini-games, which I will cover later.
Like Mega Man, Kid Dracula can also get power-ups after defeating bosses. These must be charged up to be used and range from a spread-shot that homes in on enemies, to the ability to transform into a bat and fly. All are fun to try out, but I usually only stuck with the spread-version due to it being quite strong, and the more platform-heavy skills when it was necessary. Scrolling through them is a bit of a pain too, since you will get a good number of power-ups, and you can only scroll through them one way by pressing select.
Castlevania Special is a linear game like the original Castlevania was, with the objective being to get from point A to point B and kill a boss at the end. The stages vary and are creative, but some can definitely be underdeveloped, so it is a bit of a mess here. Some are really fun, such as the first stage which has the clock-tower with spinning-gears and traps from the first Castlevania, and even one stage with a roller coaster that switches up how gravity works. But some are a bit lazy, such as jumping on buildings in New York, with insta-kills, bottomless pits, and an ice-level with slippery platforms and spikes that will also easily cause a game over. The same can be said for the boss fights; some are really fun to fight against and are a good test of our hero’s abilities. One is even a quiz-game, which is actually a nice change. Others are lazy and put up no fight at all, and one is a bit too fast compared to our hero’s ability to move and can feel unfair. All of this makes for level-designs that shows they don’t understand difficulty-curve, and want to sell it all on creativity, but not necessarily quality.
Unlike previous entries, the enemies don’t feel interesting and are only remembered if they cause a knock-back that will send you back one life, or if they have a bunch of health. There is a password-system that does somewhat help and a checkpoint-system that works, but it can be stingy at times with where they want to place you. There is also the possibility to upgrade Kid Dracula’s health from 3 to 5 hearts, if you find the power-up. Lastly, there are a couple of mini-games where you can literally gamble your coins away for life. For the sake of simplicity and summing them up: they are all luck-based, usually based on gambling, making extra lifes hard to come by.
I did enjoy most of the playtime I had with Kid Dracula, despite its many faults. It wants to vary, be creative and nothing feels broken, but as stated before: it is underdeveloped. I can say that I fully enjoyed about 60% of the game and that makes it hard to rate it much higher.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
Cute, but a bit confused
The game is colorful with plenty of adorable creatures, from depressed Frankenstein monsters and playful witches, to the small King Kongs and Eskimos throwing ice cream. All are cute and complement the worlds decently. There is a great variation of areas you will visit, ranging from your own castle and an urban-city, to a water-level and a desert-world. They have neat details to them, with the sleeping moon in stage 1 being my personal favorite. Even the stage-layouts are sometimes so cute that I could eat them up, such as the clouds that have eyes looking at the direction they will fly towards.
That being said; despite this variation in levels with enemies that complement the areas, they feel, at times, too traditional and don’t fit with Castlevania Special’s gothic outlook. A good example is the desert-level with most of it being sand-areas inhabited by traditional animals. When you finally get to a pyramid, there are skeletons and a boulder that will chase you, but no mummies. It feels a bit thoughtless or even generic at times, despite its more adorable approach.
On a more technical level, it has a lot of flicker when there is too much happening on the screen, and while it doesn’t destroy the gameplay, it is noticeable enough to be mentioned. The music fares a lot better however, with catchy and upbeat tracks complementing the playful tone, as well as the areas themselves. All are memorable, enjoyable and pretty long with good variations to them, making it so none of them becomes repetitive. While more tinkering with the presentation would have made the game go the extra mile, it still makes me smile of joy.
Presentation Score: 7/10
Castlevania Special: I’m Kid Dracula, is a good idea that has a lot of potential, but doesn’t always know how to make it fully work. I admire the game and won’t deny how adorable it can be, but it goes to show that being creative, does not mean being smart. If nothing else, I am happy to have gotten this small, unpolished classic in my collection as a Castlevania-fan.