I am incredibly happy for how interested I was in the more obscure games at a young age. Why? Well, certain games have gotten quite pricey and when they have not been re-released for more modern consoles, they can be hard to acquire. I know emulation is an option, but I usually like to have invested in the real deal. This led me to acquire Kid Dracula as a child, a game I did not know was a part of the Castlevania-series until much later. Like last time, I will refer to the main character as Kid Dracula, since I have no idea if this is Alucard or Dracula, and neither I or the game really cares about that. What is important, is that Garamoth is back and that is not good, but don’t worry: Kid Dracula will trash him once again! Despite the fact that he literally forgot most of his powers from the last game.
Megavania 2: the improvement?
Like its predecessor, Kid Dracula is a sidescrolling platformer, with a bossfight at the end of each stage. He still sports more maneuverable movements than most of the Belmonts, being able to control his jumps in midair and shoot a fireball-attack in 4 directions. He can also charge his shots for different attacks, depending on what he has selected. After each stage, until stage 5, he will remember a new power that can be activated by charging. They range from a bigger fire-attack, homing-missiles, bomb, bats for attacking above him, and other moves, such as turning into a bat, reverse gravity, and an umbrella for defense. The attacks have their uses and are balanced so no shots are overpowered, making each come in handy for certain enemies or situations.
A good example, is how weak the homing-missiles are, despite shooting multiple projectiles, so other shots can be just as effective. However, there is a lack of interesting mechanics for the more non-offensive power-ups. Reversed gravity becomes a joke when you can fly for a short time and the umbrella is only useful for 1 scenario. The fact that you get many powers late in the game, makes it so they get little interesting use and, making it even worse, you will have to scroll through all of them using one button. At least you can pause and do this, but a menu-screen would have helped clear up this annoyance or, even better, just remove half of these powers.
The stages are laid out decently with different enemies, but they are more memorable in how they look rather than how they are presented. The enemies are creative and make your different attacks come in handy due to their placements, attacks, and movements, despite them not always posing a huge threat. However the levels themselves are a mixed bag. They start off great, with for example a tree that you must climb and shoot flowers to make it grow into a bridge, or an insane roller coaster-ride that happens after some tricky platforming in the sky. Unfortunately, there are just as many boring ones that seem only to exist to make certain power-ups worthwhile or are just uninteresting straight paths.
The fact that you will get every power-up at stage 5 and there are only 8 stages all together, makes them quite uninteresting. There is also this weird rule where you can’t transform into a bat for certain stages. This makes the stages more challenging, but why make the ability to fly so restricted? Because they had no idea on what to do with it. I had to use the bat for pickups such as health-refills, and health-extending hearts, but other than that, it was there to either break some levels or be cursed at when it could have helped me slightly with the tougher ones. It is underdeveloped. Why not make the ability to fly for a short time an optional power you can find, almost as a reward, or maybe remove it entirely, as the ability to fly can easily break a platforming game?
By attacking enemies with a full-charged attack, they will drop coins, which can be used for mini-games. After you finished a stage, you can pay 2 coins for each number you want to bet in a roulette-game to win more coins. Since it is easy to get coins outside of this by exploiting reappearing enemies, this one is easily forgotten. Instead, you can pay 10 coins for playing one out of 4 mini games to win lives. You will be presented with 4 crystal balls, each representing a mini-game and they will be mixed cup-and-ball style, so you must pay attention if you want a game you enjoy the most. Ball A will take you to a mini game for grabbing bats with a net, while ball B will have a skeleton in a barrel with plenty of holes where you must put swords in the holes that won’t hurt him. The third ball will get you to a game of rock, paper and scissors, and finally, ball D is a personal favorite where Kid Dracula will be on a pogostick and has to jump high enough to poke specific balloons to gain lives.
All are enjoyable, but the last one will be the easiest one to gain lives in as it has fluent controls and the game can only end through a time limit. The extra lives will be important as the game can be challenging at times, but never to the point of you not being able to see the end. Passwords also helps to get you through the game and it is good to have for visiting the more entertaining stages.
The bosses are fantastic. They are all creative, being it 3 ghosts where you simply must outlast the oldest one, or against a giant chicken who shoots her babies at you. All are quite challenging and different, making it so they keep you on your toes. They also present a great difficulty-curve and some even use you power-ups to a great extent. While I do think the bosses are a treat and most of the power-ups are great additions, the stages don’t always have creative designs to them and some power-ups are downright useless. Having so many, will also strain on the select-button and your patience. This is still an enjoyable ride for the most part, but could use more creativity than just with the enemies.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
How the horror-genre can be adorable
I want to pinch every character in this game, as all are incredibly cute. I love the details making the Frankenstein-monsters more smiley with bigger eyes, or how demon-dogs are puppies. The star of the show is no slacker either, with some good animations and he even makes the Belmont-stroll adorable.
Adding to the charm are the stages. The first stage is a recreation of Dracula’s castle, complete with clockworks, rooftops, and hallways filled with paintings, and others levels follow nicely in the horror-genre. You will venture through an enchanted forest with sunglass-wearing plants and Jason as a boss, and even visit a new planet with fire being blown all over the place and which is inhabited by monsters from hell. It all represents the gothic style well, with obscure elements fitting this world, and backgrounds that are very nice and detailed. There are 2 stages that can be somewhat uninteresting and the inside of the ghost-ship is oddly empty, but these are minor negatives when even the pause-screen has Kid Dracula snoozing. When you think googly-eyed clouds and cute skeletons were enough, Kid Dracula goes the extra mile for even more.
The soundtrack takes on an upbeat tone with different genres. From rock, jazz, 50’s soul, to simply feel-good tunes, all genres fit thanks to keeping the music-pieces at the same tone. Some tracks are taken from the first entry and are lovely remade for this installment. All are toe-tappingly good, with great variations to never become repetitive and enough jolly atmosphere to be smile-inducing. The few cutscenes add to the charm, being both whimsical and humorous. It is really a shame there aren’t many of them or that this wasn’t made into a cartoon.
Presentation Score: 8.5/10
Kid Dracula is a charming adventure that is definitely a step up from the original for the NES. Having fun attacks, amazing boss fights, and a style that is delightful, really shows love for the product. Unfortunately, while the presentation is more gothic and in tone with the setting, a couple of levels are unimaginative and 3 stages lack any creativity at all. There are also some issues with the non-attack power ups. Kid Dracula falls in some aspects to the original’s problems, but comes recommended for those who enjoys cutesy style over substance.