Rondo of Blood is where Castlevania really started feeling like a full solid series of games. Even though it wasn’t available in the USA back when it came out in 1993, it gained some legendary status just because it was that one game everyone kinda knew about, even though it wasn’t available anywhere. And rightfully so, as it’s my favorite Castlevainia game in the series.
Rondo is a tightly kept game. It knows what it wants to be and doesn’t mess around. It is hard, it takes time to memorize the layouts and boss attacks. You have to be on your toes at all times as you navigate the levels. One wrong move can send you into the water instantly killing you, or a wrong choice of picking up a special weapon can royally screw you over several screens later.
It’s a punishing game at times, but never feels unfair. Every death, every wrong move is a learning experience where you instantly know where you went wrong, and hopefully don’t make the same mistake next time.
The fact that the intro is in German, the spoken dialogue is Japanese, and the cutscenes are classic 90’s digital anime makes this game so weird and bizzare, that you can’t help but be drawn into it. Trying to figure out the story can be frustrating, but all you really need to know is that you are a dude named Richter, you come from a long line of vampire hunters, and you are going to take down Dracula. With modern technology and the internet, I was able to grab some translated files, and actually patch the original game that allowed all text and spoken dialogue be in English. Sadly the story is just as poorly written as all other Castlevania games, but it wasn’t that big of a deal for me. As I played this directly after Symphony, I am playing the series in a sort of reversed order, but knowing most of the story through osmosis over the years, it’s easy to piece everything together. I would love a Castlevania game that really did put the story at the forefront of these games, and allowed you to dive deep into the lore of the series.
This game features most of the same enemies that show up in Symphony and some that have shown up in the previous games as well. It was actually nice to see that there is so much consistency throughout these games and even over so many console generations as well. That very rarely happens nowadays.
The soundtrack again is a standout for the game, you can’t go one level without a memorable melody being played on loop in the background. The hard hitting bass lines and guitars really give such an aggressive and metal tone towards the game that really fits with the overall aesthetic of the game level design that it almost feels “too perfect” in a way.
For a standard action platforming game, this is the best that the series has to offer. It is short enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it’s challenging enough to give you a real sense of accomplishment when you do overcome a particularly tough boss battle. Given that this game also adds a ton of replayability with unlockable playable characters, and alternative paths, different levels and even boss fights that you might not see for 3 playthroughs, the depth of this game is incredible. I had no clue how much there really is to this game and it just makes me want to come back to it a bit later so I can unlock more things and experience it again, without seeing the same things over and over again.