Raven Experiences Castlevania: The Arcade

o, I was talking with my friend, and she told me that the new Castlevania arcade game was officially out and about in Japan, so of course, I made us go right over to Akihabara and play it.

I could not believe it.

Entering the arcade in Japan is like entering another world. On the left were the Taiko drums with some guy beating the rhythm faster than the drummer of ANTHRAX, and across the way was Guitarfreak with a remix of "Vampire Killer" playing. The box for Castlevania was massive. It was about five feet wide, and when you enter (it's more like a room with curtains over the doors) there are two whips and footprints on the floor where you need to stand. You can also buy a game card outside to save your data, which I'll explain later.

This game is for those of us who are more into the original format (there really isn't a plot). You can choose right from the get go to be the Vampire Hunter or the Lady Gunner, and later you can unlock the Little Witch. No names are given for the characters. There is a brief description of how to play, how you actually have to crack the whip, and how you move your hand decides the strength and direction of the attack. It's very sophisticated. It also tells you about sub-weapons and the like.

You can level up stats such as your main weapon, sub-weapons, the life bar, and the max hearts. You save your data onto your card so you keep your stats with you whenever you decide to play again and it saves your data over the network so the highest scores are displayed on all stations, not just the current one you happen to be using. The Konami game card also works on the Silent Hill arcade game.

You start in a town where you are mostly killing skeletons House of the Dead style and blowing away torches, and then everything changes. The characters jump, they are responsive, they are always moving, and it doesn't feel like House of the Dead at all anymore. Strangely, the first boss is Death, and I can't actually describe in words how cool that was. He is followed by the entrance into the Castle and a new selection of skeletons and other enemies.

As you progress, you explore more rooms of the castle, but the computer system is very refined and has you jumping and dashing all over the place. It never interferes with game play, but it makes the experience that much more real.

The bosses are amazing, larger than life, and because of the size of the screen, they are monumental. They really took advantage of the arcade by making everything huge. The most notable area was the clock tower, which has you jumping on the gears, chains, up stairs, and all over the place until you finally reach Dracula. Imagine the Dracula battle from the PSP Dracula X Chronicles, except in first person. The first stage of Dracula looks cheesy as all get out -- like an old man trying to pull off a Japanese Punk hairstyle (doesn't work) and then the next form is pure awesome. Dracula turns into a wolf, bats, a demon, mist, blood… It's pretty cool.

I really hope this title comes to America! It is absolutely mind blowing and something you really have to see to believe!

Overall, this game tops everything since Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse for me with the exception of Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness. It may not be everyone's thing, but I haven't felt this way playing Castlevania in a long time. It's full immersion (and my arm is still sore from cracking that damn whip… It's worse than Wii-itis…) and the soundtrack absolutely blows me away. Definitely check it out!

Raven-kun, your friendly Japanese correspondent


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