1792. Cultists are chanting around a bound maiden. Their hope is to sacrafice the young maiden, in order to resurect the Dark lord Count Dracula. With his return, he sets out to raise the nearby village to the ground. His priest Shaft kidnaps several villagers for Dracula. Among them is Richter Belmont's fiance' Annet, and her sister Maria Renard. Richter, determined to put an end to this evil, and rescue the villagers, sets out to destroy the great evil plaguing the land.
For those in America, the prequal to Symphony of the Night is Dracula X on the SNES. However the true title is Akumajou Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, or Rondo of Blood as it has come to be known in the USA. This never saw a release outside of Japan. The reason it was never brought here was most likely the lack of support that the Turbo Duo received in the US. It is truly the masterpiece of the old school titles. A last bastian of the old school action orientated Castlevania games, that is still held in high regards even today.
The story of Castlevania games really got its true beginning here. Rondo has the most story of any of the titles made to this point. From teh very beginning introduction cutscene to the ending, there is a peppering of the story as it unfolds in front of the player. This was a fantastic addition to the series. It was no longer about just going from the beginning to the end, and kicking the counts dead end. Now the player was given a story, with a reason behind Richter going forth to fight the overwhelming odds against him. This is perhaps why this game has such a high fan base over the others before it.
Graphically Rondo is perhaps one of the greatest in the series. Gone were the large dark graphics of Castlevanias of old. rondo took a brighter, more anime styled approach to the graphics. It also comes complete with anime cutscenes, that add greatly to the game itself. The character/enemy sprites are some of the best done. This is pretty obvious, considering their reissue in countless furture titles. The enemies were well colored, and fantastic to look at. There was no choppy movements to be found anywhere.
Gameplay was also fantastic. Though it drops the "whip in any direction" of Super Castlevania IV, it certainly makes up for it. Rondo returns the fighting to its roots, with just the simple whipping of old school games. But this time there is greater additions in Richters movements to make up for the little step backwards. Now he can do back flips, turn in mid air, and slide across the ground. In addition to the greater range of movements is his new "Item Crash" ability for the sub weapons. This made fighting with the old slashing the whip so much more fun than if they had left the whipping of IV in tact. Personally I think this was the better fighting style. Also you get the return of a second character to play in the form of Maria. As soon as you rescue her, you can switch between her and Richter to play.
Another great addition to the gameplay is the multiple levels within a level. Each of Rondo's different stages has up to 3 possible ways to go, each with their own boss to face. This hidden alternate routes certainly added to the gameplay, as well as the replay value of Rondo.
The music also was taken a few steps up, in terms of sound and quality. The great mix of pop, rock, and symphony has been beautifully done in this title. There was also some re-issues of older songs from previous titles, such as the Boss victory jingle, and the game over music gave a bit more connection to the series, as well as a retro look back at the series, while plowing ahead in leaps and bounds.
This is the true masterpiece Castlevania, that sets the events of the (almost more popular) Symphony of the Night. everyone who loves Castlevania NEEDS to find a way to play this title. You will not be dissapointed in any way.