Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun
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Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 80% (based on 7 ratings)
Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 10 ratings with 1 reviews)
Who doesn’t love a good import? I know I do, but I can’t read Japanese, which is a shame because there’s practically another world of games trapped in their homeland. After all, a lot of the best developers in the 80’s were based in Japan, and many of their games didn’t make it overseas. Akumajou Special: Boku Dracula-kun is one such game. Again, I can’t read Japanese, but from what I can guess, had it come to North America, it would have been translated to something like “Castlevania Special: Kid Dracula”. While Dracula-Kun was only released on the Japanese Famicom, a sequel produced for the Gameboy was released in North America.
Essentially, Dracula-Kun is a parody of the Castlevania series. Instead of one of the Belmonts, you play as Dracula-kun, who may be a younger version of Castlevania’s main antagonist, a different character entirely, or perhaps even Alucard, Dracula’s son. It’s open to interpretation. Despite being a parody, the gameplay is entirely different, bearing closer resemblance to a Mega Man title, and aside from the first level taking place within Dracula’s castle, there are few things linking it to the main series. For example, none of the series’ bosses make appearances, nor do any of the enemies outside the first level. It’s an entirely new experience, and while it’s disappointing that it doesn’t tie into the main series, it doesn’t suffer because of it.
I can’t really discuss the storyline because I didn’t understand a word of it. The only thing I have to go by is the opening cutscene which shows the moon transforming into a dragon head that Dracula-kun deals with by throwing a rock at it. He then travels from Castlevania to New York City, then finally into space in a quest to do… something. Along the way he fights bare-legged witches, chickens, and dudes in Ku Klux Klan outfits, complete with swastikas on their foreheads. All of this is light-heartedly encapsulated in the most charming and adorable graphics.
Throughout the entire game, you’re constantly assaulted by cuteness and charm, it’s almost disgusting. You could almost mistake this game as kiddy, if it weren’t for the KKK and the mini-game where you have to guess what colour panties the show-girls are wearing. The graphics are bright and vibrant, the characters are all huggably adorable, and the levels are very bold and simple. Even the bosses are endearing, especially the pretty purple dragon boss of the fourth level. In a way, it’s pretty much the polar opposite of the proper Castlevania games. It’s a deadly formula that simultaneously appeals to the Castlevania fan in me and delights my inner-child.
Another way you might be tricked into thinking Dracula-Kun is a game for the kids, is its difficulty. The first six levels are all really easy, but then it takes a hard right on Difficulty Boulevard. I must have died a couple dozen times on level 7, trying to navigate its tricky jumps whilst avoiding its randomly spawning rocket enemies. Then on level 9, things just get more difficult. You have to defeat three bosses, none of whom are exactly easy, without healing items or checkpoints. They’re not impossible, nor are the final levels as difficult as, say, the final levels of a proper Castlevania title, but they do take practice. I’m not sure what’s up with level 8, not only does it seem out of sequence location-wise, but its difficulty is more in line with the first six levels.
Considering Dracula-kun is supposed to be a parody of Castlevania, I really wish they had used the license a bit more. The first level is pure Castlevania, going as far as ending the level with the classic ascent to Dracula’s tower, but after that, it could be any game. Dracula travels through a water level, an ice level, a sky level, an Egyptian themed level, and even a New York City level, what do these have to do with Castlevania? I would have been happy if they had even just featured a few of the bosses from the main series. Why couldn’t there have been an appearance of Medusa or one of the Belmonts? I mean, two of the bosses are robots, is that necessary? I just feel like there’s a lot of missed potential here.
The major issue with Dracula-kun is that it doesn’t do anything new or different. It really feels like a generic platformer. What’s on display is solid enough, and its charm allows it to stand out to an extent, but everything it does has been done before and done better. It can get a little humdrum in parts and there’s very little to mix things up, even Dracula’s powers are woefully underused. Add to this a linear structure, and there isn’t much of a reason to pick the game up for a second time. It’s a bit disappointing considering how much potential there is.
The Bottom Line
If, like me, you can’t read or speak Japanese, you can still play Dracula-kun. There are places, however, that are complicated due to a lack of comprehension. For example, there’s a quiz at the end of the fifth level which you must complete in order to advance. Luckily the quiz follows the same question pattern every time, so you can get past it with simple trial and error. Also, the mini-games between levels can be a bit difficult to figure out, but after you play them a few times, you’ll likely know what to do. Lastly, the story is mostly told through dialogue, which you obviously won’t be able to read if you don’t know Japanese. Other than that, though, it’s entirely possible to complete the whole game without knowing the language.
Despite the language barrier, Dracula-kun is a pretty enjoyable game. I think it’s absolutely impossible not to be at least won over by its charm. There’s a decent amount of variety, the graphics are clean and cartoony, and best of all the game has a wonderfully light-hearted sense of humour. Beyond that, however, Dracula-kun is a fairly run-of-the-mill game. Should you go to the effort of importing it? Enh, given the chance, I’d do it again, but it’s hard to actually recommend it. Even Castlevania fans would likely see something lacking, considering very little of the game references it. I guess what I’m saying is, Dracula-kun is an OKAY game, so don’t bother importing it right away, but if it’s a rainy day and you’re desperately looking to play something from another country, Dracula-kun fits the bill.
NES · by Adzuken (836) · 2010