Kid Dracula was a huge part of my childhood. Huge. I had the Game Boy version and played it through to completion countless times. Eventually, I either lost or sold it, which is a crying shame. However, I have since replaced it with the Japanese version. I still play it, I just can’t understand it.
The Game Boy version was actually the second Kid Dracula game that came out, it was a semi-sequel to the Famicom original. Unfortunately, the Famicom version didn’t make it over to the NES and never saw a release outside of Japan. Due to this, I’ve never had the opportunity to play it, until now.
Thanks to this year’s Castlevania Collection, western fans are finally able to play a game that came out all the way back in 1990 under the name Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-Kun. A spin-off from the Castlevania series, Kid Dracula (as I shall be calling it, the Japanese name is too long, plus I didn’t play that version for this) was a more child-friendly, colorful platformer.
I must say, I was so very excited to play this, the inclusion of the original, western shy, Kid Dracula was my main reason for actually purchasing the Castlevania Collection in the first place. I’ve waited over a quarter of a century to play this game. I’ve labeled this a retrospective, which it is, even if the game is new to myself and most other people outside of Japan.
When I start the game everything looks great, the bright colorful graphics and fantastic music instantly put a smile on my face. I already knew I was in for a good time. Sadly, that smile didn’t last.
The premise of Kid Dracula is simple, the young Drac must run, jump, and kill his way to reclaim his throne from the antagonist. Being a platformer from the early ’90s, it’s pretty obvious what to expect.
Not that this is a by the numbers game. Kid Dracula starts the game with a basic projectile weapon and unlocks further powerups as you progress through the 9 levels on offer. Holding, and releasing, a button will unlock the true potential of the powerups and allow Kid to progress through the game. For example, he can change into a bat to fly through obstacles, launch a homing strike and walk on the ceiling. Each power-up is essential to make it through the game unscathed.
At the end of each level lies a boss fight, surprise. The fights themselves aren’t anything to write home about, particularly when they aren’t very challenging. The main joy in Kid Dracula is making your way through the level, perfecting the platforming and killing the enemies, who die with a comic book style “pon” erupting from their defeated corpses. The enemies are varied enough and the platforming can be challenging and fun. A particular highlight is a level set in a giant elevator with small descending platforms being all that stand between you and death. It’s fun, but not quite up there with the platforming in something like Mega Man 2.
After each boss, there’s the opportunity to play a mini-game and gain more lives. My favorite of these is the skeleton version of pop-up-pirate where you try to stick enough swords into a barrel and not decapitate the skeleton. Quite why sticking a sword into a skeletons femur would take its head off I don’t know, but it’s fun.
However, as I said above, my smile didn’t last. Kid Dracula is a game of its time and has issues. There are only 9 levels and they won’t take most people too long to get through, couple that with this release’s ability to save anywhere and you’ll be done Kid Dracula in an afternoon, not that this is my main issue with the game.
My main issue is the slowdown. I’m well aware this came out on the Famicom at a time when most of you weren’t even born, but that said, the slowdown here is criminal and makes the game borderline unplayable at times. Making difficult jumps is hard at the best of times, but throw in the slowdown and they seem impossible (and it happens a lot). I feel bad complaining about an older game for this, however, the Game Boy version doesn’t suffer from this issue and that was on a far more limiting platform. Couple this with the fact the Game Boy version has a better level design, mini-games, and a better story means I’d be hard pushed to recommend the original version.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very happy to have played through, and completed, this version of Kid Dracula. Sure, it can’t touch its Game Boy counterpart, but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete waste of your time. With the Game Boy carts going for inflated prices on eBay, this version of the title is well worth a try, especially as there are plenty of other games to play on the Castlevania Collection. As I said, I’m glad I played it, even if the expectation couldn’t live up to reality.
What are your thoughts on either version of Kid Dracula? What retro game would you like to see a retrospective on in the future? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to stay tuned to The Nerd Stash for all of the latest news in gaming, TV, movies, and more!