I'm Kid Dracula
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Famicom
  • Developer:
    • Konami
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    • JP 10/19/1990
Score: 80%

This review was published on 12/19/2016.

Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-kun, which literally translates to Demon Castle Special: I'm Kid Dracula, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Konami for the Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on October 19, 1990, but as of this writing, hasn't been released anywhere else in the planet. However, a few years later, there was a Game Boy sequel to this game that did make it to North America and Europe, where it was simply known as Kid Dracula. Both Kid Dracula games have the same title in Japan, but they're mostly different, and this review will strictly be about the one on the Famicom. At any rate, this game is a spinoff from the massively popular Castlevania series, which was also created by Konami. It's basically a parody of the 8-bit Castlevania titles released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, particularly the first one. This is a very fun game, one that shouldn't be dismissed due to its spinoff status.

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Castlevania games are normally dark and serious, but this game is bright, cheery, and has more of a comedic tone to it. The typical premise of the mainline Castlevania games is that Dracula is terrorizing the world and a hero from the Belmont family must use the legendary Vampire Killer whip to slay him. This game, however, stars Dracula's son, Alucard, who is referred to as the titular Kid Dracula. The story here is that Kid Dracula had been asleep for 10,000 years in a coffin within his castle, and after having awoken from his long slumber, found that most of his minions had turned against him. Behind this terrible deed was Galamoth, who isn't a gallant moth, but a dinosaur-like demon that took control of Kid Dracula's forces while he slept like a log. Not only that, but Galamoth declared himself the Great Dark Lord, challenging Kid Dracula's authority. As a result of that, Kid Dracula sets off on a journey to teach Galamoth a lesson.

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Aesthetically, the Castlevania games have a gloomy look to them, but this game is all about vibrant colors. The Famicom may have a limited color palette, but you wouldn't know that from looking at this game, what with its smart use of color. The sprites are also rather large and well drawn, plus they're animated nicely. Whenever you defeat an enemy, there'll be a tiny animated explosion effect with words in it, kind of like what you'd expect to see in a comic book. This is cute, and it gives the game a more playful feel. There's also an impressive wavy fire effect shown off near the game's end, which is a nice touch. The music is pretty catchy, too, with the first stage containing a remix from Castlevania 3. The game does make a couple of technical missteps, however, as a few sections suffer from intensely bad slowdown.

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Obviously, you play as Kid Dracula. To control the little guy, you press left or right on the d-pad to walk him in those directions, the A button to jump, and the B button to attack. Instead of attacking with a whip like a typical Castlevania protagonist, Kid Dracula shoots ranged fireballs. Due to that, this game plays a little closer to Mega Man than Castlevania. Unlike Mega Man, however, Kid Dracula can actually shoot upwards by holing up and pressing the B button at the same time, which is pretty handy. He can even shoot downwards, but only while in midair. The controls for this game are a little stiff, but they're fine once you get used to them. Also, Kid Dracula's health is represented via hearts at the bottom of the screen, and collecting regular heart items will replenish his life. You can increase his maximum life by grabbing special boxed heart icons, but these are lost when you get a Game Over. Those are the basics of Kid Dracula.

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Further intensifying the Mega Man similarities, you can charge up your attack by holding down the B button, and after charging for a few seconds, you let go of the button to activate a special ability. You can tell when you're fully charged via Kid Dracula's animated face at the bottom of the screen. At first, your charged ability is simply a bigger fireball, but also like Mega Man, you get a new charged ability after most stages, and you switch between them with the select button. Most of the charged abilities are variations of the fireballs, like a spread shot with homing properties, a fireball that causes a lingering explosion effect, and a shot that freezes enemies. However, some charged abilities affect Kid Dracula's mobility. The most notable of these is the ability that allows Kid Dracula to transform into a bat for a brief period of time, enabling him to fly over stuff. There's even an ability that lets Kid Dracula walk on ceilings temporarily. Knowing when to use certain abilities is part of the game's challenge. Plus, getting new abilities is always exciting.

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The first stage should be familiar to Castlevania fans, because it's a condensed version of Dracula's castle. In fact, certain screens are even laid out to look almost identical to some of the stages in the original Castlevania on the NES. As for the rest of this stage, it showcases all the major highlights of Dracula's castle, like a clock tower section with rotating gears, and the tower at the end where you'd normally fight Dracula himself, only this game has you fight a different boss in his stead. The enemies are also cutesy versions of traditional Castlevania foes, such as zombies, bats, and knights. From here onwards, though, the stages start to take a vast departure, taking you to a rollercoaster in the sky, an underwater area, the frigid arctic, a pirate ship, Egypt, New York City, and even outer space. The enemies are equally wild, such as UFOs, Japanese ice skaters, flying turtles with jets attached to them, and more. The wacky settings and enemies give this game a completely unique flavor to that of Castlevania.

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Also reflecting this game's wacky nature are the bosses. The first boss is what appears to be a pair of Ku Klux Klan members, complete with swastikas etched onto their white conical hats. Other strange bosses include a giant chicken, a small octopus encased in a large bubble, and a giant robot. One of the bosses is literally the Statue of Liberty, who'll eschew fighting you in favor of making you take part in a game show where you have to buzz in to answer various trivia questions. Most of the game can be played without knowing a lick of Japanese, but this part is an exception, so you'll probably have to grab a translation patch to get through it. Even so, it's these strange little things that give the game its charm.

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Whenever you defeat enemies with a charged attack, they'll drop coins. Similar to Super Mario Bros. 2, these coins can then be used to play mini-games after every stage for a chance to win extra lives. You select which one you want to play by also playing a mini-game. Specifically, you play a "choose the path" mini-game where Kid Dracula traverses the path you've chosen, though random paths pop up as he does so, making the results mostly unpredictable. Once that's over, you'll play one of four mini-games. These include a roulette thing where you can bet coins on 1ups or more money, a lottery where you spin a wheel to make differently colored balls pop out, a game where you insert swords into a barrel and must avoid stabbing the skeleton inside it, and another one with dancing girls where you attempt to guess the color of their panties. Yes, you read that last one correctly. Due to the nature of these games, they're mostly decided by random chance, so there's not much skill involved. Still, these mini-games are a fun way to get more lives.

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While the game starts off stupidly easy, there's a huge difficulty spike near the end. It's perfectly normal for games to get hard close to their conclusion, but this game goes a little overboard. The main problem is that checkpoints are spread too far apart, especially in the latter half of the game. Some bosses are also far too difficult. For example, the Egyptian boss can kill you in a single hit by knocking you into a bottomless pit, and you can't move around much due to being stuck on a tiny floating platform. Further, the final stage has three tough bosses in a row with no checkpoints whatsoever. That's just too much, if you ask me. The game does have infinite continues and a password system, so it's more forgiving than the average Famicom title, but it still gets rather difficult towards the finale.

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Don't underestimate this game just because it's a spinoff. It's got groovy graphics, mighty music, snazzy stages, wacky enemies, interesting bosses, fun mini-games, and a good sense of humor. The game play isn't too original, but shooting stuff with Kid Dracula's fireballs is good fun, plus the various charge abilities add an extra layer of depth to the proceedings. Regardless of whether you're a Castlevania fan, this game is worth a look.

Word Count: 1,561

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