Kid Dracula
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Konami
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    • JP 01/03/1993
    • US March 1993
    • UK 1993
Score: 80%

This review was published on 12/23/2016.

Kid Dracula is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Konami for the Game Boy. It was originally released in Japan on January 3, 1993, North America in March 1993, and Europe in 1993. This is a sequel to a Famicom game released in Japan titled Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-kun, which more or less translates to Demon Castle Special: I'm Kid Dracula. Both of these games are spinoffs from the vastly more popular Castlevania series, also created by Konami. Anyway, while this game is technically a sequel, it's very similar to the original Kid Dracula on the Famicom. In a way, this is like a portable reimagining of that version. However, there are enough differences to classify this one as its own game. Due to that, this review will focus mostly on the Game Boy version, though comparisons with the Famicom game will inevitably be made. On that note, despite being worse from a technological standpoint, the Game Boy version is the better game.

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In case you haven't heard, Kid Dracula is Count Dracula's spunky son. On the previous adventure, an evil dinosaur-like demon named Garamoth took control of Kid Dracula's minions while he was asleep for 10,000 years, but the problem was promptly dealt with by the young vampire. An indeterminate amount of time has passed since then, and now, a new problem arises. Death, Kid Dracula's top minion, informs him that Garamoth has returned to exact his revenge. Kid Dracula isn't too fazed by this, proclaiming that he'll defeat the demon for good this time. However, Death cautions him that Garamoth is much stronger this time around, and therefore he must be fully prepared to take on this terrible threat. Much to Death's dismay, Kid Dracula has forgotten most of the magical spells he used on his previous adventure. That's okay, though, because he'll just remember them when the time comes. Now Kid Dracula sets off on another journey to teach Garamoth another lesson.

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Considering this is on the Game Boy, it obviously has less color and a smaller resolution than the Famicom game. Black and white visuals aside, the game still looks fairly decent. The sprites are decently detailed and decently animated, often looking nearly identical to their Famicom counterparts, minus the color. Some old sprites have additional animations, such as Kid Dracula's delightful little cape twirl. There are tons of new sprites and backgrounds, too, plus some of the old ones have been edited. This game also has story sequences with large animated sprites that look rather spiffy, though they can be too overbearing at times. Luckily, you're able to skip them with a single button press. On top of that, a cute map screen is now shown whenever you complete a stage. One technological advantage this game has over the Famicom one is that it has a little less slowdown. However, in addition to the lack of color, backgrounds lack the detail of the Famicom game. This still looks good for a Game Boy release, but the Famicom version definitely wins in the visual department.

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It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that you control Kid Dracula in this game. You use left and right on the d-pad to walk him in those directions, down to duck, and up to climb ladders. Meanwhile, the A button jumps and the B button launches a fireball. Fireballs can be launched in the four cardinal directions if those directions are held on the d-pad whilst pressing B, but downward shots can only be done while midair. Kid Dracula can also collect hearts to replenish his health, plus he's able to extend his maximum life by getting hearts encased within boxes, though life extensions go away after a Game Over. This is all the same as it was in the previous game, meaning the controls still feel a bit stiff, but also still get the job done.

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Like before, you hold the B button down for a tiny bit to charge up Kid Dracula's attack, allowing him to activate a special ability or attack once you let go. These are his so-called magical spells, and you switch between them by pressing the select button. Just like the first game, the first spell you start out with is the bigger fireball. Unlike the first game, however, you also get the bat transformation spell right off the bat. Akin to the previous game, you obtain a new magical spell upon finishing most stages. Well, some of them are old ones from the previous game, like the ability to temporarily walk on ceilings and the homing fireballs, but a couple of them are truly new, such as the arcing overhead bat attack and an umbrella that can be used as a shield. The charge abilities are cool, so their return is much appreciated.

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Stages have now been broken up into smaller sections, likely due to the Game Boy's smaller screen. Whenever Kid Dracula reaches the end of one of these compartmentalized sections, he'll do the aforementioned cape twirl animation. Some stages return from the Famicom game, but most of them are new. Returning stages also tend to get redesigned a bit and usually have some extra sections. For instance, the first stage, Dracula's castle, now has an outside section where you jump from one tower to the next. As for the new stages, you've got a forest with living trees that attempt to suck you into their gaping mouths, a fiery area with erupting volcanoes, a dark cave with rocks breakable via the explosive fireball spell, and a robotics factory. All the stages are pretty good, but they do get rather difficult later on. There are unlimited continues and a password system, but you'll still be in for a challenge. However, the game is also a little more generous with checkpoints when compared to its younger brother on the Famicom, so it never gets too unfair like that one did.

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Many of the returning bosses have either been modified or enhanced. For example, the first boss is a ghostly father and son duo, but this time, they're accompanied by a grandpa ghost, too. The grandpa ghost can't be harmed by your attacks, but will humorously croak on his own after a short while. The giant chicken boss also comes back, but lays a surprise egg once defeated that you then have to crack open. Garamoth himself is now equipped with a lightsaber that shoots out a massive beam you must duck under. Some of the bosses are entirely new, however. Examples of new bosses include a Jason Voorhees rip off who'll get his axe stuck in the beginning of the battle before eventually pulling out a shotgun, a robot that knocks a tower of blocks toward you with a hammer, and more. Almost every boss has some kind of joke to it, making for some amusing bouts.

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As with the previous game, enemies incinerated with charged attacks will drop coins, and this currency can be used to play mini-games after each stage to win additional lives. However, things function a little differently now. You're given the option to either play roulette to gamble for more coins, or pay to play the mini-games for a chance to win extra lives. Selecting the desired mini-game is also different now, as it's no longer based on random chance. Instead, you play a shell game to pick a mini-game. As for the mini-games themselves, most of them are new: there's a mini-game where you're tasked with catching bats, a rock-paper-scissors game, and another one where Kid Dracula must pop balloons using a spiked helmet and a pogo stick. Besides roulette, the only other returning mini-game is the one where you insert swords into a barrel whilst avoiding stabbing the skeleton inside it. For the most part, the new mini-games are better than the old ones, because they don't rely so heavily on luck.

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While it lacks color and has a smaller screen, this game is overall better than its predecessor. That goes to show you that graphics aren't everything. It has improvements galore, like a far more balanced difficulty, better bosses, better mini-games, and cooler abilities. Additionally, it's also far more polished than its Famicom counterpart. This is definitely a worthy sequel, though the previous game is by no means bad, either.

Word Count: 1,401

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