I love PC Engine CDs. I’ll spare you the details of how I obtained the system (it was the gray briefcase model, and I purchased it online from Wolfgames for $140 on July 14, 2001). The important thing is that it arrived at my door with two games: Rayxanber II, which has been covered by my cousin IvaNEC over at The Brothers Duomazov, and Akumajou Dracula Peke X. Right now, you’re probably filled with breathless wonder that I actually own the Holy Grail of all Castlevania games. You may as well go ahead and breathe, because it’s not worth dying over.
The title screen’s rainbow lettering was the first warning. Instead of the ominous atmosphere that Castlevania is known for, it was . . . cute. All my synapses fired simultaneously, urging me to flee. I pressed RUN — but instead of escaping, that simple act pulled me into a pastel nightmare reminiscent of Sonic the Hedghehog. “Richter Belmont” appeared on my screen, but this was not the same Richter Belmont who eloquently challenged Dracula in Symphony of the Night. This was a pudgy, spherical escapee from Ballz 3D.
The adventure begins in Stage X. The Japanese subtitle for the stage translates to “Blood ties cannot be cut without SUPER CD-ROM²”. That’s a pretty neat title, but it’s unfortunately the only level in this absurdly simplistic sidescroller. Richter can jump, but there are no platforms for him to leap onto. He can swing his whip, but there are no candles to shatter. When Richter whacks an enemy, it makes “octopus lips” (not to be confused with “duck face”) and falls through the floor. There’s only one type of enemy, and only four appear in the whole game. Then you rescue Maria Renard. Dracula Peke X has no proper ending — no staff roll and no “game over” screen. Just Maria. You can whip her, but that doesn’t do anything. It’s almost like Konami was trying to parody the Castlevania series. Richter can’t even die!
When you rescue Maria, there’s a blackboard with some gibberish scrawled on it. I can’t read Japanese, but the message probably says “Congratulations on blowing your hard-earned cash on this pile of dung SUPER CD-ROM² disc” or something like that. Seriously, who the hell does Konami think they are, making a crap game and then taunting the players at the end? That’s a dick move, guys, a total dick move. If it weren’t for rad games like Gungage then I’d totally boycott Konami’s ass.
Thank goodness Konami included a much bigger and better game as a secret unlockable if you happen to own a TurboDuo or the Super System Card. That alone justifies this rare disc’s high price. Otherwise, Akumajou Dracula Peke X only ranks above Super Castlevania 4 on the Castlevania Totem Pole.