Review: Dracula X – Nocturne in the Moonlight

Posted by SpaghettiOh on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 in Retro /Reviews
Nocturne in the Moonlight Saturn cover

Immediately following the events of Richter Belmont’s adventure, Rondo of Blood for the TurboGrafx-16, Dracula X – Nocturne in the Moonlight starts you off smack in the middle of the final boss fight against Dracula from the previous game in the Castlevania series. Known here in the U.S. as Castlevania – Symphony of the Night, Nocturne is the Japanese version of one of the best titles of the 32bit era. I had the privilege of playing the Sega Saturn exclusive version, which contains more areas of the castle to explore and additional features and dialogue than the PlayStation.

I first played this title when it was released as downloadable content on Xbox Live Arcade. Of course, that was the English port, but it was still enough to suck me into the decade old 2D adventure. Anyone who knows me knows that Super Metroid is my favorite game of all time, and Nocturne‘s gameplay is not far off. It’s a lengthy 2D RPG platformer that takes you through the bowels of Dracula’s castle in search of what’s caused Castlevania to come back into existence. Collecting a slew of weaponry, armor and items along the way, the main character, Alucard Tepes, is something of a recluse. He doesn’t talk much, but there’s honestly no need (Hell, Samus gets away with it…). On his journey he meets Maria, a sprite from Richter’s adventure searching the castle for him after his disappearance. They exchange awkward silences and facial expressions occasionally throughout the castle and eventually end up duking it out. You’ll see two different endings depending on the choice you make and/or items you collect.

SOTN Japanese menu and inventory screens
Nocturne’s Japanese menu and inventory screens

Though it would have been nice to actually be able to read the menus and item names, the extra content was well worth the inability considering I could still see how the items would affect my status or abilities. The Japanese voice acting is also generally good. I’m not fluent in the language (yet), but it sounded decent at least…

SOTN Japanese menu and inventory screens

In addition to extra areas, the Saturn version also contains more familiars to help you along your way, additional power-ups including the Alucard Boots which enable you to run, more bosses, and Maria is available as a playable character. In fact, Alucard, Maria, and Richter are all available from the start of the game. Doesn’t make much sense to play as them your first time through, though, as there’s no story attached to their gameplay. The Alucard Boots are a nice touch to the game. I was disappointed to find out they weren’t in the U.S. version seeing as the opening scene has Alucard hauling ASS through the woods; a speed you never get to achieve in the game.

The bonus area, “Underground Garden”

With extra content comes extra slow-down. The game slows to a dramatic crawl often during gameplay. For me, it wasn’t too annoying as I actually expected it. This was the leading game to pull the 2D genre through to the next-gen consoles, so pushing the limit was a must. Giant exploding enemies are generally the cause of the molasses, along with anything else that loads the screen up with 2D sprites. You can see in the first few seconds of the video above where the lone knight kills the speed of the game as my Sword familiar whoops his ass with his patented disco turn-n-slice. I guess depending on how much of a snob you are is whether you’d let it affect your gameplay or not.

All in all, Nocturne is an absolutely amazing game and I recommend any version to anyone if you haven’t played it. The rareness is practically gone since it’s also available on the PlayStation Network. You have no excuse! You play it! You play it now!

The Bottom Line: 4.5 (out of 5)