Castlevania has had a number of different forms through the years before it faced abandonment by Konami. The explorative gated platforming that Symphony of the Night helped popularise remains the most popular incarnation of the series, but there’s a lot to love about its earlier action platformer style too. The levels, characters, and weapons all had a distinct feel that set them apart from other platformers of the day, and they are considered classics for a good reason.
It’s a shame then that it’s this form that rarely gets imitated now, even with all the retro mania going on at the moment. Curse of the Moon is probably the most notable example, but outside of that it’s rather slim pickings.
That’s where Toziuha Night: Dracula’s Revenge steps in. The developer has a very clear passion for the series, and this title is an absolute love letter to the early days of Castlevania. It can run a little bit too close to that original formula at times, but it certainly does enough to prove its own worth.
Many thanks to TuanisApps for the review code.
LADY IN RED
Unlike most Dracula-related fiction (including Castlevania for the most part), which shrugs off the connection to the real-life maniac Vlad Tepes, Toziuha Night embraces it. The game starts off with the spike-obsessed alchemist and his assistant in a war of words with Van Helsing. Vlad has been sentenced to death by The Order due to making a pact with the Toziuha, a group of creatures that can grant extraordinary power, and Van Helsing has been sent to deal with him.
Fast forward and we find that members of The Order have been found impaled on spikes outside Dracula’s castle. It seems like he has been resurrected and is seeking revenge. Many alchemists have been sent in to deal with him, but all have perished.
Which brings us to the hero of the story, Xandria. Or rather, not really a hero as she has no desire to help others; she’s a rookie alchemist looking to ascend the ranks in order to seek her own personal revenge. She’s cocky, but more importantly she wants to do whatever it takes to get what she wants, and so she accepts a suicide mission – the only way for her to quickly get promoted, but only if she succeeds in her task.
Toziuha Night has an interesting cast of characters, and they mostly go against the normal archetypes that you’d expect. As the characters interact, you gain more insight into their personality and their purpose, although the imperfect translation can make it quite awkward to read at times.
It’s a shame too as the rest of the presentation is rather good. Locations are varied and detailed, and characters and enemies have some really cool designs to them. Whilst many may riff on classic Castlevania foes, there are also some unique designs here too. That extends too to the bosses, which are a delight to play even if they’re not visually as strong as the rest of the game. The later bosses seem to have a little bit more work put into them, but some of the earlier ones can seem a little lacking in detail.
The music, whilst fitting and feeling very Castlevania-like, does seem to lack a little something in comparison to Konami’s series. None of it is particularly bad, but they’re not very catchy and you’ll likely forget them as soon as you put down the game.
WHIP IT REAL GOOD
Even though the story makes an effort to separate itself from Castlevania, the gameplay is almost identical: Xandria carries around a whip to deal with foes, and she’ll be taking down axe throwing knights, skeletons, rabid dogs, bats, and so on. In addition to her whip, she can also acquire sub weapons that can deal hefty damage, or even restore health, at the cost of mana – which is acquired from destroying the numerous torches scattered around the area.
Sound familiar? That’s because that’s exactly how it works in Castlevania. Heck, even her jumping and movement speed is almost identical to that of the Belmonts.
But… that’s not a bad thing as it is done so well. Sure, it feels like a replica at times, but it also makes sure that it doesn’t feel off either. Newcomers to the game may bemoan the cruel knockback, the non-alterable jump, and the whip that can only attack in two directions; however, the addition of a modern control scheme fixes all of those, allowing for a far more accessible experience that still feels very true to the classics. It even grants you with unlimited lives to ensure that the average gamer should be able to reach the end too.
All of that would be for nothing if the levels were no good, but thankfully they’re also a blast to play. With six reasonably-lengthed stages to play through, each one offers a unique environment to play through that culminates in a boss fight. Design is very reminiscent of the classic titles, and you’d be forgiven if you forget momentarily that you’re not playing a Castlevania game. There’s the odd key hunt here and there that I could have done without, but such sections are usually brief and don’t ruin the overall pacing.
It shouldn’t take too long to get through the game, depending on your skill level and the difficulty you’re playing on, but it’s short length makes it a game you’ll want to come back to for a brief afternoon session. There’s nothing much else added to make you come back aside from a boss rush (that actually changes the fights to make them more challenging), but for €4.99, there’s more than enough here to justify a purchase.
Whilst Toziuha Night: Dracula’s Revenge fails to do anything particularly original, it doesn’t really aim to either. It’s goal is to be a cheap experience that brings back those classic Castlevania feelings, and in that it succeeds. With tight gameplay, a solid presentation, and even a modern difficulty setting for those whose skills may have lapsed, this is a must buy for fans of the classic Konami series.