French studio Migami Video games made a reputation for itself with wonderful Castlevania fan video games like The Lecarde Chronicles 1 and 2, however fan video games don’t hold the lights on or put meals on the desk, so the group has understandably embraced business ambitions with Wallachia: Reign of Dracula. One may count on that, given Migami’s pedigree and the presence of a sure world-famous literary vampire, that this might be a Castlevania-type recreation with the serial numbers filed off. However in apply, it’s really fairly completely different, significantly being that the heroine, Elcin, wields a bow and arrow as her important weapon. It ends in a recreation that feels extra like a traditional run-and-gun akin to Contra or Rolling Thunder, with a tiny little bit of Shinobi blended in for good measure.
Elcin is kind of versatile along with her bow and might shoot in eight instructions, however she additionally wields a sword, which isn’t solely helpful for close-quarters fight however can be used to slice enemy projectiles in mid-air. Particular arrows with restricted ammunition may be discovered as nicely, embody piercing arrows, explosives, and three-way projectiles. Arrows can be charged by holding down the assault button for extra highly effective blows.
Elcin can also be accompanied by the spirits of 4 helpers, whose talents may be chosen at any time and activated while you’ve collected sufficient orbs. The white wolf Silviu blazes throughout the display screen whereas Radu fires a flare that assaults every part on the display screen. Providing completely different utilities, Christian can grant short-term invincibility whereas Konstantin can strengthen your arrows. Quite than floating candles or orbs, power-ups are dropped by useful birds that routinely fly on the prime of the display screen, requiring that you simply pay cautious consideration to them and shoot them precisely so you possibly can seize their goodies. Enemies frequently drop gadgets too, encouraging you to slaughter as lots of them as potential.
Whereas many trendy indie retro throwbacks attempt to provide some concessions to the participant by making the issue degree extra manageable, Wallachia: Reign of Dracula has little endurance for such issues. It’s very a lot patterned after eight and 16-bit fashion motion video games, full with checkpoints and restricted lives. There is a simple mode, however in traditional Konami fashion, you possibly can solely play partway by way of the sport earlier than being requested to problem a tougher mode.
There are limitless continues, plus you possibly can bounce to any degree you’ve been to when beginning the sport, primarily permitting you to save lots of your progress, so it’s not completely hardcore – nevertheless it’s positively a recreation that expects you to play, and die, and replay, a number of instances till you’ve memorized the extent layouts and boss patterns, and developed ample methods to beat them. A lot of the sport is comparatively beneficiant with this, with considered checkpoints and brief ranges, although the final two turn into fairly a bit much less forgiving. Elcin can take 4 hits by default, so that you’ve received extra room for error than in your common Contra recreation.
For probably the most half, Wallachia: Reign of Dracula performs very nicely, providing full management over your character’s jumps and double jumps, and a button that retains Elcin in place when you purpose in any path (although there’s no method to strafe). Just a few management quirks manifest; there’s a slide transfer that’s executed by urgent down and bounce, which is simple to make use of unintentionally, and ally particular assaults can’t be used when ducking, for some cause. There’s additionally an occasional glitch the place Elcin shoots out blanks when firing a stream of arrows. It’s uncommon sufficient that it’s not an enormous downside, however it’s noticeable.
The problem, nonetheless, does comprise some kinks frequently seen in traditional 2D motion video games. The ally particular assaults are massively overpowered, and so they’re simply probably the most preferrred method to cheese bosses. In case you’ve managed to play the stage right through with out dying, then you definately seemingly have sufficient orbs to easily overwhelm the end-of-level guardian. In the meantime, in case you die throughout the boss battle, your entire ammo is depleted, making it fairly a bit harder, albeit not inconceivable. Many power-ups, significantly those that improve your weapons, disappear while you get hit, one thing that limits their usefulness.
The visuals in Wallachia: Reign of Dracula are very like Migami Video games’ different titles, using increased decision pixel artwork than most different retro video games. A pleasant contact is that the sport relies extra on the historic Vlad Tepes than Bram Stoker’s literary creation (and the numerous film monsters it impressed) that are usually featured in Castlevania video games. Many of the fodder enemies are human troopers, and harder foes embody catapults, cavalrymen, and picket tanks. There’s even a boss battle that’s simply towards a small clock tower. That’s to not say there aren’t any supernatural enemies, although – it’s straightforward to neglect that “Dracul” means “dragon”, which is the shape the villain takes for the ultimate boss battle. A few of the battlefields are additionally crammed with fallen troopers skewered on stakes, the horrific pastime that earned the true Vlad Tepes his notorious popularity.
The soundtrack is superb as nicely, with music that’s catchy in the identical method as traditional Castlevania tunes whereas nonetheless carrying their very own distinctive id. Wallachia: Reign of Dracula additionally takes its story fairly severely, hiring prime identify Kira Buckland (2B from NieR: Automata) because the voice of Elcin, with Robert Belgrade (the unique voice of Alucard from Castlevania: Symphony of the Evening) showing as Radu. That’s fairly a little bit of effort put into it, contemplating that the plot is usually just a few bits of dialogue interspersed within the ranges and a few interstage narration. It is a disgrace, then, than the static art work which accompanies the cutscenes appears to be like so primitive.
At seven phases, Wallachia: Reign of Dracula isn’t too lengthy, and whereas the issue could appear excessive at first, it’s nonetheless one thing that may be conquered with some tenacity. A tough problem mode is obtainable, in addition to a number of “challenges” for performing top-level feats, like beating a stage with out getting hit. The sport additionally retains data of greatest instances, making it a great candidate for velocity runs. There’s even an unlockable costume permitting Elcin to decorate up as Miriam from Bloodstained.
It may be extra old-school than different comparable video games, however Wallachia: Reign of Dracula nonetheless provides rewarding motion, skilful degree design, and a few wonderful music. With Konami seemingly content material to sleep on its in style Castlevania collection in the interim – exterior of smartphone video games, in fact – this (alongside the likes of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and its sequel) may be as shut as we’re prone to get to a brand-new “old-school” Castlevania outing on Change. It is a good job, then, that Migami Video games is aware of Konami’s franchise so nicely that it has created a really convincing imitation – however one which has sufficient concepts of its personal to face out from its inspiration.