Title: Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-kun
Design/program: MURATA Shirou
Music: TASAKA Shinji, MINAMI Satoko
   Released by: Konami
   Release Date: October 19, 1990
   Japanese level: 2
   MSRP: 5800 yen
   Current Price: 1000-1500 yen
I don't know about you, but I think that those Castlevania games are really scary. Yeah, man. Leave me waking up in the night, they do. All that whipping and skelingtons and floating heads and stuff. All those Belmonts, too - sheesh. Bunch of dorks, they are. Can't mind their own freakin' business, I tell you. I think Konami should just sod off with the whole group of them and make more games like this.

Dracula is obviously evil, and Simon and crew are always trying to beat up on him. It's not fair. Being evil is always a lot more fun than being "good" - you get to rule people around and maybe even destroy them if they're disagreeing. That is why Kid Dracula is the coolest villain in the universe - he has no hidden agenda, no lust for virgin girls, no desire for material wealth. He just wants to rule the entire world and everyone in it. And you get to control him.

The background

The exact origin of Kid Dracula (as he got called in the USA Gameboy release, and what I'll call him for sake of continuity) is a little unclear. Some people believe him to be the younger version of Alucard from Castlevania III, which i think is silly since Kid obviously has no desire to lay low and help out those wussy Belmonts.

KD wakes up one day from a ten thousand-year snooze. After some refreshing tomato juice (ho ho ho) he sits down in front of his cool bat-style television. Just then, though, one of the castle guard bats comes down and attacks him, swearing allegiance to some dude named Garamoth. After some confusion, Garamoth comes on the TV announcing that he's conquered the world while our man's been sleeping. "From now on," he intones, "you shall be calling me the Great Dark Lord Garamoth!"

This obviously doesn't hold well with Kid Dracula (since he's the Lord of Darkness and Evil and all) so it's time to go on a quest to set things "right" in the world...

The game

Kid Dracula vs. Garamoth. The bosses in this game are particularly nice for NES capabilities, although Konami apparantly didn't care about flicker.
Essentially the game is from the same school of thought as the Parodius series - "funny" action platforming as opposed to "serious" platform action like in Castlevania. Unlike Parodius, though, there are only a very few really silly parts (an impromptu quiz show with the Statue of Liberty as boss/hostess comes to mind).

The first level is an obvious take on the Castlevania series as it was in 1990 - you got the clock tower, the pendulum which you take a ride on, the outdoor staircase leading up to the boss with the moon in the background, and so forth. The rest of the levels are the same sort of platform cliches you've seen everywhere - ice world, desert world, underwater world, the bit on top of buildings in New York, etc. Nothing particularly new is added to this...

...apart from the ever-present flicker. I can only think of two reasons why this game flickers so much: The people at Konami may have needed their eyesight checked and thought the Famicom looked like a Super Famicom and coded as such, or maybe they had a mega powered up version of the FC that ran on a 65816 and never slowed down. Or something. It's obvious that Konami didn't even try to get around the NES's sprite limits in this game; they decided that big characters were worth the trouble. Some of the coding features are nice (particularly a trip up a cosmic tube via jumping on lots of little platforms) but slowdown can be a problem as well. Good thing emulators don't emulate flicker, huh?

Spin the lotto wheel around. If anything other than a white ball comes out, you've got extra guys coming your way.
In between levels, you can play various games with the coins you pick up from attackers for a chance at getting 1ups. These sub-games are all pretty neat; there's a standard roulette game, a lotto game where you have to spin the Japanese-style lottery wheel to see what colored ball comes out, a game where you have to guess what color panties a group of can-can girls are wearing (Oh wait! I bet that's Parodius style too! Those wacky Konami funsters), and one based on the magician's trick of sticking knives in a casket with a guy inside.

The game's contents are in general pretty fun, and the frustration factor is low. Music is standard Konami; some of it sounds dangerously like polka but there are still one or two good tunes. The manual also lots of important facts about Kid Drac himself (age is 10,009, wears his father's cape, can cavort around in the desert in daytime since no one told him that vampires are susceptible to light and crosses and such).

As long as you don't let the slowdown and flicker tick you off, this is a pretty OK platformer in the style of the late Famicom period. There's a password system up to two levels before the end as well as infinite continues, so this isn't as hard as the other vampire-y games Konami has made. Although I may embellish a wee bit on the importance of this game, it'll give you the quintessential Konami experience, and you can't be unsatisfied with that.

Footnote: Your weapons

After most levels, Kid Dracula is awarded with some kind of new weapon or ability. These new weapons can be accessed by hitting Select to cycle through your choices, and activated by holding down B and releasing. You need these weapons to finish the game safely, so pay attention:

Throughout the game you press B to launch little wussy fireballs which do almost zero damage to anybody beyond the first few levels. Holding down B then releasing gives you this super fireball (1) which is a bit more powerful. After that:

  • Homing fireballs (2) home in on hard-to-reach enemies.
  • Exploding fireballs (3) are even more powerful and should be the standard weapon once you get them.
  • Bat transformation (4) lets you fly around for a limited time.
  • Freeze balls (5) freeze enemies and help out against other hot objects (hint hint).
  • And finally, upside-down power (6) lets you walk on ceilings, a useful trait one or two times.