Welcome to our weekly feature, Virtually Overlooked, wherein we talk about games that aren't on the Virtual Console yet, but should be. Call it a retro-speculative.
Virtually Overlooked readers know that we love Konami, a lot-- Castlevania in particular. We've talked about three Konami games already in our feature's short history, one of which was a Castlevania. Surely you won't mind if we go back to the well? It'll be worth it. Don't worry, it's not another Castlevania 1 remake. Akumajou Special: Boku Dracula-kun for the Famicom is a Mega Man clone-- starring the monster such as whom mankind ill needs a savior.
Why the game hasn't been announced for Virtual Console yet:
Dracula-kun has a ... very special problem that keeps it from Virtual Console greatness. You've all seen Square's Tom Sawyer game with the somewhat insensitive portrayal of Jim? Well, this features what looks like actual Klansmen as enemies. We can kind of see where they're coming from-- what's more of a monster than a hateful mob? But it was a bad decision in terms of their ability to resell the game on an American download service sixteen years later. How short-sighted of Konami. Maybe they could turn that enemy into a wizard like they did in the US Game Boy release.
Why we think it should be on the Virtual Console:
Controversy aside, Boku Dracula-kun is really interesting in that it uses trappings of classic Castlevania-- the tile-based rooms, the clock tower, old movie monsters, the first level full of zombies, and even Castlevania III music-- and reinterprets them as a bright, bouncy, caricatured kid's game. Not only is the content remade in a more child-friendly style, but the basic gameplay is reinterpreted as well. Playing Castlevania as a run & gun shooter is an experience unique to Boku Dracula-kun. It draws heavily from Mega Man in appearance and gameplay, down to the weapon upgrades at the end of each level. Dracula starts off able to shoot a single fireball, which can be charged up (as in Mega Man 4 and beyond.) He gains ice shots, spread shots, seeking shots, and the abilities to turn into a bat and to temporarily reverse gravity (like Metal Storm). And as with any good kid's game, Dracula-kun has had some bizarre minigames tacked on. One level ends with a game-show-style quiz from the Statue of Liberty, which you are required to win. Reading all the answers before one of the opponents buzzes in is quite a challenge for non-native Japanese readers.
Companies don't seem like they would be willing to release parody games anymore-- not that they ever were in the US. Everything is treated so much more seriously now, even though most of the time games are just as hokey as they were in the 8-bit era. It's too bad-- parodies like this and (obviously) Parodius act as loving celebrations of their source material. Independent of the Castlevania connection, Boku Dracula-kun is a great NES platformer.
We'd love to hear your suggestions for next week's Virtually Overlooked, as long as they aren't Nintendo 64 games!
[Most images from The Castlevania Dungeon]