Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Akumajou Special: Boku Dracula-Kun (AKA Kid Dracula) (Famicom, 1990)


That's right, it's KID DRACULA. It's a Parodius type spinoff game that kind of makes fun of the Castlevania series, but in a good-natured way. The Famicom version never made it to the U.S. (until the recent Castlevania Anniversary Collection) but we did get a Game Boy version, which is probably what most people remember when they think Kid Dracula.

...somehow I doubt very many people think of Kid Dracula at all, but I digress.

The Game Boy version is both a remake and a sequel to this one, with new levels and so forth.

Fun Fact: This game was called "Castlevania Jr" in Brazil.

First up, the amazing commercial.

What prompted me to go into the weeds of the Konami-verse to play this? Well, this one trophy from Symphony of the Night. Yes, this is what piqued my interest. It's from defeating Galamoth, the optional uberboss of that game. Well, turns out he's actually from THIS game, and is the main villain no less.

Kid Dracula (who is, presumably, Alucard as a kid) wakes up to find that his (dad's) castle has been taken over by Galamoth, and sets out to liberate it. This is probably during a timeframe where Dracula himself was dead, since he's dead for most of every century as it is. Father of the year, that guy.

Playing this on the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, which as I mentioned is the first time it's actually been released in the United States. That's right, I'm not forced to play ROMs for footage while pretending I'm not, like the Youtubers do.

This collection is cool due to having a variety of screen modes (scanlines mode really does look like a CRT). However the best part is the Bonus Book, which has a bunch of interesting material for the games on here. This collection also gives me a way to play the Game Boy CVs with the OG Game Boy filter on, which I prefer.

Some Kid Dracula material. Sorta reminds me of something you'd see in Nintendo Power.

Without further ado...

KID DRACULA BEGINS. He kinda has Super Saiyan hair. Unfortunately, he has none of a Super Saiyan's mobility.

I had no idea what to expect from this game, and...it's a very basic action platformer. Like extremely basic. Comparing it to a Mega Man game is probably the closest comparison one could draw. You jump and shoot. However, it's a lot stiffer than a Mega Man game and gives you very little control over jumps. He fires small fireballs as his main attack and they move/function just like Mega Man's shots.

Like the sketches above show, the first level is the upper reach of Dracula's Castle from the other games, which is pretty cool.

This means the dastardly clock tower is in stage 1! It isn't too bad though. The game has a few traditional CV enemies in it, except everyone's all cute-ified for this. And everyone's out to kill Kid Dracula for some reason! HOW MUCH IS GALAMOTH PAYING YOU?

Alucard can charge up his standard shot to unleash a more powerful fireball, which is nice and gives this at least a little strategy. This is also AHEAD of where the Mega Man series was in 1990, as it wouldn't debut a charged shot until Mega Man 4, which released in 1991 in Japan.

Same game dropped in 1992 in the U.S., which now causes me to realize that North American people got two new Mega Man games on the NES inside of 1992. TWO. MM4 in January and MM5 in December. What an embarrassment of riches the 90's were.

Our hero takes a moment to bask in the pale moonlight before going into the final boss room from all the other games in the series. With Dracula dead and the castle overrun, who will be occupying the final boss room?

My God! It's...


...a Klansman!

Defeat him and an EVEN BIGGER KLANSMAN appears! It is here where I discover that the bosses of this game are pretty tough, mainly because KD's jumping is so heavy and plodding. It's tough to jump over anything of moderate size.

"What is a man? A miserable pile of secrets!" mumbles the giant klansman.

Between levels you get to play a number of minigames for extra lives. Like this one where you guess what color panties these women are wearing, then they flash you and if you were correct, you get a bunch of extra lives. As an expert guesser of undergarment colors, I made out like a bandit.

The next level has our hero hopping around on clouds, as he does more jumping and shooting. And...that's pretty much it for this game, really. It's probably the most barebones platformer I've ever played.

I mean, the visuals and level layouts are so completely mundane that it almost feels like a game that was intended to be a free promotional demo for a different game. This feels like something that came out in 1985, not 1990.

It's also pretty hard, which is surprising considering that from first appearances it looks like "Castlevania 4 Kidz"

Then again, back then it was Known that kids were actually really good at games. It wasn't like now with all this mamby-pamby "games are too hard, think of the children" stuff with the game journalists. Back then, kids crushed games! They probably still do IDK.

Next boss is... a giant chicken!

What even is this game?

Oh yeah, after every level you get a new weapon, sort of. The weapons in this game (which are considered "spells") only activate when you charge up; the rest of the time you're using regular shots. The weapon you get after level 1 is the obviously Contra-inspired Homing, seen here. It fires a Spread Gun type shot that also homes in on enemies, and is pretty much all you need for most of the game.

Like I might barely even mention the other spells in this game, they're so situational and/or unmemorable. Use Homing, profit, that's it.

Another between-levels minigame has you stabbing a barrel to try and hit a skeleton!


Level 3 is a water level, which means high jumps. Normally I like stuff like this on NES, except that they made it so that no matter how much or little you tap jump, he'll always jump the same height. That becomes a real problem underwater because he always sails way up no matter how little you tap the button.

Our hero finds a bunch of swimmers. I don't know what's goin' on.

Alucard: "So then I just started BLASTIN"

Worth noting: When enemies blow up in this game, they do so with a "Pow!" which is pretty cool.

Next boss: This dude in a bubble. He bounces around at angles, like an Armored Armadillo type situation. Normally I like bosses that bounce around at angles in these old games. Except this one is HALF THE SIZE OF THE SCREEN. So you basically have to spam your spells and hope he dies before you do. Like being married to a billionaire who is older than you.

After that I get the Bat spell, which is actually kind of good. Especially for the next level, which is full of slippery surfaces.

I was actually caught a little off-guard when I charged up and turned into a bat the first time.

Also, apparently charging up to become a bat was too complicated for some players to figure out:

....I'm gonna get going.

Flying between these spikes is way more of a hassle than it should be, because our hero can't fly in a straight line. That's right, he slowly descends and if you try to ascend to counter it, he floats way up. Is he inebriated?

Next boss: Flying purple dragon. Homing does wonders on this fight, as usual. Not much else to say. The floor is slippery so that can be an issue.

Oh, here's a side note: The reason I started with 3 hearts and now have 5 is because you can find permanent health increases occasionally in the levels. 5 is the max and I had that by midway through level 2. Once you have 5, it stays like that even through deaths. It's kind of odd, why not just start the player at 5? Well, I'm not sure.

Level 5 is a city that's most likely based on NYC. I think that's the Metlife building on the left.

The second half of the level is a subway ride...ON TOP OF THE SUBWAY. This part is tricky because you have to dodge various things that fly in from the side at high speed.

Boss of level 5 is... the Statue of Liberty??

What a bizarre, quirky game. I'm glad it exists.

Lady Liberty abhors violence, so instead she challenges Kid Dracula to a game show. His opponents? The klansman and the giant bird.


The key here is to press a button to "activate the buzzer" and then it lets you answer the question. If you wait long, one of the others will buzz in and answer. First person to 3 points wins.

Also you can answer a question before the answers have fully loaded in, as seen here.

.............alright fine.

::sulks out::

The last power you get is UPDOWN, which lets you walk on the ceiling. And also lets Konami reference their famous code!

Level 6 is a desert with violent cactuses. I love desert levels on NES, they give me these positive nostalgic vibes.

Second part is a pyramid, where this ball chases you. It outruns KD, so the game gives you ABSOLUTELY ZERO leeway on this. If you start running immediately when it appears, you'll just barely escape from it before it catches up.

Next boss: A pharaoh mask that fires bubbles. I feel like this particular boss design showed up a lot in the 90's.

Stage 7 is this highly-frustrating vertical passageway where you have to stay ahead of autoscrolling by leaping up platforms. The game wasn't bad at all up to this point, but now they CRANK the difficulty. Towards the end, missiles start flying onto the screen, and they seem to appear in random spots so it's almost luck-based. Get hit and you probably fall and die.

At the top of this infernal section, I find...



Hold on, is it Galamoth or Garamoth? Because Symphony says Galamoth, while Kid Dracula for Game Boy, and this very game, say Garamoth.

Alright, awesome, so it's Galamoth, glad we cleared that up.

Thanks, Bing AI! See you in 2029!

::distant explosions and screams::

Galamoth is...certainly a lot less imposing than his Symphony of the Night form. He must have had some Kraid Juice between this game and that game.

Quick reminder of what he looked like there. Yep, definitely hitting the Kraid Juice.

Wait a minute, that wasn't the final boss? Stage 7 is such a nice number to end on too. The game really should have ended there, because the last two levels are super-frustrating just like the previous one.

Level 8 involves boarding an airship with terrified robots on it. Everything here is suddenly a damage sponge.

Took me a bit to figure out how to damage the next boss. Nothing was working! Then, I remembered UPDOWN.

AHA! The one time in the game where it's useful! Get on the ceiling and blast away until the fight ends.

Level 9 is the last level, and basically functions as a boss rush. First up is this...dragon? that teleports in at random spots and then charges across the screen. KD's limited jumping is again an issue here. This boss only takes damage from the Freeze power, which I never mentioned before now because I never had a use for it before now. It's the Ice Beam from Metroid, and freezes foes if you charge up and fire it. Which seems really useless in this game. Well, it damages this guy so there we go.

Next is this gigantic drill, which can only be damaged right after it falls. So you have to run under it to make it fall, then blast away. And you better run directly under it without stopping because they barely give you time to clear it.

Oh yeah, this final level has NO CHECKPOINTS. So you better get real real good at these two bosses, cause you're doing all this on one life meter! Luckily Anniversary Collection has save states built in to remedy this...somewhat. Take too much damage and you're still boned as you progress.

Final boss is Galamoth, who is bigger now but still not Symphony big. He fires lightning bolts while moving back and forth, and you have to stay directly under him to stay between the bolts. He's only vulnerable when he opens his mouth to fire a fireball, which he does every so often. Which means you have to stand just to the side (against a bolt, basically) when he stops moving, avoid the fireball, and fire a shot upwards to damage him during that half-second. It isn't that bad, except for the whole NO CHECKPOINTS thing.

After sending Galamoth packing from his castle, Alucard once again reigns supreme. All of his minions are much happier to be back under his employ instead of Galamoth, as well. I imagine that guy didn't offer much for benefits.

I want to say "great game" but it really isn't. It's just so barebones that it really does feel like a pack-in game you'd find in a cereal box. ...which is not to say all of those are barebones. I remember a few cereal games that got pretty highly acclaimed. Regardless, it's a fun sendup to the Vania series and it's so quirky that it's worth a look if one has this particular collection and is curious enough. As barebones as it is, it definitely isn't boring.

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