Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ultra Review Roundtable: Kid Dracula (Game Boy, 1993)

Ed.: It's time once again for the monthly Ultra Review Roundtable, lovingly assembled by HagenDragmire at with contributions from our motley crew of retro gamers (including yours truly, Sushi-XPired.)  This month, we turn our attention to the Game Boy, and Konami's Kid Dracula!


Kid Dracula on the Game Boy is a platform game and the follow-up to the Japan only Famicom game Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-kun. The story has the Demon Prince, Kid Dracula awakening from a deep slumber and getting challenged by Garamoth who is a dinosaur-type creature. Being the cocky kid that he is, Kid Dracula ends up deciding to take on Garamoth all by himself. A little tidbit is that the Kid Dracula in this story is essentially the child version of Alucard from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night fame. Not only did all the 8-bit Japanese Castlevania titles start with Akumajo, but Garamoth also appears as a boss in Symphony of the Night, called Galamoth.

Kid Dracula’s gameplay is your stereotypical action/platform game. The controls are decently accurate and don’t require too deep of a learning curve in order to jump right in and play. The addition of special powers and being able to charge them for an added boost gives you options to how you can tackle every obstacle throughout the game. Boss fights are fun and the attack patterns aren’t too overly cryptic.

Graphics and Sound
The graphics are decently detailed for a Game Boy release. All of the characters in the game have a special charm to them which makes them each likable in their own way. Each level has a different theme which is nice to see on the monochrome handheld. The music is quirky as expected and adds to the charm created by the graphics. Overall, the presentation here makes for a great overall gaming experience that Konami is known for.

“The bosses are a highlight of the game without a doubt, with each offering a varying degree of strategy and technique to overcome.” -

“Kid Dracula wears its black but jovial heart on its sleeve.” -

“With a great variety of designs and ideas Kid Dracula almost seems like a test game, in a sense of ‘What can we actually achieve with this cartridge.’” -

“Having all the different powers is really a great feature to Kid Dracula and all of the boss battles are pretty damn fun.” -

* Developed by: Konami

Published by: Konami

Released: 1993

Platform: Nintendo Game Boy

Genre: Platforming

Perspective: Side-Scrolling

Sushi-Xpired from
Favorite Handheld: Game Boy Advance SP
Least Favorite Handheld: Original Game Boy

"Kid Dracula?  I wouldn't go teasing vampires if I was you, sonny. Them bloodthirsty bastards'll tear your throat out soon as look atcha. Why, when I was a boy, if you dropped a penny in the dark, you didn't bend down to pick it up, for fear that some unholy creature of the night would swoop down out of the trees and sink its eight-inch fangs right into your neck. Leastways, that's what they told us kids.  No wonder my generation is all messed up."

This girl is cute enough, but she’s kind of a witch.

Kid Dracula is a cute, cartoonish, thoroughly Japanese spinoff/parody of Konami's Castlevania series, and it wears its black but jovial heart on its sleeve. There's probably more space devoted to sprite animation than background tiles in this Game Boy cartridge. The zombies, bats, Frankenstein's monsters, and other monstrous denizens of its short, platform-heavy levels are rendered with big heads and bug eyes, with comical expressions as they get taken down. And our hero Kid Dracula whisks his cape around and flashes a cheeky, triumphant grin at the end of each section. The end-of-level boss battles are a lot of fun and are sometimes pretty challenging, with multiple forms for each boss giving them a great sense of humor.

The game also benefits from one of Konami's lively, light-hearted 8-bit music scores. I found Level 2's bouncy theme maddeningly recognizable and had to track down its origin. I thought for a while it was from an early Konami arcade game but the closest match I could come up with was the theme from Toypop, which was from Namco and not the right tune either. The Web eventually took pity and informed me that it's actually a Debussy piece called "Golliwog's Cakewalk"  which was familiar to me because it has been borrowed for a number of silent movie organ scores. (No, I am not actually THAT old!) It fits the style of Kid Dracula perfectly.

4 Kid Jasons out of 5

NathanRadness from
Favorite Handheld: Game Boy Advance SP (The version with the real back light!)
Least Favorite Handheld: Game Gear

Kid Dracula is a pseudo sequel, or quasi-port, or maybe even a partial demake of Konami's Japan exclusive Famicom title Akumajo Special: Boku Dracula-kun. Staring a chibi super-deformed version of the Castelvania III's Alucard, Kid Dracula's pitch perfect parody of the series to which it owes its lineage gives the title a fistful of charm that precisely accentuated by its decidedly Japanese graphical style.

My copy of Kid Dracula.

You play as the titular Kid Dracula, Alucard, and platform your way through stages that expertly blend design cues from the NES Castlevania titles with the varied and creative level design reminiscent of the early NES Mega Man games. Like Mega Man, conquering stages nets you additional power-ups and special abilities you must use to pass later stages. The bosses are a highlight of the game without a doubt, with each offering a varying degree of strategy and technique to overcome. All in all, although the game is a bit on the easy side, certainly compared to its Famicom sibling. Kid Dracula definitely deserves a place in any serious video game enthusiast's collection.

4 Kid Jasons out of 5

RetroJC from
Favorite Handheld: Game Boy Light
Least Favorite Handheld: Atari Lynx

My experience with Kid Dracula goes back to my childhood and my complete lack of knowledge that led to me not knowing I could turn into a bat until I read retro review in a European Nintendo magazine in early 2003, needless to say I was pissed. However for some reason Kid Dracula has stayed with me throughout my youth, proudly and somewhat arrogantly on my shelf as a game I've never quite completed. I'd say this was down to lack of batteries, but in truth Kid Dracula is bloody hard once you get towards the end; especially if you didn't know you can transform into a bat.

Much like my love for Parodius, Konami again parodied one of their finest franchises into a much more child friendly form. However looks can be deceiving, Dr Acula is at its heart a deeply difficult platformer with more trips ups than a broken set of stairs. For the concerned pedigree Castelvania fan you're right to be nervous, as Kid Dracula has very little in terms of homage to it's older bretherin. But forgiving that, this little platformer can give every portable Mario title a run for its money and in many cases beats them.

It’s my opinion that Kid Dracula is one of the best portable platformers out there, with an all round brilliant display of graphics, gameplay design, and sound that it's difficult to really knock the game down. The enemies and bosses have been perfectly planned to give the gamer not only a challenge, but upon defeat a sense of accomplishment. Only falling short due to its gameplay length, it doesn't devalue the memories I have of this game or most importantly what an essential game this is.

4 Kid Jasons out of 5

HagenDragmire from
Favorite Handheld: PSP (Emulating nearly every retro system and tons of RPGs!)
Least Favorite Handheld: Virtual Boy

Kid Dracula is way harder than I remember from back in the day. When I was a kid I used to beat this game in a heartbeat, but now I’ve been having trouble on the third stage. This could be because I’m too lazy to get out my Super Game Boy with my copy of the game and I am playing it via emulation on my iPhone with the Wii controller via bluetooth. It took me a while to figure out that I could turn into a bat with select, as I kept dieing on the first level from longer jumps. Having all the different powers is really a great feature to Kid Dracula and all of the boss battles are pretty damn fun. I especially liked battling the Chibi-Jason who not only grabbed his ax but also a shotgun!

The boss fights were a blast.

After playing it again on the Super Game Boy, the controls are so much more responsive and precise then on the ROM version, which allowed me to progress a little further into the game. The music is great throughout and there are quite a few tracks for an original Game Boy release. Alucard has really grown up in latter games, but as a kid he was still pretty badass.

4 Kid Jasons out of 5

Ultra Review Roundtable
Overall Rating

Unanimous 4 Kid Jasons out of 5

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