New video: ‘Castlevania: Rondo of Blood’ (1993)

Henrique Lage
15 min readOct 2, 2023


We start another month of Halloween with another Castlevania game, already a tradition in the channel. After covering one of the worst and one of the least appreciated, it was time to talk about one of the best considered, or, at least, the version that exists in Japan because in the West, the story is very different…

If you like these and other blog posts and want them to continue, please consider donating via or contributing as a Patreon at where you can get early access to the texts and vote for upcoming posts. Check out also my Youtube channel (with English subtitles).


One more year Halloween is approaching and in this channel we always celebrate it in a big way. For this, I could not miss the most halloweenesque saga of video games: “Castlevania”, although every time I make a video of this saga does not have many visits…

So today Richter Belmont comes to save us.


The popularity and success of “Super Castlevania IV” led Konami to experiment more in the franchise. In 1993 they would release two new installments: “Akumajou Dracula”, a covert remake of the original game for the Sharp X68000 computer, much more faithful than the previous installment; and “Castlevania: Rondo of Blood” for PC-Engine.

The latter’s Super CD-ROM System allowed for higher quality visuals, animated cinematics and pre-recorded voices. While “Super Castlevania IV” and “Akumajou Dracula” tried to update the original game to platforms that allowed substantial improvements, “Rondo of Blood” seemed bent on moving the franchise forward, even if it was only for the story at first.

Thus, the game put us in the hands of Ritcher Belmont, 100 years after “Castlevania II: Simon’s Curse”. It is the year 1792 and Dracula has been resurrected by the hand of a dark priest named Shaft. The priest, devoted to the vampire’s evil, kidnaps Annette (Richter’s romantic interest), Maria Renard (a young distant relative of the Belmonts and friend of Annette), Iris (the daughter of a local doctor) and Tera, a devout nun.

It is up to us, in the role of Richter, to rescue the damsels and defeat Dracula and Shaft… at least, until “Symphony of the Night,” which, according to official canon, takes place only five years later.

A greater emphasis on narrative, with special attention to the cinematics, is what will give a renewed style to the game that, its continuations, will respect even with brief interactions between characters throughout the adventure to mark the player’s progress and give clues about possible hidden secrets. These cinematics make “Rondo of Blood” the first game in the saga to use an anime aesthetic, as opposed to the more hyper-realistic tone sought in previous installments.

This is the first game of the saga that suppresses the improvements to our whip to introduce a second attack of our secondary weapons: a powerful magic that makes us invulnerable during the seconds that lasts its animation and damages all the enemies that are visible on screen. However, in exchange for losing many more hearts that, as we already know, in “Castlevania” do not mean health but correspond to the use of these secondary skills.

Instead of having to choose between different paths to progress, as “Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse” had done, “Rondo of Blood” hides the entrances to alternative stages within the previous stages, which we can complete through different screens until we find an optional exit. That further encourages exploration in the face of the possibility of missing the opportunity to rescue the damsels in distress, as anyone playing for the first time without any help will undoubtedly do.

Related to this, the first girl we rescue (and also the easiest to find) is Maria Renard, who becomes a playable character from that point on, with her own animated cinematics, fun but powerful magic attacks, and the ability to slip through narrower passages. Maria is essentially the game’s easy mode, and for that “Rondo of Blood” forces you to play at least two levels with Richter to understand the level difference.

The game’s credits include Koji Igarashi, who was at the same time working on the script for the legendary “Tokimeki Memorial”. Looking for ideas, Igarashi would meet his future wife at Konami’s offices who, in turn, was working on “Rondo of Blood”. The two exchanged ideas and opinions of their respective games, giving each other advice and some of it leaked into the other’s game. Officially, Igarashi did not work on “Rondo of Blood”, but the fact that his next and most famous project, “Symphony of the Night”, is a direct sequel of that one shows the enormous relevance that those meetings had in his work.


Unlike the previous games (and some later ones), the geographical progression towards Dracula’s castle is not presented to us as a map but as something more abstract. This is because, over the course of 8 levels (and the alternate stages), we can find ourselves initially at the entrance of the castle and, subsequently, in the open sea inside a ghost ship.

The game begins with a magnificent prologue of Richter on his way to Dracula’s castle, driving his chariot, when Death himself makes an appearance and puts him to the test. This small but dynamic tutorial is essential for new players to understand how to attack and dodge in a disadvantageous situation.

Death lets us continue to the first stage itself: the ruins of the city of Aljiba.
This scenario seeks to slightly recreate the city of “Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest”, the first game with an open world of the saga, which is quite a statement of intent. Between bats and skeletons we move forward, including the introduction of the gorilla skeletons that throw barrels that appear here for the first time in the series.

If we continue along the most obvious path, and after fighting several golems on our way, we will reach the first boss of the game: the Wyvern. Like Death, it flies above us and fires projectiles, but it can also grab us. Good use of secondary weapons and well-coordinated jumps make this fight the easiest in the game.

All bosses in the game have a final attack for when they have already lost all life, so you should never be confident because we can die even if we have won the battle but we have been left with little health.

The second phase is the usual entrance to the castle, with the glass at the beginning, the small staircase where we fought against the Bat in the first game, its subway lake with jumping tritons and fleeing from the Behemoth instead of facing him. All an exercise of subversion of expectations with nostalgia about a familiar space that works perfectly, but that increases considerably the difficulty when it comes to the boss of this phase: A werewolf of enormous agility and speed that asks us to be very awake and be very accurate with our positions.

The third level is known as The Chapel, whose importance will be revealed much greater in “Symphony of the Night”. This level is dedicated to playing with vertical attacks of the enemies, either with the spearmen at different heights or the swinging skeletons, flea men sliding down the handrail and, of course, the most fearsome enemy of the “Castlevania”: the jellyfish heads.

This encounter with the Giant Skeleton, future recurrent of the saga, concludes with the bell ringing and dropping items as a reward.
Before we face the boss of this level, here a skeleton sitting on a chair. If we hit him he turns to ashes and nothing happens, but from then on, chairs will be an important element in later games.

Our enemy this time is the Minotaur, with the possibility of dodging it thanks to precise platforms.

The fourth level introduces us deep into the castle, with red skeletons that we can temporarily stun but not kill. The theme of this stage is traps, some of which we can activate at will via push buttons on the floor. A fun section even incorporates an explanation for the perpetual falling of rolling stones down some stairs: something the player doesn’t need, but which the designers felt important to include because this is the playful nature that the saga acquires from this game onwards.

At the end of this route awaits us the Headless Knight, who in addition to carrying a spear with a lot of range can throw his skull against us, and it is not too easy to dodge. Holy water is particularly effective here since the Knight can’t jump.

Phase Five introduces us for some reason near the sea, entering a pirate ship. The platforms here become much more complex.

We will face off in two enclosed rooms inside the ship. The first against a group of flying weapons, which involves nothing more than dodging and attacking at the right time. More complex is the second room with a painting that can capture and kill us with a single blow, but it is not very resistant either.

We ascend the main pole being careful not to get hurt by the Flea Men on birds. At the top, our old friend and servant of Dracula awaits us: Death. Her first phase forces us to deal with her irritating mini-spiders that materialize in the air and chase us. If we survive, Death chooses to make it more personal in a one-on-one where, clearly, we have much more of an advantage.

The sixth stage is peculiar because it’s more of a boss rush. We encounter Shaft and he conjures up the first four enemies from the original game. We evade the Bat’s attacks, punish the Medusa before her tail and projectiles defeat us, climb the blocks the Mummy tries to crush us with, and resist the Frankenstein’s Creature’s electrical attacks and earthquakes.

If enduring four bosses in a row seems like a lot, wait until you learn that Shaft wants to end it here and now.

The two spheres that follow him can electrocute us or burn us alive, and Shaft’s constant movement makes it very difficult to dodge and attack at the same time without taking damage, but with practice, he’ll bite the dust.

The seventh stage begins by punishing us with one of the biggest challenges of the entire game: a falling bridge as we are chased by bats with swords. Trying to hit them with the whip requires a lot of skill as they need at least two hits to die. The use of the axe is almost mandatory to survive to the end, although we will hardly get there without taking any damage. At least we won’t have fallen.

What comes next is not going to be any better. Indeed, it’s the moment we all expect in a “Castlevania”: the infamous clock tower with its medusa heads, harpies, bone-throwing skeletons and treacherous gears.
After a long suffering, we can reach an area with several knights and stairs, which ask us to find the right ladder to progress. There is also an interesting mirror here.

We get on a pendulum and will soon find ourselves facing the boss of this level.

Shaft’s ghost will make an appearance to summon both a dead Behemoth roaming the ground and a Wyvern attacking us from the sky. This is by far the hardest boss in the game, but at least it’s not five bosses in a row like the previous stage.

The eighth level is the final and shortest of all: the stairs leading up to the confrontation with Dracula.

Any veteran of “Castlevania” knows that before facing Dracula there is always some secret that can be useful. Here, we can use some invisible stairs to reach an attic with weapons and money. This is a reference to a bug in “Castlevania” that allowed, accidentally, to continue climbing the stairs even when they were finished.

The fight with Dracula is not out of the expected in previous installments: a first phase where he teleports and we must hit him only in the head and a transformation that asks for some more patience. But, if you have finished other “Castlevania”, it will turn out to be little less than a triumphant walk.
However, we have not rescued the maidens and the menu that allows us to choose level points out that there are still places to go. This is where the other side of the game begins….


Already from the first level we have an alternative route open.

If we destroy the walls of this screen, we access a secret area, several new subway screens that lead to a confrontation with a secret boss: the snake.
If we defeat the snake we reach an alternative route over the rooftops of the second stage. We can continue until the route converges in the confrontation with the werewolf or we can drop down a specific hole that, instead of leading to our death, leaves us on Charon’s ship, with a test of endurance facing a series of enraged tritons. Thus, we would reach Alternate Phase 3.

But, if we have only continued the second phase from the heights, we will have missed the opportunity to save the first of the damsels in distress and unlockable character: the young Maria.

To rescue her, we must destroy one of the chandeliers during the Behemoth chase to get a key. That key can be used later in a sewer door in the same phase.

Alternate Phase 3 is focused on quicksand and mud men. If we push the tomb on top at the beginning of the level we will find an extra life and a selection of weapons to our liking.

After facing a giant head with three eyes as weak points, we can destroy the wall under the first door to open what appears to be nothing more than a path leading to the same screen, but if we descend some hidden stairs, we find our second prisoner of Dracula: Tera. If we have already rescued Tera, monsters will appear on this screen instead.

Now, we have two other routes. If we continue ascending, we pass by collapsing platforms and mud men to hit The Minotaur again. But, if on our ascent we hit one of the metal balls, it will fall and open a gap in the ground. Continuing along this path leads us to a different boss: the tireless Dogether, who will cast all kinds of spells and harass us relentlessly.

Finishing with Dogether opens the door to Alternative Phase 4, The Mountain. First we will face crows and frogs, as well as the various water levels where, if we are not careful, we can drown. Soon we find a waterfall. Here, again, we have two options.

If we ignore the waterfall and continue on, we will come to a suspension bridge with acrobat skeletons. Soon after, a section of platforms with annoying newts chasing us. And at the end of the path, Iris, another maiden we have to rescue. We can fight the Headless Horseman again, but instead we’ll try another route.

The alternate path is found by climbing up one of the logs that go down the waterfall, so we go back up there and after a fun water chase and a desperate jump, we arrive back in front of Charon’s challenge.
At the end Carmilla awaits us, returning to the saga from “Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest”. While her mask attacks us, she will approach us to slurp our hearts and thus lose the possibility of using secondary weapons. Stripped of her disguise, she’ll go into acrobatics that pose no obstacle to Richter’s whip.

Next up, the alternate level 5 is the Secret Harbors. The most platforming of the levels, with several newts and moving platforms, ending in a corridor where we will be assaulted by knights from both ends. More areas of moving platforms that are too long and… it is obvious that, of all the phases, this is the one that has had less attention. Maybe because of lack of time, maybe because they expected that not many players would get to it… maybe both. Nothing demonstrates this better than the fact that there isn’t even a final boss. The stage simply ends when you walk through a door.
Levels 6,7 and 8 remain the same, except that in the clock tower we must hit a gear that opens a balcony where, after defeating a bird, we receive a key. That key allows us to open the cell where our beloved Annette is prepared for the sacrifice.

We will defeat Dracula and here would conclude the original “Rondo of Blood” that we did not get to see in his day. However, another game came to the West that borrowed heavily from “Rondo of Blood” without being even close.


As had happened with “Metal Gear”, the version that came to the West of this game through the Super Nintendo is practically a different game: simpler, less elaborate and more predictable. In fact, the degradation is so considerable that “Dracula X” is considered by many fans as one of the worst games in the series. And that includes “Castlevania: The Adventure”.
Unlike the portable installments, this version is at least playable. And even a casual gamer unfamiliar with the development circumstances and all its context would see no major problems, although, of course, at a much lower point than “Castlevania: Bloodlines”.

The comparisons show why “Rondo of Blood” is in such high esteem. By its side, the level design in “Dracula X” is extremely simple, without much variety, with less imaginative or lethal bosses and with only two maidens to rescue: Maria and Annette.

We can rescue Maria Renard in stage 4, after collecting the key just before the stage 3 boss. It is not difficult to find the key, but we must also hold it for part of phase 4 without dying until we reach the girl’s cell.

Only stage 4 and 5 have alternate levels. With the alternate stage 5 being subway ruins where the water level rises, perhaps the most ingenious part of the game.

Stage 6 features a boring moving platform screen that can only give you headaches.

Even the Clock Tower stage is much simpler than in other games, though at least it concludes with Death fighting in front of the sphere, which immediately gives me “Kingdom Hearts” flashbacks.

I do have to defend stage 8: besides being a proper stage (albeit a fairly generic design), the confrontation with Dracula has the added difficulty of fighting between different pillars. That adds a difference compared to other Draculas from previous games… although it also accidentally makes it much easier to dodge his projectiles.

The credits image changes depending on whether we rescued no one, rescued only Maria, or rescued Maria and Annette, but it doesn’t justify playing through the game three times either.

It’s not a bad platformer, but it’s a poor reflection of all the inventiveness the original game showed.


When we could finally enjoy “Rondo of Blood” in the West was… with a remake for Playstation Portable.

In its defense, it’s a pretty decent remake that serves as a predecessor to “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night” with its 2.5D style. It also looks slightly simpler than the original game, but otherwise… It’s tremendously faithful and solid!

Even a fight against a corrupted Annette is added here if we have failed to save her, replacing Shaft’s ghost, a fantastic idea that emphasizes the secret content of the game.

The best part is that this remake includes not only an unlockable port of the original game, but also of “Symphony of the Night”, and another surprise game.

The port of “Rondo of Blood” has some issues, including a lower screen resolution with a letterbox around the image. They also seem to have removed some enemies or that has been my impression because it is somewhat simpler. Performance suffers at certain points and emulating it is a bit of a mess, with a high chance of the game hanging and impossible to complete 100%, but it’s the best we have legally.

“Symphony of the Night”, perhaps because of its origin on the original Playstation, doesn’t seem to have the same problems.

But the big jewel in the crown is the secret game, none other than… “Akumajyo Dracula Peke”. A very brief parody game that pretends to be cut footage from the game, but concludes with Mary herself apologizing to us for entering the wrong game. Pure fantasy and all the more reason to get your hands on “Dracula X Chronicles”.


“Rondo of Blood” rests somewhere in between “classicvania” and “metroidvania”, which has led many fans to consider it not only the best game of the first stage of the saga but one of the best (if not the best) of the franchise.

Personally, I still prefer “Symphony of the Night”, but there is no doubt that “Rondo of Blood” is a tough contender, a consolidation of all the elements that have made this saga last so many years.

Its visual and sound presentation is excellent, loaded with so much personality that it would retroactively influence the memory of the games that preceded it. Yes, along the way we lost some of the atmosphere of gothic terror, but we gained in action.

The possibility of combining different routes, alternating between paths in each new game and the amount of secrets add a considerable replayability value that makes it feel fresh long after having completed it 100%, and its difficulty, high but generous in opportunities, make it one of the most balanced “Castlevania” on all fronts.

“Rondo of Blood” is the aspirational model of a “classicvania” that, while it hasn’t had a greater continuity due to the importance of “igavania”, cements many of the elements of the franchise to become its beautiful beating heart, right in the center of its two parts.

If you like these and other blog posts and want them to continue, please consider donating via or contributing as a Patreon at where you can get early access to the texts and vote for upcoming posts. Check out also my Youtube channel (with English subtitles).



Henrique Lage

Writing essays. Writing games. Writing essays about games. Narrative Design Teacher.