E3 2021 has been a great time for folks with modern consoles, but what if you stopped upgrading in 1992? Well, this is for you: Limited Run Games is releasing the original TurboGrafx-16 version of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood in America for the very first time. No release date yet, but the boutique publisher said the game is “coming soon” during today’s surprise reveal.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, perhaps better known by its Japanese title of Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo or just Dracula X, was released in 1993 for Japan’s PC Engine CD, what we know in the states as the TurboGrafx-CD. It’s long been considered one of the best Castlevania games of all time. Although it features mostly linear, level-based gameplay akin to earlier installments, Rondo of Blood is actually a direct prequel to 1997’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the PlayStation hit that first introduced Metroidvania-style gameplay to the franchise.
After remaining exclusive to Japan for over a decade, Rondo of Blood eventually made it to the West in 2007 as part of the PlayStation Portable’s Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles collection, which included both a new polygonal remake and the original TurboGrafx game as a secret unlockable. This provided fans the opportunity to play Rondo of Blood with an official English translation for the first time. The game appeared on PlayStation 4 as well, bundled with Symphony of the Night in 2018’s Castlevania Requiem compilation.
This is where things get a bit more complicated.
In 1987, Japanese corporations Hudson Soft and NEC Home Electronics collaborated to release a superpowered 8-bit console called the PC Engine, which would appear in North America almost two years later as the TurboGrafx-16. It was a huge hit in Japan, its arcade-like graphics offering a meaningful leap over Nintendo’s aging Famicom. It didn’t fare as well in the U.S., due in part to bungled marketing.
Over its lifetime, the PC Engine would receive several important upgrades, starting with 1988’s (!) CD-ROM² add-on (known as the TurboGrafx-CD in North America and released three years before the Sega CD), a couple CD-ROM RAM upgrades, and most conveniently the all-in-one PC Engine Duo which launched in 1991 (America got its own TurboDuo in 1992). More versions were released before and after, but it was the PC Engine Duo, with its increased RAM and Super CD-ROM² compatibility, for which Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo was released in 1993.
That’s all to say that while Rondo of Blood has been playable in English for quite some time now, it never released on the North American rendition of its original console. It may seem weird to go through all the trouble now, but I’m sure there are more than a few old-school Castlevania fans, TurboGrafx aficionados, hoarders of weird gaming memorabilia, and folks that lie somewhere in-between willing to shell out money for this kind of collectible. Limited Run Games are madmen of the highest degree, and it’s a madness I respect.
Additional reporting by Alexandra Hall