Game Center CX Season 8 – Back to Contents
Who Are You? "I’m Dracula-kun"
Today’s challenge is a game that arguably should have been on the show a long time ago: Akumajou Special: Boku Dracula-kun, known on Game Boy as "Kid Dracula" in America. For a Castlevania spin-off, the game has little to do with the series (save for the title character), but it’s definitely characteristic of early ’90s Konami games — big, beautiful, and hard as hell.
Arino gets right into it, and as usual, takes some time to get used to the controls. The first stage starts with spiky crushers, which are scary enough until Arino gets past those and meets a trio of bats on the ceiling! He knows what’s going to happen if he gets too close, so he creeps over very slowly, but the first bat swoops down and hits him anyway. On the next try, Arino discovers he can shoot upwards, so that helps.
Before long, he makes it to the boss, a tiny little ghost! Aww, he thinks he’s so dangerous! Arino sends him home crying in a matter of seconds, but then the big Mr. Ghost comes out and charges at him! Arino dies a couple of times thanks to the big ghost’s beams, but he does manage to win. His reward is the Homing shot, and then it’s onto the bonus stage.
The bonus stage leads to a weird roulette game, but unfortunately, he winds up with zero payout. Onto stage 2, then, beginning with an up-in-the-air sequence of clouds. After missing the first jump, though, he dies and gets a Game Over. He continues, but is still kicked back to stage 1. No problem (yet) — he makes it back to stage 2 with ease. The jumping doesn’t get any easier as Arino pushes through stage 2.
Rotating platforms are just the start of the pain when he gets past those and reaches a bullet train-shaped roller coaster. As soon as he steps on it, it jets off, sending him on a wild and wacky coaster ride. Flying turtles come at him at ridiculous speed, but he manages to shoot them all down! And then two minibosses, Fujin and Raijin come in and shoot wind gusts and lightning bolts! Before the coaster reaches the loop-de-loop, Arino is pushed off the cart by turtles. Dear lord.
Arino keeps going for it, and makes it to the loop this time, but then is hit by the bird at the top of the loop, killing him. This eventually leads to another Game Over. After that, Arino decides to try the Homing shot to see how that will fare. When he gets back to Fujin and Raijin, it works like a charm! And he even manages to get past the birds on the loop, too. That’s it! The coaster slows down and the stage continues on solid ground…
…For about two seconds. Cloud platforms are just ahead, and they have faces! Hmm. Arino jumps on the first one, and it starts sliding to the left. For some reason, Arino just stands there as the cloud nudges up against a pillar and pushes him off the edge. Next time, he navigates the platforms normally, but still misses the odd jump. Game Over again. Arino does eventually get past that section, and from there he’s taken to the boss fight against Chicken-san. All Arino does, though, is simply spam the Homing shot (while properly avoiding the enemy projectiles) and the boss is gone in less than a minute. Nothing like a nice stroke of luck. He gets a more powerful charged shot before the next stage.
Stage 3 is underwater, and it’s a safe swim over to the boss, an octopus-like alien inside a giant bubble. Arino’s slow, but some well-placed shots as the alien swoops above him is all it takes to defeat it. The new upgrade this time is the ability to transform into a bat, letting Arino float around the screen freely.
Stage 4 is an ice level (of course it is), and Arino uses the bat power to glide over the rough spots, though he ends up dying anyway, especially in a spiked-lined passage where he keeps grazing the spikes. After several deaths, though, he finally makes it out, and after nearly dying again, he reaches the boss: Dragon-san!
Arino uses the Homing shot again, and soon, the dragon plunges itself into the water. It rises up, but a few extra shots trail and hit it, ending the fight! Appropriately, Arino gets an ice beam as a reward. And then it’s onto stage 5, an urban "American" stage. At the halfway point, Arino drops down a hole and lands on top of a subway! Another high-speed obstacle course, huh?
Arino misses a couple of times, but he’s not killed. Instead, he’s just pushed back a little. Soon, though, enemy punks (literally, with mohawks) approach. Arino gets past them, and then arrives at the boss: The Statue of Liberty? Nooo! Actually, she’ll be hosting a quiz game that acts as this boss battle. Arino is relieved that he won’t have to put any actual effort in. And in another stroke of luck, he gets all the questions right on the first try.
The new power this time is a gravity-flipping ability that lets Arino walk on the ceiling. He’ll be needing it in stage 6, the desert world. Inside a pyramid, giant spiky crushers threaten Arino, especially ones with spikes going up. But he uses the gravity change to get past those, and then it’s on to a collapsable bridge! He dies the firs ttime while trying to jump over a flying skull, but shoots it down next time and continues. At the end of the bridge, he tries to grab an item placed just below, so he lets himself fall, but thankfully, there isn’t a bottomless pit, just an invisible bottom.
After some daring chases (first a boulder, then a collapsing spiky ceiling), Arino makes it to the boss, a giant pharaoh’s head. The boss’ hands act as platforms, rotating around as Arino attempts to strike. He’s knocked off on the first try, but some good luck next time has him defeating the boss and heading to stage 7.
Stage 7 starts with a long vertical trip. Arino rides a small platform that shoots up towards the sky, and he must hop onto the other platforms that appear. In short, he doesn’t quite do it. If he’s not missing jumps, he’s getting hit by enemies, and he dies quickly either way. The misses keep racking up — by far more than ever during this challenge. Arino hopes his attempts don’t reach the 400s like on the Christmas special. Is the jumping really that hard? At one point, Arino fools around and uses the bat power to fly up, but it only lasts a few seconds.
Arino gets far enough that rockets start appearing, somewhat randomly and further upping the death count. Finally, after however many chances, a stroke of luck enables Arino to hop on the final platform and reach the top. Thank goodness! His thumb is almost ruined, too! And just in time for the boss, Garamos. Arino pelts him with shots, but Garamos’ sword and fire attacks are too much for him. He loses… and goes back to the start of the stage! Time to attempt the "hellevator" once more.
After a few tries, he makes it back to Garamos and this time, ducks more often to evade the fire. Garamos seems to be vulnerable only when he’s raising his sword, but Arino continues to get pinched. Stage 7 has now taken 3 hours on its own. But then, on the next try, just as Arino has one heart left, he deals the finishing hit and blows Garamos away! The thumb isn’t looking any better.
Stage 8 is — jeez — auto-scrolling from the very beginning. And there’s cloud platforms. Granted, Arino gets by them easily. It’s the giant white laser beam that kills him once he enters the enemy ship. After some careful ducking, Arino pushes on and meets the next boss: Machinder, a giant robot. No matter what, Arino’s shots aren’t doing damage. A few attempts go by, still with nothing happening. But then a lightbulb goes off in Arino’s head: the gravity switch! Of course! Arino flips onto the ceiling, which gives him a clear shot at Machinder’s vulnerable head. Success!
Onto the final stage. It opens with a miniboss, and after some pained attempts, Arino gets through and begins the stage proper. He’s immediately killed again, though, and has to restart at the boss. He beats him again, then returns to the narrow passage after the miniboss. Since he has to get through with reverse gravity on a limited amount of time, and the passage is kinda long, he wonders how he’s going to get through this one. Arino decides to get rid of the first enemy in the passage, ducking out, then restarting the gravity timer and continuing. It works! Onto the next section, where spikes start falling (or the floor starts rising?).
Making things worse are waves of enemies running in from the sides. Arino’s killed, but he’s ready for the enemies next time. Well, in theory. He dies a variety of ways: running into enemies, being hit by enemy projectiles, being squashed by the spikes — he almost makes it past the second level of spikes, but he takes too long and gets pinched at the very end of the line! Dang!
After another tense moment, he gets past the next level of spikes and reaches the top of the room to face the boss: the spinning Drill Head! Drill Head floats around for a while, then plunges down, crushing Arino. This happens over and over, naturally. Even when Arino ducks, he can’t quite escape Drill Head.
He sticks with just running away, which works better, and it gives him time to fire on Drill Head when it’s stuck in the ground. After a couple of misses, he does eventually clinch it. Drill Head is a goner! But… there’s no ending yet? And the stage seems to go on? Uh-oh. Yup — there’s another boss to be had.
Garamos King! King floats back and forth, periodically shooting two lightning beams to the ground, confusing and hitting Arino. He dies, and then is taken back to the start of the stage! He beats Drill Head again, then re-engages Garamos King. He keeps moving under Garamos while avoiding the beams, but then Garamos fires another beam right in the center! Dead again. Game Over… oh no, what’s this?!
The Game Over screen is glitched! Not again with this! Is this it? Is the game ruined? Arino can still select "Continue" though… and when he does, he’s back where he left off, the rest of the game looking just fine. Still, they should probably get a new Famicom for next time. Anyway, back to Garamos. Arino keeps dying, though, and the Game Over screen is still wonky — and it still spooks Arino!
Eventually, Arino keeps things slow and steady, and hits Garamos with shot after shot until he finally blows up! Yay! Oh, no, Arino got hit at the same time! He’s dead too! The room erupts. Back to the beginning…
OK, one last battle. This has gotta be it. Next verse, same as the last… Arino expertly dodges Garamos’ second beam time after time, and again lands the final shot — with enough life to survive this time! It’s all good! Dracula-kun sits happily on his throne for the ending. Arino finally did it, and now it’s time to go bathe his thumbs, or something.
Now for stage 5 of Championship Lode Runner. This one looks extra bad: treasures lie at the ends of very narrow spaces — horizontal and vertical spaces, to be precise. A gap in the center allows all four robots to trap themselves, and then Arino can use them as a bridge. He makes it to the other side to get the treasures in the vertical shafts, but ends up trapping himself repeatedly.
Time to get on the horn — Arino pulls out a card from a 34 year-old man. When he calls him up, the guy is surprisingly calm, and it more than ready to provide advice. The virtue of aging, I suppose.
Arino ends the conversation, then acts on the fan’s advice. He uses a zig-zag approach to dig throuh and get the first treasure, then boring through to the side of the shimmy bars in order to make enough space for him to escape, rinse and repeat. He leaves the last one on the right side for the finish, since it looks too hard right now. Onto the left side, where a lone robot follows Arino up the ladder, but he takes care of it with a quick reversal. He does the same thing with the other robots and gets all the treasures there.
But he can’t do anything without that robot "bridge"… no problem, just send the robots off the edges by erasing the blocks in front of them! Now for that tricky one. He decides to just drop straight down and get it. Fortunately, the block below the treasure was a false one, so he falls right through and can get to the exit safely. Yaaay!
Game Collections: 1988: Late November