Konami wasn’t above poking fun at itself. Parodius, the first game of which came out in 1988 on the MSX, kicked off a series of titles that poked fun at one of their most iconic shooters — Gradius. Parodius: The Octopus Saves the Earth, was a lot like Gradius except for the fact that you might be piloting a flying octopus to shoot down silly enemies instead.
Castlevania wasn’t immune to Konami’s sense of humor, either, as they demonstrated in 1990 on the Nintendo Famicom with Akumajou Dracula Special: Boku Dracula-kun (or as the Castlevania Wiki points out, translates literally as “Demon Castle Special: I’m Kid Dracula”).
From what I’ve been able to tell from the Castlevania Wiki and fan sites such as the Castlevania Dungeon, though it shares part of the title with the series (“Akumajou Dracula”), the game takes a far more cheeky, less-than-serious take on its gothic action. Gone are the dark, dreary settings and potentially bloody messes in dealing with the undead. Enter instead pastel colors, caricatured enemies, and a chibi vampire doing damage to them all in order to take down an evil dinosaur named Galamoth.
Though it’s not explicitly said that the vampire kid himself is actually Alucard, it’s hard not think that it might secretly be the case. After all, he’s got the white mane and his father just happens to be Count Dracula, so that kind of leap doesn’t seem so far fetched. But in looking at the rest of what it offers, it’s seems that Konami’s sense of humor just wanted to poke a little fun at Castlevania and give it the same honor that it delivered to its beloved Gradius.
The gameplay might appear aimed squarely at kids but the action can get pretty rough, especially early on when Kid Dracula rides on a platform running on a rail while being attacked by flying foes. Checkpoints aren’t friendly, either, and running out of lives can throw you to the beginning of one of the game’s six stages. But Kid Dracula isn’t without a few tricks up his cape.
For one, he can power-up his basic attack — a fireball shot that he can blast enemies with — to become a super attack that turns enemies into coins. He also earns new powers at the end of each stage such as homing fireballs that can be pretty useful against flying enemies. There are also hearts he can find to heal himself or expand his life bar to survive the journey.
The enemies are also pretty colorful. They explode with a big “POM!” cloud over where they used to be and are even pretty expressive, acting more like cartoon characters than the kind of deadly fare found in a typical Castlevania game.
Between each stage are mini-games that make use of those coins and provide bonuses for the player. They’re asked to pick one of four games and Kid Dracula goes down a series of paths until they get to the game. At that point, it’s up to the player to follow the prompts on the screen to meet the challenge and hopefully earn a bonus.
The game eventually made it over to the West as Kid Dracula on the Game Boy in 1993 (and which was also released in Japan at the same year). As the manual lays out the story, it doesn’t reference the original game and instead makes it seem as if “Garamoth” (those printed translation quibbles) had just arrived instead of having re-appeared after having traveling from 2 billion B.C. to terrorize Kid Dracula’s happy kingdom.
The Game Boy version isn’t quite a straight port though it does use elements from the original game and roughly follows the Famicom version with a number of changes, such as new stages and powers (Kid Dracula can turn into a bat for a limited time from the start, for example, to help him get over particularly huge gaps in this platforming adventure).
The manual also lays out, in the same kind of tongue-in-cheek style that a number of other manuals for Konami’s games have done from Gradius to, well, Castlevania, descriptions of the game mechanics and a gallery of enemies that players will encounter. As with the original game, the controls aren’t bad and the action can get hairy along with the brutal checkpoints.
Although Kid Dracula made it to the West, the original Famicom game never did. That didn’t keep die-hard Castlevanians from working on a translation of the game on their own, however, and a fansub is floating around out there. The Game Boy version, on the other hand, never really made it off the handheld it started on except move on to mobile phones. But neither game appeared in a Castelvania collection of any kind though enemies, like Galamoth, have in titles such as Symphony of the Night.
While not directly a Castlevania title, it’s a charming take on the series by Konami that I’ll keep my fingers crossed in hoping that it eventually appears in a master collection of some kind. Maybe someday Kid Dracula’s Famicom debut will reach a new generation and make them wonder…Alucard, is that you?