What do you get when you mix self-aware parody, classic side-scrolling gameplay, and horny folklore creatures? You get Romancelvania; a callback to Castlevania, but throw in a Dating-sim element. You play as Drac, who has spent the last century heartbroken and brooding over the loss of a relationship. To get him back into the world, the Grim Reaper hosts a reality TV show called Love at First Bite, where the sexiest and most lively undead contestants compete for Drac’s love.
A Lot Here to Love
You can’t call your game Romancelvania without it really leaning into the Metroidvania genre tropes. Armed with basic weapons and skills, Drac adventures through the grounds of their castle and the set of the show in search of new items, upgraded abilities, and love. As you progress through the game, you naturally get stronger. You start off feeling weak and challenged by a lot of basic enemies and bosses, which can be frustrating. That’s just the classic ‘vania gig though. The more you explore and the more side quests you complete, the stronger you get, so it pays to spend time outside of the main quest.
Killing skeletons and zombies is just half the game. Drac has to focus on the show. Get to know the contestants, what they like and don’t like, who you like and don’t like. Like many dating sims, there are a lot of ways to improve your standing and relationship with prospective lovers. There are gifts scattered around the area, which you can give to other contestants, after determining if they are a good fit for them.
What would a dating sim be without dates? Drac can find lively and cozy spots around the castle grounds to invite dates to. Here, Drac can talk them up and improve their relationship by picking the best dialogue responses. There are also combat benefits to developing relationships in Romancelvania. If your relationship with a certain character is too low, you may be locked out of upgrades for certain abilities or weapons.
Man, I Love Fangs
The combat and side-scrolling experience is great. The writing though, is where you REALLY want to sink your teeth in. The characters are classic folklore creatures, like genies, succubi, witches, vampires, and other creatures. However, the writers take their tropes and cleverly insert (heh, “insert”) them into a love life and modern dating scene.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but many of the characters are SUPER HORNY. I’m not talking about projections from their foreheads either. At the crossroads of spooky monsters, sexual innuendo, and parody comedy, there is Romancelvania. Not many other games have a busty pumpkin witch serving up lines like “pumpkin cream pie”.
The play on words is great alone, but the voice acting was the final nail in the coffin. In a punny-good way, not a serious-bad way. As we explore Drac’s past, trials and tribulations of love, every one of their lines feels like a confession. The contestants and potential lovers are like puzzles. The talent really takes you through the right dialogue options, if you follow the emotions and intentions they lead you with.
You Like It Rough?
While Romancelvania largely modernizes classic Metroidvania features, there are some instances where it seems to lack. Bear in mind, these are very likely design choices, in keeping with decorum of 1986 gaming. Playing the game, you will quickly find yourself wishing you had a map. The original Castlevania didn’t have a map. Why should we? Whether it is a design choice or not, I can’t say. Let’s chalk it up to being a fundamental challenge.
Well, there’s kind of a map. There are fast travel points spaced out around the game. It shows the basic layout of where the areas are, but you will be as old as Drac before you can know where you’re going around the castle and the surrounding zones. There are also no waypoints or any visual indication of where you need to go. Again, probably a design choice, but it is easy to lose your way if you miss key information or direction.
Thankfully, since the combat can be challenging at times, there are difficulty options. From least to most difficult; Nibble, Bite, and Chomp determine how the combat is scaled. If you are just here for the steamy dialogue and reality TV drama, you won’t be held back enemies that are too difficult. If you pick Chomp, you better trust in your 2D platformer fighting skills.
With all the monsters slaying and monster laying, you can forget that the game is a reality TV show sometimes. The reality of reality TV is that someone usually gets voted off. Basically, you are going to be making some tough challenges in Romancelvania. While I don’t vibe with every contestant on the show, I wanted to get to know them all better. Every now and then, the show requires you to kick someone out.
Another fundamental challenge of forcing a tough choice on you. Not only do you end their time in the game, but certain upgrades are only available when your relationship with certain characters increases. You can’t get those upgrades if you never got to know them.
Romcancelvania has all the qualities of my ideal partner. I like the way it looks. Looks aren’t everything though; it’s also got it where it counts. It makes me laugh, uses puns, probably too much. It challenges me to grow as a person and improve my weapons often.
When it comes down to it, the game is a Metroidvania and it’s dating-sim. The Deep End Games does both pretty darn well. Just like in the reality show, no matter your flavor of weird, Romancelvania’s got something for you.
***Xbox code provided by the publisher***
- Very clever
- Lovable characters
- Wide variety of abilities, weapons and items
- Strong elements of Metroidvania
- Very easy to get lost
- Difficult without the right upgrades
- WHAA! I can’t have them all!