For the most part, I agree with a lot of Mike's points regarding Castlevania Chronicles. The game certainly brought back fond memories of earlier Castlevania titles that Ive played in the past. I just wish that I had enjoyed playing it more; unfortunately, the obnoxious difficulty and inconsistent jumping mechanics marred the experience.
The "insane difficulty level" that Mike mentioned cannot be emphasized enough, especially in the games Original Mode. The new Arrange Mode that Mike spoke of allows players to adjust the amount of lives in reserve and the difficulty is slightly more forgiving. There are certain areas of the game in which it is nearly impossible to avoid taking damage, and this usually leads to having too little life left to have a chance at winning the confrontation with the levels boss. The difficulty curve is gradual, thankfully, and getting through the first three stages and bosses is a realistic expectation for players of varying skill levels. Be warned, however, that Chronicles gets much harder as players get closer and closer to the final confrontation with Dracula. One particular level of note, which takes players on an ascending route up a clock tower, will test the patience of most players. I'm not kidding when I say that I came close to physically snapping my controller in half after repeated attempts at clearing this area. Its a lesson in cruelty: after finally making it through all of the obstacles and enemies, I finally made it to the boss with one hit-point left. After the boss eliminated that one hit point, I had to start way back at the beginning of the tower sequence. That's about as frustrating as a game can get.
The poor jumping mechanics in Chronicles really hampered the experience for me. Since the ability to make certain jumps is such a key factor in succeeding in any Castlevania game, I have to wonder why the jumping range is so poor in Chronicles. Its almost too easy to misjudge a jump and not clear a gap, leading to unnecessary loss of life. Since players cannot run and pick up speed to clear a perilously long gap, its almost a matter of trial and error at times to see just where the character needs to be on the screen before attempting that jump. Since lives are at a premium in Original Mode, even one mistake can be the difference between success and having to continue and start a level over from the very beginning. I can understand that Konami wanted to keep the game as close to the original as possible without changing too much, but this flaw certainly detracts from the overall experience and can potentially add even more frustration to an already difficult game.
I really didn't notice a large change in the graphics department between the games Original and Arrange modes. Mike's notes about the slightly more detailed sprites and parallax effects tend to sum up the only noticeable visual differences, and they really didnt seem to be all that much better to me. I did appreciate the games darker symbolism and blood, which is something that the early 8-bit Castlevania titles couldn't get away with outside of Japan (thanks to Nintendo's liberal censorship). After all, this is supposed to be a vampire-hunting adventure, and blood is just par for the course. I agree with Mike's point about Chronicles having "old skool" (as he called it) graphics; however, the visuals weren't all that much better than the 16-bit Castlevania adventures that had previously been released outside of Japan. These earlier games also execute better and have a more forgiving difficulty.
The music in Arrange Mode, as Mike mentioned, has been remixed and sounds quite good. It sounds a bit peppier than traditional Castlevania music, with some tracks that almost sound like dance remixes of classic Castlevania tunes. Its a nice change, but even with the selection of familiar-sounding tracks, there isn't a lot of variety in the tracks and there isn't enough of a selection. Meanwhile, the music in the Original Mode sounds like its coming from a 16-bit console. This isn't a bad thing, in my opinion; in fact, it can inspire some reminiscing about the "good old days". The Time Attack feature is a neat way to test players skills and adds a hint of competition to a game that usually has none. I personally don't see many players using this option, but its nice to see that Konami added it.
I was disappointed with Castlevania Chronicles, despite the fact that the game carries on the Castlevania tradition and cost only $20 (US). After playing through classics like Super Castlevania IV and Symphony Of The Night, its hard not to expect a bit more from a Castlevania effort. The games obscenely high difficulty, questionable jumping mechanics, and limited replay value relegate Chronicles to average status. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the Castlevania series, but I just found more to dislike than to like about Chronicles.