It’s one thing to suddenly discover you’re a vampire; it’s entirely something different to learn you’re the sole heir to the royal bloodline of all vampires. Long ignorant of his heritage and innate supernatural abilities, Ogishima Jun is stunned at the revelation of his true nature, only to be taken further aback by a conditional set of terms that he cannot easily refuse without dire consequences. When it becomes apparent that enigmatic organizations and the powerful personalities that lead them seek to utilize the young man’s ignorance and innocence for their own menacing schemes, Jun is forced into a situation that leaves him few choices except submitting to the supernatural calling in his blood. Yet whether or not he loses himself to the overpowering darkness is something that rests solely in his own hands.
Draculius (ドラクリウス) is a vampire thriller eroge published by meromero cute in 2007 and updated for Windows compatibility in 2012. The title was converted into a non-hentai version for Playstation 2 by Interchannel Game in 2008, substituting the loss of adult content with the new addition of two heroines, greater interaction with the original cast, and subsequently an expanded story scenario. This review only applies to the adult PC release.
Sometimes there are eroge that really surprise you. Not just in the sense of plot twists or character revelation, but the simple astonishment that an entire package can wildly exceed your original assessment of it. I had preordered Draculius months before it hit store shelves, committed to owning the game after seeing the teaser trailer and reading early magazine previews. If nothing else, I’ve always been a huge sucker for gothic eroge, and the vampire centric presentation denoted it as gothic to the extreme. Yet after picking up my copy from the local shop, the unopened box sat on a bookshelf for several weeks. I was still interested in playing it, but there was a long backlog of other titles I had not touched. Thus this state of affair stretched into months, as I tenaciously avoided discussions about Draculius with friends and forums, simply because I refused to be accidentally spoiled. Almost half a year later, while cleaning my room, I noticed and recalled owning the dust covered game. Having nothing else to do, the plastic wrap was removed, box opened, DVD inserted, program installed, and execution file double clicked. Several hours later, I quickly discovered what a fool I had been.
Draculius truly begins when Ogishima Jun, the male protagonist, suddenly finds himself face to face with a childlike maid who introduces herself as Elshlant D. Annoyance. The encounter quickly brings two monumental facts to life: the first is unequivocal proof that vampires exist, and the second is revelation of Jun being the sole heir of a royal linage that rules over them. Years ago, Id Demon Brandle, Jun’s vampiric father and would be future emperor, ran from his aristocratic duties to hide among the humans, eventually falling in love with a Shinto priestess named Ogishima Yukari. For reasons unknown, Jun’s father abandoned his mother during pregnancy, and Yukari placed a magic seal on her unborn child, locking away the infant’s supernatural abilities. Following the tragic death of his mother four years earlier, the spell has slowly unraveled, awakening Jun’s latent powers and allowing the vampire nation to determine his location and deliver an ultimatum: Jun would be allowed to continue his existence and assume the mantle of command over his people, but only under the guidelines of three conditions. Condition One: He would be placed under the watch of Elshlant D. Annoyance, serving as his evaluator and mentor in the ways of the vampire. Condition Two: The newly awaken nosferatu would need to perform a deed that proved him worthy of the inheritance. Condition Three: He would take a bride from one of the noble families to ensure the continued survival of the royal bloodline. As one can imagine, Jun is quite taken aback by all this.
It quickly becomes apparent to Jun that the life of a vampire is far more perilous than he could possibly imagine. As he learns that many of the legends concerning the powers and weaknesses of Nosferatu are outlandishly erroneous, mostly due in part to the vampires themselves spreading such fictional myths, the young noble is forced to completely reevaluate his own existence while needing the assistance of an experienced vampire in the process. Were the difficulties of self-discovery not challenging enough, Jun inevitably finds himself caught within a deadly web of intrigue thanks to the machinations of rebellious factions within vampire society. It also becomes clear that humanity is not entirely ignorant of the supernatural world that hides from them, and agents of an ancient powerful organization dedicated to the extermination of “hellspawn abominations” violently pursue his destruction. These factors make it imperative for Jun to maintain as low a profile as possible: for his own safety and innocent human friends. Unfortunately, keeping a low profile is not something his enemies are going to allow. Then there’s the whole matter of marriage…
Perhaps even more exhilarating than the story of Draculius, is the cast of characters which it brings to life. Each of the lovely ladies you encounter is as quirky as she is deadly, making it an absolute joy to take part in their trails and tribulations. Elshlant D. Annoyance, the loli vampire maid the protagonist calls Belche, has been around for two centuries. Although one would expect her to come off as childish and playful, going with the common anime cliché of such characters, Belche is neither: her role is maternal and prophetic, a captivating factor owed from her wealth of firsthand experience. And beneath the adolescent exterior belies an incredibly powerful sorceress and wickedly sharp tongue. Next we have Rika Pembleton, an American battle nun who takes no shit from anyone: piss her off and she’ll happily introduce you to her dual wielding firearm skills. No Bible thumping, no sirree, Bob! What you have here is a shoot first ask question later, justice must be served, somewhat antisocial, always putting her foot in her mouth, total rightwing nut case with an itchy trigger finger. My God is it ever so cute. Then there’s Rian Luche Dimemorl, trueblood vampire aristocrat who possesses the unique gift of mind altering, thereby making it child’s play fpr her to toy with memories or control people them like puppets. Stuck up rich noble who thinks others should obey her every command? Nope. She’s an incredibly flighty, highly playful prankster who usually has no idea what the hell she’s talking about, but often pretends that she does. These are but three of the memorable characters within Draculius that I could go on and on as shining examples of memorable entertainment, but this is merely one factor which makes the eroge so wonderful.
Many great eroge have great stories. Many great eroge have great characters. Few great eroge have great source material: what some gamers might call “fluff”. In most cases this is not something worth major consideration: that your typical lovey-dovey school setting takes place in an idyllic Japan with heavy European influence, is often enough background detail to make everything perfect. But in the case of titles like Draculius, it can mean the difference between having something that’s passable or having something that’s badass. Fortunately this is a case of the later. One such element is redefining what you think you know about the supernatural. As Jun learns what truths and fallacies exist behind the realities of being a vampire, as well as what other mythological creatures exist alongside them, the player is exposed to an entirely unique world that radiates gothic horror without relying on the traditional cliché concepts which define it. Vampires are unaffected by sunlight and religion has no direct influence on them. Magic follows a system of metaphysical conservation to mitigate its long term effects on the temporal plane. The unique ability that each supernatural creature exhibits is not specifically tied to bloodline, but the subconscious perception an individual has envisage for themselves within existence, allowing them to shape reality in a specific fashion. These concepts are only the tip of an iceberg that Draculius explores. With such depth in the mechanics of how the fictional universe works, it should come as no surprise that the eroge also explores philosophical reasoning and the concepts of psychological nature. When your life spans across the centuries, such a being would naturally see the world from a greatly different prospective, compared to those who only live decades. The title examines the ramifications of such an existence, which ultimately has a far reaching effect on the scenario.
It might come as a surprise to learn, after all this praise, that Draculius is not a high budget eroge. As of consequence, many areas of interest slip below the standards. Awesome as they are, only two winnable scenarios are available: one dedicated to Rian and the true ending. The expanded scenarios included in the non-hentai adaption would indicate a missed deadline. Paper dolls suffer from an obviously low count, resulting in higher than normal repetition of the same positions and expressions. There’s also an occasional problem with transparency when the paper dolls impose over a background, looking like they were sloppily slapped on top. As for the in-game backgrounds themselves, despite the quasi-3D effect, several of the outdoor environments have a disturbingly cheap appearance to them, making it plainly evident that whoever was responsible for their creation is still a novice at the rendering software suite. Perhaps most woeful for some, although the gallery might try to claim otherwise, only five real sex scenes are available: the others are ridiculously too short to count, with two as quick as forty-five seconds (I kid you not). So what redeeming qualities does Draculius have in presentation? Everything else! The event illustrations are top notch in all possible respect, enjoying the use of beautiful character designs, masterwork lighting effects, dynamic positioning, vivid colors, and dark mood. The game engine also enjoys a large array of special effects – when there’s fighting you actually see the fighting – and key events are lavished with high definition close-ups and moving camera techniques. With the sole exception of the player’s character, everyone is provided an actor or actress: even the evil attack dogs. This audio magnificence is only matched by the gothic soundtrack: from the gypsy title theme, to the heavy metal battle music, to the crazy slapstick tune (which is not as silly as it might seem). Although the eroge only has five noteworthy adult scenes, these five are quite long and VERY erotic. If nothing else, Rika and Rian definitely get their brains banged out from one side of the bed to the other, because Jun knows how to satisfy women.
Draculius is proof that budget limitations does not restrict an eroge from achieving greatness. The only major crime it commits is being the production of a second class studio, yet the existence of such a title argues that meromero cute will not rank second class forever if they can unleash such amazing releases. Significantly larger and wealthier companies have developed dreadful products at an equal price tag, making it an absolute pity this title was overlooked in the flood of releases during 2007. Draculius deserves far better treatment than the common riff-raff, but all indications seems to point that the eroge was largely ignored by the industry. The positives clearly outweigh the negatives, so there’s little reason why owning such a magnificent thing should be avoided. Get it. Play it. Love it.
— Central Characters —
Intellectual and charismatic, Jun is one of the most popular students in his academy. Though every girl on the campus dreams of dating him, he strives to keep out of the spotlight and remain hidden within the crowd. Jun has come to terms with his mother’s death and father’s abandonment, but the importance of his birthright ignites a chain of events which will open old wounds and inflict new ones, impacting the ancient foundations of the supernatural world.
|Elshlant D. Annoyance
Serving as a mentor and personal servant, Elshlant brings the experience of two hundred years. She is a master practitioner of magic, feared throughout history as the Wailing Witch, and said to be more dangerous than a thousand warriors. Due to her centuries of existence, there is little Elshlant does not know or has not heard.
Rika is an elite agent of the Dailas Lean: an organization dedicated to the genocide of vampires. Her current assignment is to gather intelligence on Jun’s condition as a sealed vampire, and should he prove a threat, terminate the nosferatu before his powers develop. As a firm believer that a good defense is a good offense, Rika is an expert of firearms, military ordnance, and battlefield tactics.
An executive member of Dailas Lean, Viskes is the supervisor of Rika Pembleton and regional commander of the organization’s operations concerning Ogishima. An incredibly secretive woman, she frequently performs duties or appears in locations that go outside the jurisdiction of her assignments, leading some to question her motives.
|Rian Luche Dimemorl
One of the bridal candidates whom Jun must choose from, Rian has arrived in Japan ahead of schedule and without permission or awareness of the other noble families. Upon seeing her potential husband and immediately taking an intense liking to him, she sets forth on winning his heart and proving her worth as a wife. Despite an aristocratic upbringing, Rian has a strong sense of humility, although she tends to be too playful for own good.
Zeno is a werewolf of the Jailsbern breeding: a lineage renowned for their vicious fighting and absolute loyalty. She has held the position of bodyguard and handmaiden to Rian Luche Dimemorl since childhood, and fiercely obeys the vampire’s every command: not only as a servant, but also as a cherished friend. Calm and collected, Zeno rarely reveals any sign of emotion, with a thinking process that’s quite alien to humans and vampires.
A long childhood friend of Jun, Misao has always made it imperative that she attends the same school and classes as him. Energetic to the extreme, her goals and intentions rarely remain a secret for long, frequently causing disagreements with others. Such anger never lasts long, for Misao is just too likable a person to hold a grudge against forever.
— Scored Summary —
Scenario: 48 out of 50. The plot is simply breathtaking, there’s really great dialog, tons of interaction between cast members, and unexpected twists in the story keep you glued. While I ordinarily eschew slapstick comedy in gothic ero, this title does a fantastic job of incorporating such humor without causing a loss of quality, as it is very reminiscent of the dark comedy found in Hellsing and Trinity Blood. What prevents the story from being rated as perfect is the lack of differing scenarios: only two endings exist.
Visual: 16 out of 20. Splendid character designs, supremely drawn event illustrations, and the in-game special effects will make you drool. Unfortunately the paper dolls are lacking in variety and frequently fail to seamlessly integrate with the occasionally cheapish backgrounds.
Audio: 18 out of 20. Everyone but the player’s character is voice acted, including male cast members. Quality of the voice acting is damn well outstanding, although some Engrish is present. However it’s hard to tell if the poor English is intentional or not, as there’s a running gag about it within the story. The soundtrack consists of fifteen songs, each of them fitting the required moods. An incredibly diverse library of sound effects is generously used (baying wolves, creaking doors, rustling sheets, etc), lending a really polished touched.
Erotica: 4 out of 10. It’s safe to assume that sex was merely an afterthought, as only five scenes are worth dwelling over. These events are given first class attention and premium service, almost redeeming the massive failure found in the others, but each heroine is not given equal treatment, so there’s a possibility of getting miffed if your preferred girl is not in them. Except for one forced fellatio, a crime not committed by the protagonist, everything is consensual. Unlike similar themed eroge, nothing is outlandish, and it steers clear of guro and tentacles.
Mechanics: 0 point neutrality. The typical “choose your response” menu system that most eroge share.
Final Score: 86 out of 100. To be perfectly honest, despite its deficiencies, I think Draculius is one of the best vampire titles on the market. Fans of MinDeaD BlooD and Tsukihime should already own a copy, and if you don’t, then you’re seriously denying yourself some great bloodsucking action. Everything truly transcends itself, providing more satisfaction and entertainment than almost all the competition, regardless of genre. There seriously has to be some sort of conspiracy that keeps Draculius from enjoying greater popularity, as I remain puzzled for the total lack of attention. Strongly recommended for purchase.