Konami’s cutesy vampire platformer has always been on the peripheral of my gaming radar. I had made a loose connection between the publisher’s iconic monster-mashing action game, Castlevania, but the relation remained tenuous to me until co-worker Kyle Hilliard emerged from the Game Informer vault holding the bright purple Game Boy box for Kid Dracula.

Then Kyle began reading off the back of the box:

“The most fun you can have with your cape on! His pearly fangs drive the girls wild, while his dead-of-the-party sense of humor makes them scream. He’s Kid Dracula, star of the mythical Transylvania 92010, and the coolest living corpse ever to stake his claim on Game Boy. If you thought Mario had a way with magic, you should see junior jugular’s spellbinding powers, including the mesmerizing bat transformations. Poof! Nobody wings it better than Kid Drac.”

Mid-'90s high-school drama references? Jabs at Mario? Junior Jugular? I couldn’t fight a smile from spreading across my face as Kyle described the game. It was settled – I would finish up my “Ranking the Castlevania Bloodline” list then go home and check out the game.

After a bit of research I realized that the connection between Kid Dracula and Castlevania is closer than you might immediately think. In Japan, Castlevania is called Devil’s Castle Dracula. Kid Dracula was initially released in Japan with the title Devil’s Castle Dracula: Kid Dracula. So, it technically would be called Castlevania: Kid Dracula in the West. While he’s described as the Count’s son, I have no idea if Kid Dracula is supposed to be Alucard, but I discovered he’s awesome in an entirely different way.

I plugged the GB cart into my GBA SP and was immediately charmed. I love the game’s terrific sense of humor. It always amused me how Death himself is Dracula’s right-hand man throughout the whole series, but in Kid Dracula this lackey role is even more evident and hilarious. Kid Dracula’s carefree, dismissive demeanor and bumbling bat sidekicks had me chuckling.

Kid Dracula greets you with a dreadfully sweet, upbeat version of “Beginning” from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. The happy version of this classic Castlevania track perfectly matches the whole game’s chibi spoof on Castlevania. Cartoonish zombies, bats, Frankenstein’s Monster, and all manner of other familiar enemies try to stand in your way. Thankfully Kid Dracula’s projectile-based attacks are lot easier to wield than the Belmont’s family whip.

The boss fights are particularly enjoyable. Kid Dracula faces off with a little ghost in one battle, who runs off to tell his dad after getting trounced. After beating the bigger daddy ghost, that specter also runs off to tell his dad. A bearded geriatric ghost hobbles out holding a cane. The old ghost simply hobbles across the screen once and collapses due to fatigue. Outside of Metal Gear Solid 3’s fight with The End, this is the only time I’ve won a boss fight due to an enemy’s old age. I loved it. Another terrific encounter has Kid Drac fighting Jason Voorhees himself. This is easily the most adorable version of Jason to date. The little killer struggles to pull his ax from a log and even resorts to firing a gun at Kid Drac.

There are some terrific platforming bits as well. One scenario tasks Kid Dracula with walking across vines above a deadly chasm. The player must shoot the vine’s cartoony head to make it uncoil, all while protecting the plant from owls. If an owl grabs the vine’s sunglassed head, the vine will wither and it’s game over. Toss in the fun abilities to transform into a bat or walk on ceilings, and you’ve got a game that was ahead of its time.

The main goal is to defeat Garamoth, an intergalactic dragon alien thing. This ended up being one of my favorite Game Boy boss fights. Dodging the big bad guy’s lightning attacks then attempting to launch a fireball into his open mouth was a welcome challenge. I also liked finally making the connection between Kid Dracula’s Garamoth and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s Galamaoth (mistranslation). Check out the picture below for two very different looks at what is essentially the same battle.

Kid Dracula is a brief, light-hearted look into Konami’s self-parodying sense of humor. There is also a more colorful, challenging Famicom Kid Dracula, but that adventure will have to wait for another day. Until then, I recommend this game for anyone with an appetite for polished handheld gems and an alternate look at the Castlevania universe. I absolutely adored my time as Kid Drac.