Castlevania Bloodlines
Box Shot
Castlevania Bloodlines
Platform: Genesis
Publisher: Konami
Designer: Konami
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1993
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

I was very excited to play Castlevania Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis. Fans of Super Castlevania IV for the SNES almost universally blasted it...technologically it was almost a backwards step. But if you look at this game as its own entity, Castlevania Bloodlines is actually quite excellent.

The story is told in a format similar to old horror movies (with film spokes on the edge of the screen during the intro.) Count Dracula's undead niece, Elizabeth Bartley, is trying to bring back her uncle to wreak havoc on the world once again. John Morris, descendant of the Belmont clan, and his friend Eric Lecarde set off to destroy the evil countess. While John wields the traditional whip, Eric wields an extremely cool long spear. Each character has their own skill: John can swing on all ceilings, while Eric can twirl around his spear, and use it to pole vault to high places. Anyone familar with the Castlevania games will feel at home...walk forward, destroy candles to yield jewels (instead of hearts...I've no idea why they decided to change it now) and kill evil denizens of hell. You'll find the same old sub-weapons here (minus the dagger) with a special twist from the Dracula X games...you can use an "item crash" which will execute a powerful attack with whatever special weapon you have. Of course, it eats up more hearts. There's also a neat convenience: candles with items look like the normal dual-candles you're used to seeing, but weapon candles are thick. Thus there's an ability to distinguish between the two, in case you don't want a new weapon.

The game starts in Dracula's old castle in Translyvania (the first part's a recreation of the first level from Castlevania 1), then travels across the rest of Europe. You'll travel to an Atlantis Shrine, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a munitions factory in Germany, the Palace of Versailles in France, and finally Castle Prosperina in England. Yes, there's only six levels, but they tend to be on the long side, and, unlike other Castlevania games, you only get two continues to get through all of them! I find the password feature rather unnecessary, since the game isn't very long, but it's there if you need it. The game has selectable difficulty levels that are fairly well balanced. The Easy mode is good for most players, while the Normal and Expert modes (the latter becoming available after beating the game on Normal) will provide a decent challenge for veterans.

There's the usual variety of cool bosses to fight too...the one of the first ones is a huge hellhound whose shreaks break the window glass. Later on is a humoungous animated knight whose limbs fall off a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There's also a huge rock Golem that's bigger than the height of the screen, demonic moths, and a possessed monster that's made of nothing but cogs and gears.

Castlevania Bloodlines is actually the most recent game on the Castlevania timeline...it's set in 1917. This is one of the reasons that some people don't like this installment; much of the series' gothic atmosphere is lost. To tell the truth though, it really never bothered me. Fighting through an ammunition factory with conveyor belts may seem corny, but this is circa World War I.

One things I did particularly like about the storyline was how it tries to tie in with Bram Stoker's Dracula novel. Supposedly John is the son of Quincey Morris, the American who sacrificed himself to kill Dracula. The instruction booklet says that John had watched the final battle from a distance...anyone who's read the book knows that this doesn't logically make sense, but it's a nice attempt. Also, Elizabeth Bartley is based on another Transylvania figure by the named of Countess Bathory. Known as the Blood Countess, she often bathed in the blood of her slain servants to hope to make her younger. These details don't have much to do with the actual gameplay, but I've always loved historical or literary allusions in video games.

This installment goes back to the more traditional control methods of the first Castlevania games. You can't control your jump in midair and you can't fling your whip around like Indiana Jones. John can only whip left and right, but can whip diaganol left and right while jumping. Eric can use his spear in any direction, except when jumping. Each character also has their own special attack when their weapon is upgraded all of the way. The overall look has changed too...all of the sprites are much smaller.

The graphics are fairly good, certainly not as good as SCV4 but fine for a Genesis. Since Konami was free of Nintendo's silly censhorship rules, the artists were free to put in a little bit of blood, and nice background effects like hanging corpses. Many of the bosses are huge and are composed of many sprites that act together as one entity. There are a whole bunch of neat programming effects to make the Genesis do things it wasn't designed to do (the swaying tower, for instance, or the rolling statue head.) One particularly cool use of the graphics is at the top of the Leaning Tower...you fight a huge gargoyle, and the camera sorts of rotates around the action. Although these effects look corny compared to what the SNES can do, it's excellent for the system. The music is excellent, capturing the Castlevania feel quite well. The sound effects are kinda lame though. They must've picked the absolute worst whip sound on the face of the earth.

Even though it is kinda step down from Super Castlevania 4, there's enough in the way of action to make Castlevania Bloodlines an excellent addition to the series and a fine Genesis action title.