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Castlevania: Bloodlines – Genesis

Castlevania: Bloodlines – Genesis

Castlevania: BloodlinesPlatform:  Sega Genesis

Developer:  Konami

Publisher:  Konami

Release Date (NA):  March 17th, 1994

Genre:  Platforming, Action/Adventure

Nerd Rating:  8 out of 10



You probably won’t find Bloodlines lying around at the flea market or in a dusty bin for $8, but the time and expense is worth the reward even for casual Castlevania fans.  A somewhat neglected entry in the franchise, Bloodlines marks Castlevania’s one and only appearance on the Genesis, and is often regarded as an “overlooked treasure” of both the series and the console.

It’s a little difficult to establish a strict chronology of the games (the releases of the games, not in-game story lines (though that shit is confusing as hell also)) due to the franchise being strewn across multiple platforms.  Compounding the matter are differences between North American and Japanese versions in both name and content, so it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly where Bloodlines falls compared to other earlier games.  One thing is for sure though, where Super Castlevania IV improved all that came before it, Bloodlines begins to reinvent the wheel.

Castlevania: Bloodlines

Castlevania: BloodlinesHere’s where the story line starts to get a bit more confusing.  Instead of joining a generation of the Belmonts warding off Dracula and his minions, we’re introduced to the Morris clan, descendants of the Belmonts sometime in the late nineteenth century.  Apparently, a Mr. Quincy Morris spent his life fighting Dracula which made an impression on his son, John, and John’s friend Eric Lecarde.  As they grew older, a witch known as Elizabeth Bartley (a character based on Elizabeth Bathory) orchestrates World World I as part of a ritual for bringing Dracula back to Earth.  This particular family’s struggle is further elaborated upon in Portrait of Ruin for the Nintendo DS, occurring during World World II

Castlevania: BloodlinesWhen the game starts, the player has the choice of using either John Morris or Eric Lecarde.  Each one has a special attribute that not only affects gameplay but how some portions of levels are traversed.  John wields the legendary Vampire Killer and Eric has a sort of lance/trident/spear.  Similar to Simon’s ability to use his whip to latch onto designated areas and swing in the fourth installment, John can do the same anywhere!  He can latch on to any ceiling and use it to cross gaps, avoid enemies, and reach difficult areas.  Eric on the other hand uses his lance to propel himself upward, allowing him to bypass staircases and access areas unavailable to John.  Both characters’ weapons have identical range and strength, and as far as I can tell their special abilities are the only thing that sets them apart, aside from the sprites.

Castlevania: BloodlinesCastlevania: Bloodlines ushers in a vastly expanded system of weapons and sub-weapons.  As in previous entries, the whip (and spear, in this case) can be upgraded but these upgrades disappear when the player takes damage.  A bad move on Konami’s part since this rewards good players with more powerful characters and leaves mediocre players to fend for themselves with inferior weaponry.  Familiar sub-weapons such as the axe, dagger, and boomerang all return, this time augmented by orbs which can be found along the way.  These make for vastly superior weapons capable of clearing a room.  Also, sub-weapons can be used “as is” or as an enhanced version of themselves with a larger spread.  New “gems” replace the old “hearts” to fuel these weapons, and these enhanced attacks will quickly run down your gem total.  Despite the change, gems function exactly as hearts always have.

The control changes implemented in IV haven’t all stuck around, but we still have a scheme that’s smoother and more intuitive than that of I, IIand III.  John can’t whip in eight directions, but he can execute a diagonal upwards throw if in the air.  It makes sense when considering that John can latch his whip on to any wall and swing; were eight directions still an option it would be a mess of accidentally grabbing the undersides of overhead platforms.  Eric, however, can thrust his spear straight upwards and diagonally upwards from a standing position.  Otherwise we have smooth, responsive jumping, and though the Up plus another button is back in use again, the button is designated for the sub-weapon anyway and won’t get any way of whip lashing (or lance thrusting) action.  Stairways retain the more natural feel of Super Castlevania IV where John/Eric is able to jump on and off of them and they are far less of an accidental hazard.

Castlevania: Bloodlines

Castlevania: BloodlinesGameplay in Bloodlines is highly varied and leans more heavily towards the platformer genre than previous titles.  Although no time limit is imposed this time around, Bloodlines “whips” up a lot of standard platforming elements and dresses them up Castlevania-style.  Lots of moving screens, moving platforms, long jumps, and careful timing have been incorporated into what has long been a series primarily focused on combat.  Of course there were pits to traverse and jumps to properly time in previous games, the Genesis title makes full use of these mechanics as a challenge in and of themselves.  Flood waters rise and our hero(s) must keep moving upwards to survive, staircases move in a corkscrew fashion up and down a pole, moving pistons threaten to crush the good guys; levels have been carefully designed and each one keeps players on their toes as new obstacles are constantly introduced.  One of my favorites (from a conceptual standpoint at least) are the sequences where the player must move based on the screen being out of alignment horizontally and right afterwards having to play upside down.

Castlevania: BloodlinesIt would seem that Konami chose to implement more dynamic level design to compliment the changing scenery.  In a change of course, Bloodlines deviates from its predecessors by taking place at locations throughout Europe and not just in Transylvania.  Though the initial level finds our heroes in Dracula’s (former?) castle, they soon visit Greece and France among other locations with an especially memorable level set in Germany with an industrialized, World War I theme running throughout.  Frankenstein’s Monster is really a 24′ tall giant hanging out in a German bunker!  The last level and final showdown with both Elizabeth and Dracula takes place in an English castle, bringing the game full circle and back to its horror roots.  In this installment the player’s chosen hero takes on new enemies such as giant, Ancient Greek statues and minotaurs as well as skeleton army troops in Germany.

Castlevania: BloodlinesGraphics in Bloodlines are beautiful as always, though with the tour of Europe going on there’s not quite as much of a gloomy atmosphere and the title takes on a more adventurous persona.  Nothing wrong with changing it a little, but there’s no doubt that fans will lament the loss of endless haunted hallways and creepy corridors.  I miss the doom and gloom some as well but there’s so much variety it’s hard not to enjoy the abrupt changes in scenery from level to level.  Character and monster detail is on par with that of IV on the SNES, though the backgrounds have taken on a vibrant, lively character.  Bosses are, as always, the pinnacle of visual achievement in the Castlevania series.  A few familiar faces return but we’re also introduced to a new set of creatures as well with ties closer to mythology and fantasy rather than horror.

Castlevania: Bloodlines

Teetering on the edge of being too short, it is, like most in the series, a difficult game.  Although I spent the majority of my time with Bloodlines with the Game Genie fully engaged, even this magical device couldn’t spare me the pain of defeat.  Areas combining moving screens with intense, precision jumping sequences and flying Medusa heads were unimaginably hard, as are the handful of clock-like stages.  (What is it with Castlevania and clocks…?)  Challenging but accessible enough to stay on the right side of frustration, it still isn’t as rough as I, IIand III whose frequently inadequate controls and randomness of enemy behavior left too much up to chance.

Castlevania: Bloodlines

Why was this title passed over by so many?  It’s hard to say.  It might seem a little out of place alongside other early games but the tiny improvements and additions are what really push this into new territory, approaching the penultimate echelon of revolutionary platformers.  Konami really trimmed the fat and focused on the gameplay in Castlevania: Bloodlines, and even though it isn’t a particularly deep or complex game, it’s fun without being frivolous, challenging without becoming tiresome, and a true treat for the eyes.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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