Thursday, October 29, 2015

Castlevania Bloodlines (Sega Genesis, 1994)

Originally posted in 2010, now remastered for 2015.

With this one, the series arrives on the Sega Genesis with a bang. I found this game to be more fun than the NES installments, even though it still has a brutal final battle. In keeping with Sega's early 90's tradition of acting younger and hipper than Nintendo, this game stars the hip young descendants of Simon Belmont. Come on in and follow along.



This one takes place in Europe circa World War 1, which is well after the others chronologically. Dracula's about to reawaken and plunge the world into the depths of darkness. What will this accomplish, you ask? Well, everyone knows that night time is when people have sex.

If Dracula's evil plan succeeds, then by the year 2000 the world will be overpopulated and full of traffic jams and no one will be able to get anywhere!

Wait a minute...

"IT'S ALREADY TOO LATE! NOOOOO!"

Here's the game's gorgeous sub-villain, and her purpose in life is to revive Dracula.

Fun Fact: It is strongly implied that The Countess here actually caused World War 1 in an effort to spill enough blood to awaken Dracula.

Look at how hip our heroes are! SEGA DOES WHAT NINTENDON'T!

That's right, plural heroes. There are two characters to choose from right at the outset, and they're...

John Morris and Eric Lecarde. John is the vampire hunter of the game, and hails from Texas. Seeing as how Texas is not to be messed with, this gives him a distinct advantage over the enemies of the game. He uses a whip, which he can fire in multiple directions (but not all of them).

However, my choice for the game is Eric LeCarde (...Alucard?) who bears a striking resemblance to Kain from Final Fantasy IV with the blond hair and spear.

I play as John for a minute just to give it a whirl. It plays just like the earlier games, same classic feel. Crack that whip!

Eric can attack upward with his spear, which John can't. The downside to playing as this guy is that his lance is shorter range than the whip (I think).

What's really weird is that Eric's long blond hair is short and dark ingame.

The first level is basically a remake of the first level of the original game, complete with mer-men.

BOSS FIGHT. Lecarde finds himself face-to-face with a vicious dog-beast that shatters the windows in the room by roaring. I have to hand it to this game...it's a pretty bad-ass setup for a fight.

A crumbling bone bridge over the snowy mountains reminds me that Winter is on the way. Thanks, game. Thanks a lot.

On the bright side... Winter, or at least snow, has been the driving force for plenty of great video game tunes over the years, and this game also has fine snow level music.

This definitely qualifies as a snow level theme. Enjoy this one.

Another boss. By the way, I'm still on level 1 here. This game doesn't mess around!

This boss is a great big knight, like most of the bosses in Dark Souls II.

The next area is Atlantis. more or less. They did a great job with the visuals here, creating a very atmospheric background without a whole lot of technological power behind it. The reflection is also very impressive and innovative for the time.

This place slowly fills with water as you go, and...you guessed it, the water is deadly. Well, that's better than random auto-scrolling being deadly, I suppose...

The impressive graphics continue as our hero crosses a bridge filled with statues. What follows is a lengthy miniboss fight.

Eric has to fight multiple giant knights here as my Dark Souls II flashbacks continue. Our hero isn't going to win on reach here, and I don't have a shield...

I get past that point and the stage continues. Here we learn that Eric has no respect for ancient architecture. His path is blocked by a giant statue, so he...

...knocks its head off.

SEGA ATTITUDE!

Next up is a boss that resembles a stack of tires, and is equally ferocious. Victory is a matter of knocking out the various tires so that you can reach the "head", which is a crystal. It's weird, but at least the game is getting creative with the bosses.

Our hero battles harpies in Italy next. Each level takes place in a different part of Europe, which is pretty cool.

Here's a remix of the theme I linked earlier, from one of the later series games. Let it be said that Castlevania in general has some really great music. I'll need to check out Circle of the Moon at some point now.

Eric journeys to my ancestral homeland of Italy, where he scales the Leaning Tower of Piza. And this game takes the "leaning tower" part very literally, as the tower sways back and forth during your ascent. This adds some new elements to the gameplay, as you have to account for platform movement before making a jump.

(Editor's Note: It's spelled Pisa. I knew that. I probably had pizza on my mind.)

Kain Freedan Lecarde leaps from platform to platform as the struggle continues. Back then, we didn't think twice about platforms being suspended in midair in video games. Nowadays most realistic adventure games make some effort to explain how a platform is where it is, to the point where things like this in retro games actually stand out to me now.

The boss here is this freakish scorpion-bat thing. It seems difficult at first because for some reason the tower is spinning... but with the axe, it isn't too bad. The axe is a great weapon to use against bosses, as usual, due to the upward trajectory and wide arc. Most bosses are an easy target for it.

The Gear of Doom returns from Castlevania III...but thanks to the controls being quite a bit better here, it is much easier to negotiate.

Know why the controls are better? Because in this game you aren't controlling old men like in the Nintendo Castlevanias! SEGA!

Eric: "I'm at the Pizza Hut! I'm at the Taco Bell!"

John: "Wait, I'M at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell."

Little do our heroes know, that isn't the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell at all... it is something far more nefarious: Castle Dracula. It isn't as stylish as it usually looks.

The next boss is made out of gears and springs. In the early days of Japanese pleasure robot construction, things weren't as streamlined as they are today.

Our hero survives the terror of the Japanese sex robot gone all wrong, and it's onward to more historical awesomeness. The next level is the Palace of Versailles, something I saw in Assassin's Creed Unity not too long ago.

This game is filled with interesting statues. Note that the statue in the middle is either mooning the camera or sporting a frontbutt.

The palace interior is really nice, too. The character sprite isn't that great, but the backgrounds of this game punch above their weight graphically. What I mean is that this game has a very moody and atmospheric visual style and the backgrounds seem more detailed than they should given the system.

Now this is cool, a spiralling staircase that goes around and around. On the NES, this would probably be really difficult with all of the short-range hops. However, in this game it's doable, and pretty fun to climb.

Here's an enemy with a gatling gun, which is very weird to see in this series. It's the only one of its kind in the game. I wonder why there aren't any other enemies with guns in this game, seeing as how it takes place in 1917. This would be the 'Vania for gun-toting enemies.

Is this boss a lamp, or two bearded men gazing longingly at each other? I'll let you decide for yourself, but in light of this week's South Park keep in mind that this game was made in Japan.

Next boss is a... little hovering person? At first I thought this would be the easiest battle ever, until...

...he/she turned into a PSYCHOTIC MOTH. And what the hell is that thing in the background? In any case, once again axes are the weapon of choice here. This is the case for most of the bosses, even though axes are relatively non-useful in the stages themselves.

I finally take a look at the world map (which is Europe), as our hero arrives at the final area of the game. England gets main event billing over the rest of Europe, because of course they do. When will it be Denmark's chance to shine?

Before continuing, it needs to be said: this game is difficult. Very difficult. Difficulty is nothing new for this series, but this game has some of the longest, most punishing stages out of any of them. The only one that might be more difficult is the U.S. version of Castlevania III.

This does have redeeming qualities like better control and a faster pace. Overall I found it more fun than its predecessors. It took me quite a while to get through this one compared to any of the others, though.

Things get creative again, as the next area is upside down. At this point the game is just messing with us. I find myself wishing I could switch characters on the fly, but unfortunately this is one of those games where your choice at the beginning is the one you're stuck with. While Eric is good, I'd like to be able to try some of these stages with John to see how it works out.

ICONIC MOON ALERT! It's a wee bit different here than it is in the other games. It's full, for one thing.

Death shows up here for the umpteenth time. In this installment, he busts out some arcana cards which rotate around him and act as almost a mini stage select. Hitting one causes you to go and fight one of the game's major bosses. The two that look alike are full heals, and the timing on when to hit them is the key to getting past this boss rush ordeal.

TAROT MANIA!

After re-defeating the four big bosses, it's time to tangle with the reaper himself. This fight is fast and furious, but it isn't the total struggle that it was in CVIII. Either way, he's a worthy second-in-command to Dracula, and I like the way the games are consistent about this.

Next up is the Countess from the game's intro. She's even hotter here in her real form, a green serpent. Time for Eric to make her pay for starting World War 1! THIS ONE'S FOR FRANZ!

The fight turns out to be pretty anticlimactic and easy, especially after Death and his boss rush.

Protip: Kneel close by and stab from there and most of her attacks just fly right over you.

Finally, here's Dracula, revived as expected. He's his usual bad-ass self, complete with awesome fight music.

Aw yeah, I'm pumped. Let's do this.

He launches fireball volleys before teleporting around and turning into swarms of bats. In short, he's his usual self, no real issues yet.

I defeat his first form more easily than I usually do in these games, but he isn't done yet. Oh no.

The second form is some kind of flying magician, almost a Reaper 2.0. This fight is a matter of learning his patterns and avoiding them. Protip: Eric's charged jump-attack lays waste to this form.

Another form bites the dust... but he's still not done.

Of course, his final form is a freakish monster. I don't know how the whip swinger would fight this battle since I don't think he can whip straight up. It isn't too bad for Eric, with his ability to stab upwards and bounce Dracula around.

Get him against the side of the screen and it's possible to up-stab about half of his life away before he gets out of your combo.

Like this. HAW HAW HAW!

I'm not above stun-locking a difficult boss and then running around like I just won the World Series.

After the fight, the game fakes you out a bit. The music and tone seem to indicate that another battle is coming up, but that isn't the case. It's over. It's finally over.

So how was the Genesis Castlevania? It was good, but it isn't as good as Super Castlevania IV. Sega takes the silver here. Bloodlines is further along time-wise than the others, which I thought was pretty cool, and makes some strides over the NES games in terms of play control and visuals. However, it doesn't really hold up in a head-to-head with Super Castlevania IV, which is funny because that game released years earlier. Still, this game deserves cred for trying something new with the series (to an extent) and giving us a more diverse setting. The difficulty is cranked up, though, so try it at your own risk.


Haaa! Ha haaa!


5 comments:

  1. I'd love to hear an artist talk about the coloring differences between the Genesis and SNES. I agree with you that Genesis games have a "look"...this game makes me think of Golden Axe. Are the colors darker, or are they heavier on a certain part of the RGB spectrum? I'm not qualified to say. Anyway, I had no idea about this game, and great intro at the start.

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  2. Also, "Bloodlines" is a wicked pun.

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  3. la estatua q le quitan la cabeza en el juego de sega genesis es la del logo de facebook :O

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  4. Wait, you get a character select and they're both male? This game is OLD.

    It has to be badass, the Genesis will accept no less!

    I think that's my favorite Bloodlines tune, actually.

    Haaa

    Ha ha

    Haaa

    Ha ha

    While there were a small handful of things the Genesis did that Nintendon't, colors wasn't one of them.

    The one time? What about that bizarre two-ball robot enemy from Phantasy Star 3?

    He's Dracula? Get out!

    What's up with enemies that have mouths for a crotch?

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  5. I'm glad the Genesis version was itself a step up from the NES classics. But the SNES version being better made me think--is the SNES version better than the Genesis version of games the majority of the time?

    I like the environments.

    The main characters are way too beefy. But that's a style thing.

    Eric's standing-still pose is so badass.

    "frontbutt"

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