Review by Bugs72740
"The first uncensored Castlevania (in the US)"
Castlevania is definitely one of the greatest action-adventure series of all time; its only real competition being the likes of Mega Man and Metroid (my own personal favorite series). However, Castlevania sets itself apart by nearly always having quality level design and fantastic music, areas in which Konami has excelled for years (heck, even the few original tunes in CV 64 were pretty good, when the music was actually playing), and it just exudes tons of Gothic atmosphere.
Bloodlines is the sole Genesis entry in the series, one of only three games in the series to make it to a Sega system (one of which hasn't been released yet and the other being mostly a port from another system), thus making it, for now, the sole original Sega Castlevania game. Due to Sega's relaxed guidelines on violence and gore in its games, this Castlevania also made it across the Pacific intact, blood and all (not that there's really that much blood or whatever compared to other Castlevanias).
I take off mostly because of the Genesis' limited amount of colors (512, as opposed to the SNES' tens of thousands of available colors), which makes the game a little odd looking in places. The graphics aren't as detailed as in CV 4, but they are very well designed and very good for the Genesis. With the statue head in the Greece stage, and a few parts in the Italy stage, Konami even got rough approximations of Mode 7-ish effects solely through programming. These are very well-handled, even if a bit crude compared to Mode 7. Very good job all around.
The control is perfect. The whip whips, the spear... um, spears, you get the idea. Jumping is handled pretty well, and better than in the 8-bit NES games (hardcore CV fanatics love any game in the series where they can jump on and off steps). Side note: If this game, optimized for a three-button pad, could have a separate item button, why didn't Symphony of the Night?
The usual. Setting the story in the years around the time of World War One was a novel touch, though, and a new major villain(ess) was finally introduced to the series, along with the usual cast of Frankenstein, Death, and that goshdarned Bathead himself, Dracula. On the other hand, making the good count rise once every century, while a bit contrived, is still a handy way of explaining why each game repeats the same damn plot. I'd like to see the Belmonts and Belmont-manques hunt other vampires once in a while, and the continuity has long since collapsed under its own weight, but hey... whatever works. It doesn't get in the way of the game, anyway.
This game is easier than CV 4, and much shorter as well. Although the stages are nice and big, there's only 6 of them (counting the last level), as opposed to over ten in CV 4. Being able to choose characters from the start is a nice touch; even nicer is the fact that John and Eric both play differently, as opposed to just being the same character with different weapons or what have you. Eric's spear is slightly weaker than the whip but has about the same range, plus it can be spun and used to pole-vault, enabling Eric to get extra power-ups that John can't reach as well as take slightly different paths through a few levels. John Morris is the generic Belmont-type, but he attacks faster than Eric and can do more damage to a few enemies, as well. Although he looks constipated whenever he climbs stairs. On the other hand, he can play Spider-Man and use his whip to swing across ceilings.
The bosses are all right, though the gear boss looks like it belongs in Vectorman. They're a pain at first, but once you learn their patterns, most of them fall down easily. Frankenstein in particular is almost ludicrously easy to defeat, compared to other CVs.
The options are definitely worth mentioning. Unlike almost all other Castlevanias, this one allows you to set the difficulty yourself and to choose how many lives you can start with (from 1 to 4). There are two available difficulties, easy and normal, and you can earn an expert mode by means of a code or by beating the game. The expert mode is actually as hard as the default difficulty for most Castlevanias...! Anyway, you earn different endings based on which difficulty you're playing at. A further plus is that you are automatically given a password between stages, instead of having to die to get one. Cool! They should have followed some of these ideas up more closely in other CV games.
Strictly speaking, if you're very, very good at this game, you can beat it in an hour or a little less. Not exactly as finger-busting as the NES games, is it?
The music is very good, though not as good as on a SNES game thanks to the limitations of the Genesis sound set-up. The sound effects aren't so hot, though; they have that weird, yucky squishing sound many Genesis games have. Although the Countess screams when you beat her and Dracula bellows. Fair enough. Check out the sound test--BGM 20--and hear the Vampire Killer theme, which plays when you go to the final part of the final stage to beat up the Bathead.
This is one of my favorite Genesis games (right up there with Sonic 2), and certainly one of the high points in the series. It's usually compared unfavorably to 4, but apart from hardware differences, the two games are really just about equal. This game is much better than its reputation and reviews from the time suggest (Jeff Rovin--remember his stupid Gamemaster and "How To Beat Everything" books?--claimed this was a remake of Castlevania 4...). If you own a Genesis, you owe it to yourself to play this game, if you haven't already.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 08/07/01
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