Review by Captain_N77
"Classic Castlevania DNA"
Bloodlines, published by Konami in 1994, is one of the Castlevania games that can easily fly under your gaming radar if you're not careful. Though Castlevania games had been released on non-Nintendo systems before, Bloodlines was released on the Sega Genesis at a time when Castlevania was pretty much synonymous with Nintendo. That being the case, many Castlevania fans might have never had the chance to play Bloodlines when it was originally released(myself included). To make matters worse, as of this writing in 2012, there is no other legal way to play Bloodlines other than on the Genesis. But Bloodlines was worth tracking down for me, and it's worth checking out for anyone who is interested in classic-style Castlevania games.
Taking a cue from Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Bloodlines eschewed the tradition of having a singular character in the lead. Right from the start you can choose from one of two characters with which to tackle the game, each with their own unique style. John Morris, a descendant of Quincy Morris from the Bram Stoker novel, wields the Vampire Killer whip and plays quite similar to Simon Belmont in Castlevania. The other choice is Eric Lecarde, a pikeman whose weapon of choice is the Alcarde Spear, which can also be used to fling himself high into the air.
Set in 1917, the basic storyline is that Elizabeth Bartley is planning to resurrect her uncle, Dracula, from the dead. It's your job, as either John or Eric, to put an end to this. Bloodlines continues to differentiate itself from previous entries in the series by taking place in various locations, though the first level does take place in Dracula's Romanian castle. During the course of the game your travels will also take you to Greece, Italy, England, Germany, and France. This change of scenery helps to keep things interesting, as well as giving a sense of breadth to your adventure.
The gameplay holds true to the traditional style of the classic Castlevania games. You have your basic attack with your primary weapon, as well as the ability to use sub-weapons such as the axe or holy water. Also present in Bloodlines is the Item Crash, which is a powerful sub-weapon attack that drains more of your "ammo" than a standard attack with your sub-weapon. Throughout the adventure you will find yourself performing the usual platform-hopping that Castlevania is(or was) known for; the controls for this are simple, precise, and well done. Thankfully, you won't find yourself suffering many "cheap deaths" due to stiff jumping mechanics in Bloodlines. Most of the platforming is laid out very well and flows rather smoothly. That is not to say that the platforming elements are not challenging, as you will no doubt have to do plenty of difficult hacking and slashing as you hop from platform to platform throughout the game. The two characters' weapons will also come into play as you have to use their unique features to progress at certain points: John using his whip to swing across chasms and Eric propelling himself up with his spear to reach out of the way platforms. Though each unique characteristic of the weapons will take their respective hero along a different path, for the most part John and Eric will follow the same route to the final confrontation.
As you progress through the game, you will find that Bloodlines is faithful to Castlevania's heritage of beautiful(and gloomy) visuals. Players will be treated to plenty of alluring, yet creepy locales. Aged buildings, eery paintings, decrepit gardens, and a smorgasbord of nocturnal creatures await you in glorious 16-bit style. There are also some nice effects on display in the game, such as some Mode 7-ish rotating structures, mind and eye-bending glass distortions, and some neat water reflection tricks. Some of the bosses are truly gigantic and will nearly fill up an entire side of the playing field. That's not to say that everything is perfect on the visual front, as the colors are a bit muted and are not as vibrant or as lively as those found in Super Castlevania IV on the SNES. Despite that minor setback, the game is very easy on the eyes and a pleasure to behold.
The sound department is usually where every Castlevania really shines and Bloodlines is no different. In addition to the satisfying sound of whips snapping, lances piercing the air, and creaking gates and doors, there is some really great music in the game. As you would expect in a Castlevania game, the tunes are at times eery and foreboding, and at other times bold and driven. Holding true to Castlevania's pedigree of memorable music, Michiru Yamane's soundtrack is excellent throughout.
Each stage also has a mini-boss midway through, and, of course, the true boss awaits at the end. The mini-bosses, main bosses, as well as the levels in general get progressively more difficult as you go deeper into the game. Although you do get passwords as you complete each level, these passwords will also keep track of how many continues you have in reserve as you finish each level. So you might find yourself with a password to a later level that doesn't have those precious continues that you may need. Regardless, the game is challenging, but not at all overly difficult. If you have ever finished Castlevania or Castlevania III, you should have an easy time finishing Bloodlines, which I would say is in the neighborhood of Super Castlevania IV as far as difficulty goes.
Overall, I'd say that Castlevania: Bloodlines is an excellent entry in the Castlevania series. It is also the last of the "classic"-style Castlevania console games that focused on do-or-die platforming with distinct levels and dedicated weapons. So it is a must-play for any fan of the NES/SNES Castlevania games, as well as anyone who enjoys classic games of this nature.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/08/12
Game Release: Castlevania: Bloodlines (US, 03/17/94)
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