Review by Wonderboy
Proof that not everything was better on the Genesis
Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse by repeating what a reviewer has already said, but this side of the coin needs more exposure than simply the praises Castlevania Bloodlines has received. After all these years, I was a stranger to the series. I recently decided to finally dive into all that is Castlevania. The story is a generic good vs. evil one (yawn) pitting an American and Spaniard against vampires in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, this was the first Castlevania game I tried, and if I didn't know better, I'd now have low regard for the series. On a brighter note, Bloodlines doesn't represent the cream of the crop in the series, for example, Castlevania Four. After doing a little research, I discovered this wasn't released during Christmas time. Were it, this would explain a lot; game projects are always rushed during the holiday season, and this feels like a rushed job. Anyway, the game starts by choosing a character and off he goes across Europe to destroy Dracula. In tact is the same general control scheme from earlier (which is either loved or hated). The Spaniard is more diverse; he can attack in five directions rather than just two (I wish he could attack in five directions while on stairs though).
What makes Bloodlines an unworthy addition to the series? The gameplay isn't polished. The level designs seem so rushed, the bosses come off as goofy and the choose-your-character feature ultimately is pointless. Sure, each character's gameplay is a little different, but both share a good three fourths of the same. All this amounts to an end experience that wasn't fully thought out, and thus, can be frustrating at times, i.e., there will be platforms the player doesn't make because the layout isn't in line with enemy distribution (not because it required genuine skill). Thus, frustration over poor overall design occurs. I needn't remind my reader that ideal Castlevania is about artfully challenging platforming, not rushed together platforming. Much of the game is coherent and, thus, playable though. At times, however, the shockingly poor platform and enemy placements had me in disbelief knowing this was the same staff behind Contra Hard Corps., a masterpiece of an action game if I say so. Maybe they were forced to rush, and that's why we have what we have today.
When we examine the A/V department, it gets a passing grade nothing remarkable though. Some of the visuals, like the knight running at the player (in the last stage) and the laser-shooting eye creatures (in the second to last stage) indeed remind me of Contra Hard Corps. For having a horror-theme, there is a lot of color throughout, but it works. The BGM is moody and classical. It definitely is appropriate for the story of Bloodlines. The spookiest, I thought, was stage three. The SFX are "eh." Overall, the game is executed well enough to garner a playthrough, but doesn't excel at anything. Certainly, it isn't bad, but there are more than enough signs of rushed programming throughout. Earned "expert mode" is a mess, just more cheap, frustrating difficulty rather than genuine, artful challenge. Furthermore, I have my suspicions this Castlevania was intended to be co-op since there are two characters to choose from and the title screen says "1P Start," hinting at one point there was a need to make a distinction for solo play. Only hardcore platformer and Castlevania fans need apply.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Castlevania: Bloodlines (US, 03/17/94)
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