Review by PUhler

"Drac is back!"

In the year 1917 a Countess by the name Elizabeth Bartley set out all over Europe to get the necessary evil on her side to resurrect the greatest scourge mankind has ever known... Dracula. It's up to a pair of young heroes to make sure this event does not occur. With that, Castlevania: Bloodlines begins...

The game begins at the character select screen, giving you the option to select either John Morris -- an American with a whip called the Vampire Killer -- or Eric Lecarde, who, besides wielding the wicked Alcarde Spear and hailing from Spain, can change his hair color at will (when you start the game, it shows him with blonde hair, though in reality he actually has greenish blue locks). I could just go with the cliched ''They both have their strengths and weaknesses'', but I'm just going to tell it to you like it is: John is useless. Sure, he has that bad-ass whip, which you can swing ledge to ledge with, but he just seems inferior to Eric. The Alcarde Spear has a bit of a longer reach than the Vampire Killer, and Eric's super jump is a lot more handy then John's ability to swing.

After you choose Eri... I mean, your character, you'll start your perilous journey in the ruins of Dracula Castle, and eventually fight your way all across Europe to attain your goal. It's an interesting premise; usually in older Castlevania's you just wend your way through the dreaded confines of Drac's castle. Not in Bloodlines though. you get a variety of locales, be it the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, or a munitions factory in Germany; sure, it's just as linear as most rest of the Castlevania series, but it's still nice to be able to get out and see the sites once in a while.

What a sight they are too (ohhhh, that a good one); Bloodlines sports some great visuals to please the eye with. Colors are gorgeous, animation solid, and enemy sprites and design appealing. The backrounds are, for the most part, well done, with a few amazing examples of Konami's mastery of 2-D; just TRY and not be startled when you start bounding from ledge to precarious ledge, climbing the Tower of Pisa. It's a true visual spectacle, and then when you reach the boss fight... Simply incredible. Surprising as it may be, however, the graphics aren't the best part of aesthetics... That honor goes to the music.

The soundtrack found in Bloodlines is simply grandiose; all of the are songs wonderfully orchestrated and each one fits the mood of the game perfectly. From the haunting organ interludes in the remnants of Dracula Castle, to the eerie theme of the Atlantis ruins, to the rousing track accompanying the final stage -- simply put, the soundtrack is utterly fantastic. Sound effects don't exactly shirk quality either. While they can't come close to matching the sonic excellence known as Castlevania: Bloodlines' soundtrack, they're solid and convincing in their own right.

Of course none of this means squat if the gameplay's more dreadful than a vampire having a bad day, right? Just like you'd expect from a game with the lineage of Castlevania, gameplay is superb. No, there's nothing new to the series implemented gameplay wise, but the side-scrollin', candle whippin', monster slayin', platform jumpin' gameplay of Castlevania has always been classic, and Konami was wise enough to follow the old saying ''If it ain't broke, don't fix it'' (sadly, they eschewed that mantra with the more recent Castlevania games...). All you have is your attack button, jump button, and item button (be it holy water, axes, or boomerangs, which are only limited by the amount of gems you have in your inventory). It's elegantly simple, and coupled with the tight control, makes it easy for just about anyone to pick up the controller and start dealing death.

Bloodlines is also a rather difficult game, so be prepared to die a lot if you don't have some heavy-duty experience with platformers. One problem I found with the difficulty is that there are just some plain, cheap hits in the game -- a requisite for all Genesis games -- that got me pretty steamed more than once. It's not a major flaw though, and it helps ensure that the game's not a walk in the park like Super Castlevania, but I digress. Anyways, expect a challenge when you fire this baby up.

When you take it all in, Castlevania: Bloodlines is a magnificent platformer, with great graphics, outstanding music, and vintage Castlevania gameplay, and should fill your burning desire for hardcore 2-D platforming just fine.

Pat thinks that Konami deserves to be beaten with a reed, over and over again, until they fork up a brand-spanking new 2-D Castlevania.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/18/01, Updated 03/18/01

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