Review by Solidshoe

"A very entertaining Venture into the realm of Darkness."

Castlevania Bloodlines is easily, for me at least, the second best title in the long running series.

And what a strange beast Bloodlines is. After the thrilling entry, Rondo of Blood, it seemed a bit strange to go back to the cartridge medium.

No more CD quality music?
No sprawling quest?
No anime cut scenes?

At the time, I wondered why the hell this game wasn't made for the Sega CD. I now realize that porting this game to the Sega CD would have been disasterious on Konami's wallet.

So what do we have here?

Thankfully, a very enjoyable experience.

Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. It certainly could have been better, given that Rocket Knight Adventures, konami's earlier Genesis effort, looked much better and had way better animation.

Sadly, Konami dropped down from the 16mb memory to 8 mb, which they also did in Sparkster: RKA 2. The graphics take a hit as a result. The animation in Bloodlines is lackluster, resulting in NES quality 2 frame monsters that are a pain on the eyes. The colors are muddy, and some of the monsters are just poorly drawn.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the special effects are incredible, and dare I say, probably the best in the series, considering the hardware that the game was done on. This is no playstation, no snes. This is a Genesis, who's only Ace in the hole is the very fast Processor housed inside, the result of which lead some very cool software tricks which mimic scaling and rotation, transperantcies, line scrolling, etc.

This game has killer effects. Each boss is a mult-jointed delight, giving the impression of incredible animation. The first boss, a mult-jointed Knight, still looks cool to this day, easily surpassing the many Scaling oriented Knights in Symphony of the Night. And the Gear Boss is easily a tour-de force of konami programing.

Then you have the transperant images in the waters of Atlantis, the side-to-side scaling of the of Leaning Tower of Pisa, and line scrolling light in the Palace goes on and on. No mode 7 needed, and it isn't missed one bit.

The control is basic 8-bit castlevania. The smoothness of Rondo's Richter is missing, and instead, we get Johnny Morris, a buff belmont ancestor who jumps like he has stones in his britches. The chaps saving grace is hi ability to whip onto ceilings and swing CV4 style. How his whip connects to the ceiling is still a mystery, but it is a gameplay mechanic that comes in handy during the game.

Eric Lecarde, on the other hand, is a blessing to control. His pole vauling antics easily make him the best of the two characters, and his ability to rotate his staff in any direction puts him over the top.

The music is fantastic, and this is without a doubt my second favorite CV soundtrack ever. The atmospheric music of the CV4 is ditched for a meatier soundtrack that compares favoribly to the awesome music of Rondo. While the actual clearness and instruments used are lacking due to the inferior sega sound chip, the composition is incredible. Simply put, these songs blow CV4's ambience ladden pieces out of the water. Instead, we get upbeat CASTLEVANIA music, harkoning back to the days of CV1-3, where melodies were more important than sound channels and synth instruments. Every song in this game is fantastic, from the upbeat fanfare of level one, to the serene calm of Atlantis, and so on, until the marvelous last level music, which is brilliantly relaxed, but somehow chaotic in nature. The soundtrack is incredible, and if any genesis soundtrack deserved to be freed on the CD format, this is it.

Perhaps the best thing about Bloodlines is how it continues many traditions established in Rondo. Taking a Rondo approach, all of the classic CV enemies are redrawn once again, unlike Cv4, where many of the enemies were exact duplicates of their CV3 incarnations. You also end up fighting many enemies that take up the entire screen. Not only are the old enemies redrawn and given new attacks, the new enemies themes are decent as well, having a more modern look, like knights with guns for example. Again, the artwork is a bit lacking in color and animation, but the ideas are special indeed.

But how does the game feel?

Like CV. You run, you jump, you whip, you fight Death, Frakenstien, bone dragons, three variations of Dracula. The CV formula is here in style. The pace of the game is increased over Rondo and CV4, and though Bloodlines is a bit short with only 5 levels, there are multiple routes through the levels, and the game certainly isn't the easiest CV. The route to Dracula is very rewarding in this game indeed.

The boredom of Symphony is never present here. The action always surpasses CV4, and the music is only a step below Rondo, in spite of the lackluster soundchip powering it. In essence, Bloodlines is what CV is supposed to be, a riot of a good time.

It's my second favorite CV.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/10/02, Updated 04/10/02

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