I’ll level with you, I might just like Castlevania:Bloodlines, Konami’s lone Genesis Vampire outing, a little bit more than I like Super Castlevania 4.
Perhaps it’s because I didn’t play Castlevania: Bloodlines until much later. Maybe I was able to understand and appreciate the game to a greater degree playing it as a fully formed (and some-what cynical) adult, rather than a snot nosed 13 year old kid.
One thing that I know does it for me right off the bat (pun nit intended), and that is the setting of Bloodlines. Fighting your way through Dracula’s castle and the wide variety of surrounding catacombs and haunted forrests is fun and all, but after so many Castlevania outings in the same (albeit, graphically updated) locales, it’s a breath of fresh air to take the Vampire Killing out of Romania.
Castlevania: Bloodlines’ action spans across the entire European continent as you, playing as either selectable character, track Drolta Tzuentes and the recently resurrected Elizabeth Bathory who are hell bent on once again bringing Dracula back from the grave.
In Castlevania: Bloodlines, you can play as either John Morris, Belmont descendant and current holder infamous Vampire Killer whip, or Eric Lecarde, who wields the Alucard Spear. Both characters provided different styles of game-play, and also character specific paths through the game. This offers a welcomed layer of re-playability that had been somewhat lacking in previous games in the series.
Interestingly, the story of the game attempts to bridge the Castlevania universe with that of Bram Stoker’s original book… with John Morris being a minor character in the novel. John Morris’ father, Quincy Morris is one of the main characters in Dracula and the one who famously stabs Dracula in the heart with a Bowie knife (not a stake) killing in tandem him with the help of Jonathon Harker. The game creates a bloodline (hence the name) between the Morris family and that of the Belmont clan, which bestows the mantle of vampire exterminator upon John Morris.
Castlevania games, especially the older lot, have never been as much about the story as they are about the game-play and atmosphere. The visual style of the game does not disappoint, and looks absolutely fabulous. Unfortunately, the Genesis is a console that has a reputation of often muddy and dark graphics, but that is not the case here. The enemy sprites are gloriously detailed and the bosses are enormous and imposing. The backgrounds and for matter, the foregrounds are crisply detailed and accurately represent each different location you travel to in the game, while still maintaining a consistently eerie vibe through-out.
The music is an example of the exception to the rule that most Genesis titles have pretty unmemorable soundtracks. Bloodline’s soundtrack, which was composed by Michiru Yamane, packs a definite punch and many of the themes and melodies have become staples in the Castlevania series. This is perhaps to be expected, as Yamane would later go onto score the PlayStation classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which is universally regarded as one of the greatest video game soundtracks ever.
I am going to back up for a second here. In no way am I trying to convey that the Super Nintendo masterpiece Super Castlevania 4 is a bad game- far from it. The game is most certainly a classic, and paved the way for many innovations that can still be found in current Castlevania games (I’m looking at you, diagonal whip ability).
I have always felt that the SEGA Genesis does not get nearly enough respect and I feel that it is my duty to defend it where ever I can. If you have never played Castlevania: Bloodlines and are a fan of the series, it is completely worth it to track down a copy and give it a play through.