For those reading one of my Genesis review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed a bunch of SNES games, so its natural that I am going to review the games of its prime competition. Does the SEGA Genesis stand a chance against the legendary SNES library?
My review series is based on the top 100 list of Retro Sanctuary
Originally, I post most of my stuff in a football forum"Goallegacy" which is the first online community I have ever joined. Which is the best place for a football fan (the REAL football, not handegg) to hang out in the internet.
Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Gamesradar list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Without further ado, here is:
38- Castlevania: Bloodlines:
Genre: Action Platformer.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
Most games that released in both the Genesis and the SNES were similar in the surface, but clearly better in one console. With Bloodlines, we have Castlevania games that is very different to Super Castlevania IV on the SNES, but is just as good.
In Bloodlines, we have the rare example of a franchise delivering a very good game in both parties on the 16bit generation.
"The ancestors of the Belmont family are doomed to confront the power of evil incarnate... Dracula"
As with all of the early Castlevania games, the plot is confined to the admittedly cool opening scenario and the instruction manual. This does not impact the game, as the limited story only serves introduce you to a world where you will need to stop the resurrection of Dracula.
This compels the two playable characters, Texas cowboy John Morris and pretty boy transformed into Arnold in the US version, Eric Lecarde. Both have something to do with Belmont family, but John wears more modern clothing while Eric seems to fit more into Castlevania's previous lore.
Note that Eric has blue-hair in actual gameplay
Regardless of who you choose to play as, you will play through six stages set in Europe. It is these stages that offer the narrative backbone for the game. Like the stages in Super Castlevania, these six stages are full of the macabre atmosphere of the series, but they are also hauntingly beautiful.
In the second stage in Greece, you go through some broken Greece columns and platforms as the reflection of those platforms is clearly visible in the waters below. In another stage, as you walk by a fountain, the water suddenly turns to blood, inviting the undead to feast.
It through music, stage design, and adventurous gameplay that you feel like a Vampire Hunter going to stop resurrection of Dracula, even if the game doesn't say much.
Limited Story: -2
Excellent Macabre Atmosphere: +4
A Show Don't Tell Approach: +2
"Push back the evil horde and push back the Vampire to his dark netherworld"
If we are going to enjoy going through Bloodlines excellent levels, we would need the gameplay to be fun and engaging, which is exactly what we have here. True to Castlevania style, the movement of the characters is somewhat rigid, and there is little fluidity in jumping or attacking. However, it is a system that favors precision more so than button mashing, a system that forces the player to commit to every action.
For someone who just brazenly rushes through the game, they will be hit by ever incoming medusa head, and run over by every charging Minotaur. The way to play a Castlevania game is to understand the distances of both your jumps and attacks, and apply that knowledge with precision. If you see an oscillating medusa head coming towards you, threatening to plunge you in the abyss, randomly flailing at it might get you killed. Through a simple understanding of the distances, you can strike at the right time and place, and whack, kill the damn thing.
And so you defeat the largest and ugliest of foes
Once you understand how the game plays, you will start appreciating the challenge and depth these stages have to offer. Each stage is different than the others, with sub-bosses and a final boss to up the challenge, and with a lot of different set-pieces that individualizes each stage.
For instance, one stage has you climbing the tower of Pisa, giving you a more vertical stage to work with. Another is simple linear castle labyrinth, as has been seen in the series before.
Boss battles are as good as they have always been, with each boss offering a unique challenge. Though none of the bosses are truly great, they are a worthy end to each stage.
With six stages, that might seem like a short game, which is true as a run through all of them would probably need just over two hours. However, with two characters that change the gameplay to a degree, it invites two playthroughs at least. By finishing the game once, you also unlock a higher difficulty, which makes the game especially brutal, with no room for mistakes.
Great Gameplay: +5
Good Bosses: +2
Varied Stages and Characters: +3
Should have had One More Stage: -2
"To revive him she needed to travel all through Europe"
Despite being developed in a weaker hardware with a more limited sound chip, Bloodlines managed to look and sound exactly as good as Super Castlevania on the SNES. Through intelligent use of the Genesis's capabilities, and actually good art design, the game thrived in its presentation.
None of the stages would be as memorable if not for the excellent details liberally strewn about. Bloody corpses hanging from the ceiling, traces of their blood still dripping into the pavement. The head of a Greece statue, breaking you step into it, making another platform. The aforementioned water fountain, turning into a macabre summoner of death.
I wonder if this would have been allowed in the SNES
As with the early Castlevania games, the developers didn't only rely on conventional graphical design methods, but also attempted to do more with the system than people thought could be done. With Bloodlines, several stages use such effects that I never seen in another Genesis game. Mirror reflection, 3D steps, and even a nearly entire boss made of actual 3D polygons.
To complement the excellent art direction was not an easy feat, but Michiry Yamane, in hear first turn as a Castlevania composer, literally knocks it out of the park. With both new tunes like "Iron Blood Intentions", and remixes "Simon's Theme", she uses the Genesis's sound chip to its full potential.
With this soundtrack, we see the entire game linked together in the atmospheric style of the series, and we are ready to kick some Vampire butt.
Great Graphics: +5
Great Music: +5
Previously, I though Super Castlevania IV would easily be the pinnacle of the early Castlevania games. However, with Bloodlines, I am now undecided.
Easily one of the best games on the Genesis, Bloodlines actually benefits from having little of the competition Super Castlevania had on the SNES. It could have been better, by simply being longer. But that's a praise for any game; simply wanting more of it.
The Second level in the game is truley breathtaking, until that Minotaur literally charges your breath away
1- All sub-weapons are useful in their own way, see what works for you at the moment.
2- Dying sucks, it pushes your weapon back to its weakest stage, and loses all magic points you need to use your sub weapon.
3- John and Eric are not widely different, but each is different enough that you shouldn't use the same strategies with both.
4- By holding the attack button and changing directions, you can twirl Eric's spear around.
5- John's greatest advantage is the ability ot deliver a diagonal air attack.
6- Eric's diagonal attack can only be done in the ground, but he can stab upward.
7- By collecting some power up, you upgrade your weapon to its final stage, but you lose that upgrade when hit.
8- Learn the patterns and distances of each enemy to avoid being hit.
I am entirely sure that few of the games higher on Retro Sanctuary's list are actually better than Bloodlines. At this stage, I don't entirely trust this list, and Castlevania's place on it is ample proof of its limitation. Maybe I will be proven wrong, but I don't think so.
Next game is Alien Soldier at #34, another Genesis game made by Treasure. So far, I was not impressed by what Treasure had to offer. Sure, they have good command of the system's capabilities, but their games were rarely engaging for me.
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