Wait a minute…SUMMER'S OVER ALREADY?! Man, we were just getting used to hanging out at the pool and watching repeat viewings of Marvel's The Avengers on end. What's more, we've been playing all sorts of great game recommendations over the summer, including Battletoads, Skullmonkeys, Captain America and the Avengers and several others. But with the summer season officially coming to a close, we too have to bring Games of Summer to a close.
But let's go out fighting, shall we? Over the years, the Castlevania franchise has seen a number of stupendous entries, from the energy-inducing Symphony of the Night to the thrilling Mode 7-powered Super Castlevania IV. However, for Games of Summer, we've decided to pick a darling little favorite, Castlevania Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis.
For the longest time, Sega fans have been demanding their own entry in the series, and in 1994, they finally got it. The game puts you control of one of two different kinds of characters — a spear-carrying warrior named Eric Lecarde and a whip-wielding hero named John Morris — neither a Belmont, eh? A strange woman by the name of Elizabeth Bartley is looking to resurrect the evil Dracula in 1917, and both men are looking to do anything to stop her.
What's interesting about Castlevania Bloodlines is that it carries Sega's GA rating, which meant general audiences, but it actually had a bit of blood in it, depending on which enemies you hit. Granted, this game was rated by them in-house, rather than through the ESRB, so don't look too heavily into it. (The ESRB kicked in soon after this game was released — but it wasn't the reason they were formed.)
Castlevania Bloodlines may have a bit of carnage behind it, but it's also a technical powerhouse, as the development team were able to pack in some breathtaking (at the time) graphical tricks that really pushed the Genesis hardware to places we didn't think it would go. Cool rotational effects, usually saved for the likes of the SNES at the time, popped up throughout, including a creepy ascent up a tower, with medusa heads flying all around. The game as a whole appeared much darker than previous Castlevania games, something that definitely served to its benefit.
But what really blew us away, at the time, was the music. Even though the Genesis' sound processor isn't the greatest, Konami managed to put together a cool collection of tunes, moody and worth listening to. The second stage music in itself, the Sanctuary, is excellent, as is the main boss theme.
As for the gameplay, if you used John, you felt traditional Castlevania themes, using your whip to take out candles (to obtain power-ups) and swing across chasms, helpful in some of the later stages of the game. However, as Eric, you had a few nifty tricks of your own, including the ability to swing your spear around and leap up to higher levels with a well-timed boost. Both are quite useful in a pinch, so no matter which character you chose, you got your money's worth out of them.
Finally, let's talk about the bosses — which are awesome. One cool mech boss requires you to take it apart piece by piece, as it drags its arms across the ceiling, sending debris flying your way. Another has you battling a dragon at the top of the doomed tower, avoiding its fire attacks while hitting it at just the right moment. And the final encounters with both Elizabeth and Dracula are memorable too, but we won't spoil them.
Castlevania Bloodlines is the ideal entry in the series when it comes to giving fans the traditional gameplay that they want, while also adding something new to keep them enticed to move on in their fight to bring Dracula to his blood-sucking knees. If you can, we highly suggest tracking down a used copy.
It's just a shame the game never got a re-release. At one point, Konami was planning on bringing a new Castlevania Bloodlines to the PSP, but it never materialized. Maybe someday we'll see it, perhaps as an HD remix or as part of a collection. Here's to hoping.
And that'll do it for Games of Summer. Thanks for reading all my selections, and I'll be back with another column very soon!