The Castlevania Anniversary Collection has just recently been released, and collects eight classic Castlevania games (give or take one Kid Dracula) that help represent the series’ early identity. While most of the games in the collection are well known and beloved series entries, there are a few lesser known games, most importantly for today, Castlevania Bloodlines. This was the only Castlevania game released on the Sega Genesis, and has been somewhat forgotten by most due to that. Bloodlines is coming back strong through its re-release both in this collection and the upcoming new Sega Genesis classic. So, why not take a look back at the oft forgotten classic Castlevania game?
Almost every Castlevania game’s plot revolves around Dracula’s resurrection, and while this one isn’t different in that regard, but it is different in the way it goes about it. This game is actually tied into World War One, as it reveals that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered by Dracula’s niece in order to resurrect him. The game takes place in 1917 though, and the two playable characters are John Morris and Eric Lecarde. John Morris is a distant relative of the Belmont family, and Eric Lecarde is just some dude who’s girlfriend became a vampire. The different means to the same end do help make this a refreshing new take on the same general story. It also helps because it shakes up the formula a bit by making the story take place in a more modern setting.
Gameplay wise, Bloodlines is an odd topic. The option of being able to play two very distinct characters, along with the different overall level design exeuntating a more head on approach than in previous games. See, in the original Castlevania you need to go kinda slowly and methodically, as not to be murdered really fast, but by the time Super Castlevania IV rolled around, head on approaches were much more viable. Bloodlines feels like that middle step between the two, as you do have stronger offensive options and levels that push you to action more, but your movement and health are style similar to the previous games.
With the two characters, if you want a traditional Castlevania experience, John Morris is your man. This vampire hunter comes from Texas (yes, that’s true) and uses the standard Vampire Killer whip. He also uses sub weapons, but there’s a mix of not that useful and entirely new ones in there. The only two you’ll really get much use out of are the Holy Water and Ax, which are both way stronger now. Movement wise, John Morris is a Belmont through and through. He has mastered the Belmont strut and is unable to move around mid-jump. However, John can hit down, diagonally up, and even swing with his whip. For classic Castlevania fans, John Morris is just a stronger version of the Belmonts you know, but he can get a laser whip, so he’s better by default.
The second character, as well as series first is the spear wielding Eric Lecarde (no relation to Alucard) who has a much larger range of attack and mobility. If anything, Eric is the easy character, as not only does his spear reach longer, but it also can go far up and down. While you could argue if John is better for offense, as the whip attacks faster, there’s no competition when it comes to movement. Eric has a similar walking pace (even though it’s less impressive than the Belmont strut), but he has a move where he uses his spear to launch himself up into the air. It is incredibly helpful in platforming segments, both for convenience or to save yourself from one of the plentiful autoscrolling segments. I personally prefer John, as his playstyle is better set for this game and a traditional Castlevania experience, but Eric isn’t bad either. Really though, John’s better because he gets a laser whip instead of a glowing spear.
Being on the Sega Genesis, Bloodlines has some pretty great graphics, definitely on the higher end of 16-bit games. The characters and enemies all look distinct and well made, and the sizing of everything makes playing stages not a chore due to a bad camera. Speaking of stages, they all look great, and due to the aforementioned timeframe, are much more diversified than in other Castlevania games. There’s Dracula’s castle, a weapons factory, Atlantis, and a fair amount more. These stages are in all different places across Europe though, which means John and Eric must have had the most intense road trip together. One of the best thing about Bloodlines’ graphics are its effects though. Whether its the fire enemies burst into, or the swaying of the Tower of Pisa, or (my personal favorite) the amazing water reflection at the start of the Atlantis level; all of these effects just make this game stand out from a standard Castlevania entry.
Music is a major part of the Castlevania series, with some of the most iconic video game songs of all time, but Bloodlines isn’t one of the largest contributors to this name. While none of the songs are bad, most are just kind of standard and forgettable. I’ll constantly sing Bloody Tears or Vampire Killer, however no songs really stick out to me like those classics. Just got to say though, the remixes of those classic songs do sound great with the Genesis soundboard.
Overall, Castlevania: Bloodlines is one of the finest classic Castlevania games, and a great entry for players who want to pick up the series, but are put off by its difficulty. The option of two characters helps increase replayability, which is a definite must, as there are only six stages, all of which are decently sized. The music is pretty good, but nothing mind blowing, and the more modern aesthetic helps give this game its own identity. I think this is a game all Castlevania fans and people trying to get into Castlevania should play. The easiest way to get it is on the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, but if you want the more faithful approach, the Sega Genesis Classic release is right around the corner.