By Fabrice Stellaire / May 19th, 2017
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent oprainfall as a whole.
The philosophy behind this new series of articles is to promote old games we would like to see on Virtual Console or on digital platforms in general so that new or nostalgic players can enjoy them. Those titles contributed to the history of video games but have been forgotten, perhaps because the publisher neglected them or assumed not many players would be interested in getting them again.
Today we are going to talk about Castlevania Bloodlines, released in 1994 on the Megadrive. The game was a bit different from previous Castlevania games as, for the first time in the series, it did not happen in Dracula’s Castle, but allowed you to travel in Europe. This time, you were not controlling a Belmont vampire hunter but had the possibility to play either John Morris, son of Quincy Morris, or Eric Lecarde. It would later be explained that Richter Belmont, ashamed by his abduction and brain-washing from Shaft in Symphony of the Night, had decided to give the whip to the Morris clan. It was also the first Castlevania to take place in the 20th century since the plot revolved around the legendary vampire Elizabeth Bartley, who had apparently caused World War I by contributing to the assassination of the Crown Prince of Austria. Finally, it was also the first Castlevania game to have music composed by Michiru Yamane, who would later become popular for her work in Symphony of the Night.
The game was graphically impressive and the music was also well made, though some might prefer the themes heard in Super Castlevania IV. A password system allowed the player to keep track of their progress. It was common for games to be edited or censored in the 1990s, and Castlevania Bloodlines was no exception. The European version was named New Generation in an attempt to wipe the word “blood” from the title, the zombies’ color went from pink to green, and the blood dripping effects from the title were removed. The face of Eric Lecard was made less feminine in North America. Despite those changes, the game remained outstanding and provided a rather challenging experience.
While the game is not as famous as Super Castlevania IV, it provided a higher challenge and there was more variety in the environments. Eric’s gameplay allowed the player to discover a different fighting style at a time where most of Castlevania’s heroes used a whip. It is interesting to note that this episode introduced the idea that Dracula had allies or servants who worshipped him. Before Bloodlines, most of the bosses in the game did not have a background and did not contribute to the story. Allowing the series to no longer focus on the Belmont clan alone was a good idea that later showed its full potential in games like Symphony of the Night. If anything, I believe that Bloodlines suffered mainly from being constantly compared to Super Castlevania IV and its superior maneuverability. Sega fans did not have access to many Castlevania games (since no Castlevania games had been released on the Master System before), which probably did not help to develop a big Castlevania fanbase for the Megadrive. Another element to take in consideration is that Super Castlevania IV, Rondo of Blood, and Symphony of the Night all had a huge impact on the community, which made Bloodline look inferior when it was, in fact, a good game. For all these reasons, I believe the game needs to come back on modern gaming devices, as it certainly belongs to the list of good Castlevania games and is overall one of the best MegaDrive games. We do not know why Konami never considered releasing it on Virtual Console, while less popular Castlevania games like Castlevania: The Adventure for the Gameboy are currently available on Nintendo’s eShop. This oversight could be fixed when the Virtual Console is made available for the Switch, or if Konami decides to release the game on Steam, for example. There are a few other Castlevania games that are currently not available for purchase, but they are nowhere near as memorable as Bloodlines. Castlevania on N64 or Legacy of Darkness (the enhanced version of the same game) are in my opinion less relevant titles that divided fans of the series. The 3D graphics for the N64 games have not aged well, and they had issues specific to 3D games released in those times, like camera problems. I know there are people who enjoy these games, but I feel that 3D Castlevania games generally tend to feel less satisfying and more polarizing among the fanbase. On PS2 Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness were met with mixed feedback, and granted much less freedom and places to explore than in regular 2D Castlevanias. The last important Castlevania games currently not available are Castlevania Legends and Belmont’s Revenge for GameBoy, but they are not as enthralling and fun as Bloodlines, and suffer from the technical limitations of the Game Boy system. Castlevania Bloodlines is a good example of what a good old school Castlevania game was before Symphony of the Night revolutionized the series, and I remember it as a colorful game with intuitive gameplay, as well as very creative level design. I think that both veterans and new players would appreciate it today.