bloodyb1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Imadoki no Vampire: Bloody Bride for the Sony PlayStation, published by Atlus and released in Japan in 1996.]

I want to suck your blood. Wanna go out?

The dating simulation genre has long flirted with breaking into non-Japanese markets. Sure, there have been numerous RPGs in the past that have incorporated datesim elements -- Thousand Arms and the Harvest Moon series come to mind -- but the United States has yet to see a single console release of a full-on, Tokimeki Memorial-style dating simulator. Though the genre may flourish overseas, it seems that in the United States at least, dating-centric gameplay is doomed to always play a supplemental role to a larger overall experience.

Japan, on the other hand, suffers no shortage of quality dating simulators. The region still to this day sees several new dating simulators released every month, and the genre's popularity shows no sign of waning. It's this popularity that encourages datesim publishers to often include unique storylines and unusual gameplay concepts in their offerings, in attempts to make their titles stand out from the rest. Such is the case with Imadoki no Vampire: Bloody Bride, a title most accurately described as a vampire dating sim.

bloodyb2.jpgTokimeki Dracula.

To be more specific, it's a dating sim that has you playing the role of a vampire. As part of a traditional vampire coming-of-age ceremony (or something), you're charged with the task of seducing a young woman and drinking her blood. The trick comes in the seduction part; according to the Vampire Rules, any blood you drink must be given willingly. This is where the datesim elements come into play, and where your bumbling attempts at becoming Casanova Dracula begin.

In order to drink a girl's blood with her consent, you're going to have to win her heart first. This involves doing any number of things you would do in any other dating simulation, all of which are given their own unexpected twists, thanks to the fact that you must keep your identity as a vampire a secret at all times. It's easy to forget your own weaknesses, so careful planning must be made in order to avoid potential problems. At an amusement park, for example, taking your girl to the house of mirrors would lead to a small disaster. A roller coaster ride would be a much safer option. While making these decisions, you must also maintain good hygiene, keep careful tabs on other potential victims, and find enough time to stalk the streets at night. Yes, being a vampire is more than about sucking blood -- it's also about effective time management.

CTRL+F5 CTRL+F5 CTRL+F5Ladies love cool vampires.

It can be argued that most dating simulators do little to distinguish themselves from one another. Most are content to base their gameplay entirely on dialogue trees and statistics management, but Bloody Bride takes this rote formula and applies its own brand of vampiric quirk to craft an enjoyable and interesting experience.

Also of note is that there is a full English translation patch available for Bloody Bride, making the game playable from beginning to end for non-Japanese speakers. The only problems are that the English dialogue is in all caps, and that the translation is a little shaky at times, often to a humorous extent. It's hard not to laugh when your character is turned down for a date, for one thing, since his response is always an abrupt "AH!! REGRETTABLE!!" Still, the translation lends a sort of stilted charm to the game, and Bloody Bride's unique premise and storyline make it well worth a look for anyone interested in trying their hand at a vampire dating simulation.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]