August 15, 2006 1:42 PM |
['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Konami’s 1994 game: Castlevania Bloodlines]
In the Family
The Genesis Castlevania is called Bloodlines. If you had a Mega Drive it would have been called either The New Generation (PAL) or Vampire Killer (JPN). The game is Konami’s only Castlevania title for a Sega console, and was their most original up to that time. Because the game was designed on a secondary console, Konami’s designers let their hair down and changed the standard platform-jumping, vampire-slaying, and black-and-white-horror-film formula.
Bloodlines’ story attempts to bridge a gap in the canon. Where the series previously had only a loose connection to the novel by Bram Stoker, there is now a direct connection with Dracula. The game has two selectable characters: John Morris, wielder of the Vampire Killer whip; and Eric Lecarde, wielder of the Alucarde Spear. If you are unfamiliar with the novel, Quincy Morris is the American who helps Van Helsing defeat Dracula and is killed by Gypsies during the final confrontation in Transylvania. John is the son of Quincy and a descendant of the Belmont family, and he keeps the bloodline going as owner of the Vampire Killer. Eric is his friend who seeks revenge for the death of his girlfriend. The Countess Elizabeth Bartley wants to resurrect her uncle, Dracula, and in her attempt starts World War I. (Yes, Castlevania: Bloodlines has World War I skeletons with helmets—let’s just get that out of the way.) Eric and John travel Europe to defeat her before she can resurrect Dracula.
I know that is more background than I normally give, but for a Castlevania game it’s quite unique. Many Castlevanias retell the first game, and few are set outside of Dracula’s castle. But almost all of Bloodlines takes place outside of the castle and its estate, and the level variation sets Bloodlines apart. It was one of the last action-style Castlevanias (before they became Metroidvanias), and Konami expanded greatly on what had been considered a stale formula. The levels range from an homage to the original title to a trip up the slanted Leaning Tower of Pisa. Some levels also have slight variations depending on which character you have chosen.
The largest difference from previous games is Eric Lecarde, the Spear toting sidekick. Eric is implemented very well, and makes the game both easier and slightly more challenging. His spear attack is versatile, fast, and accurate, making enemy disposal fluid and painless. In contrast, John’s whip is still the same as in previous incarnations—slow and plodding.
Bloodlines was the goriest game in the series at that time. When you whip a zombie, his upper torso is knocked off and his lower torso falls over, spilling his blood and guts. Killing a crow will leave it twitching on the ground before it disappears. The Hellhound sub-boss explodes sending blood, flesh, and gore flying everywhere. And this is only the first level. Unfortunately, if you played the European version of the game, you probably don't remember it this way. The PAL version is heavily censored, the zombies are green, there is less gore, and the pool of blood in the intro screen was changed to a pool of water.
Bloodlines symbolized change for Castlevania. Almost every aspect of the series was changed while preserving the mechanics and horror-movie feel. Three years later, two-dimensional Castlevania got another overhaul with Symphony of the Night, which was then carried on to the Gameboy Advance and into the Nintendo DS, by Koji Igarashi, the current caretaker of the series. Igarashi's next game will be a sequel to Castlevania: Bloodlines. Perhaps this means Castlevania is in need of a change once again.
[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer’s Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]
Categories: Column: Parallax Memories