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Castlevania: Bloodlines was certainly a unique entry in the series for its time. The games before it were predominantly Nintendo releases. But lo and behold, the ONLY Castlevania game released for a Sega console—and a good choice of a console, I might add.
I guess you could say Bloodlines might be considered a spinoff, but it’s honestly hard enough to categorize the Castlevania games as it is. This particular release came out after Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, but before Castlevania: Dracula X. And because of the similar gameplay styles, this is an easily overlooked classic entry.
The Description of Bloodlines
Here is our backstory:
The ancestors of the Belmont family are doomed to confront the power of evil incarnate……Dracula! In 1917, a countess sought to revive the long dead spirit of the vampire. Her name was Elizabeth Bartley. To revive him, she needed to travel all over Europe, enlisting help from all the powers of darkness.
Two young vampire hunters set out to fulfill their destiny…. Push back the evil hordes and drive the vampire back into his dark netherworld.
It’s a pretty interesting way to begin a Castlevania game. This time, Dracula wasn’t around. Instead, we get Dracula’s niece. Fun fact: Elizabeth Bartley is loosely based on the infamous Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, a Hungarian noblewoman and the most prolific female serial killer in the world. According to rumors, Báthory had displayed vampire-like behavior and bathed in the blood of her victims to keep herself young and beautiful. She was also a distant relative of the infamous Vlad the Impaler (the main inspiration to the Dracula character).
Pretty batshit insane, right?
Well, in the story of Bloodlines, Elizabeth assassinated the Crown Prince of Austria, beginning World War I—historically, WWI happened because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. But before that, his cousin Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide.
So yeah, it’s pretty weird that Castlevania did try to tie into real-life events. But there is even more weirdness headed this way.
Bloodlines’ two playable characters are:
- John Morris – Texas-born son of Quincey Morris and distant descendant of the Belmont family; current wielder of the legendary Vampire Killer whip
- Eric Lecarde – Androgynous Spanish-born descendant of the Belmont family; childhood friends with John Morris; current wielder of the Alucard Spear
So yeah, this is one of the few Castlevania titles where you don’t play as a Belmont character—at least, by name. Furthermore, the game makes a connection to the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker with the mention of Quincey Morris, a character in the novel. Though to say the novel canon lines up with Castlevania is quite the stretch to say the least.
So Bloodlines tried to fall into existing fiction and non-fiction. Uuuuh?
The Lone Entry of the Sega Genesis
Castlevania: Bloodlines plays very much like the classic Castlevania games, but its control scheme comes closest to that of Rondo of Blood. John and Eric can easily jump onto stairways as well as jump off.
John fights with a whip, which can be upgraded three times instead of the usual two. By holding the attack button, you can use a powered attack. John can also whip diagonally and downward (mid-air), giving him some limited flexibility. But the one thing that sets him apart is that he can whip the ceiling and use it as a swing. This is necessary to know how to do to clear some stages.
Eric fights with a spear, which is slightly faster than the whip and has longer range. While on the ground, Eric can attack in multiple directions. And when he jumps, he can perform a downward thrust attack. He can also perform this spinning lance attack while on the ground, but I find it rather useless and difficult to perform correctly. And finally, Eric can crouch for a short time to power a super-jumping move.
Both John and Eric go through the same stages but may have to clear them in different ways due to their unique abilities.
Jewels replace hearts in this game, acting as the ammunition for sub-weapons. There are only three sub-weapons: the throwing axe, holy water, and the boomerang. Like with Super Castlevania IV, using the sub-weapon is mapped to a single button (in this case, the C button). But by holding up on the D-pad and the C button, you can use a stronger version of the attack.
Also like Super Castlevania IV, there are a lot of mini-bosses to face. And I would dare say that some of them are actually tougher than the main bosses.
Speaking of the bosses, most of them are pretty easy to defeat once you figure out their weaknesses—which you’ll catch on to pretty quickly. Oh, and spoilers about the final boss?
The final boss is a devil with a crotch that eventually gets angry and starts breathing fire at you. What sick mind did you have at the time, Konami.
There’s really not much else to say about the gameplay. It’s pretty much everything we’ve experienced from the Castlevania series, so let’s talk about the other impressive accomplishments of Bloodlines.
One of the most frequent motifs about the Castlevania series is that the setting is usually around Transylvania. However, Dracula’s castle is only featured in the first stage. The other stages are spread out across Europe, including old ruins of Atlantis and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. The final stage is at England.
Honestly, this is a pretty cool way to set this game apart. I know this series is called Castlevania, but it can get pretty tiring having to see similar backdrops all the time.
And speaking of backdrops, this game had a huge missed opportunity. Since the setting is around World War I, how come much of the setting is lacking in post-industrialization and contemporary tech? I know there’s a whole factory-themed level, but how come there’s only a single enemy in the game that uses a gun?
Seriously, one enemy.
You might make the argument that guns don’t fit in the Castlevania series, but come on! This is World War I! Guns had long existed before then and there isn’t a single automobile/plane! Even the Castlevania clone called Master of Darkness lets you use guns, and that game took place during Victorian London.
One of the cool things about Bloodlines is that it’s gorier than the average Castlevania game. There was one segment where you had to cross an area flooded with blood. You also come across half-decomposed enemies and bodies on the ground. Honestly, it’s like a bit of Splatterhouse leaked into this game. And that’s so metal.
But probably the best accomplishment by Bloodlines is the graphics. Man oh man, the Sega Genesis can impress. The animations of certain environments, enemies and bosses look absolutely incredible. The Leaning Tower of Pisa stage is a grand example of this. There’s one segment where you have to jump across platforms that rotate around the tower. And the boss battle that follows after has the boss circling the tower very quickly. It’s some pretty cool-looking stuff.
There is also a boss battle where you have to fight a creature made from mechanical gears. Watching that thing transform and shift constantly is so freakin’ cool.
And of course, the soundtrack is great as always. Even better with that sexy Sega Genesis synth.
Even something familiar from Super Castlevania IV.
Overall, Castlevania: Bloodlines is a highly underrated entry in the series and deserves more attention, seeing how it’s a bit of an odd duck for being on a different home console.
Castlevania: BloodlinesPrice Varies
- Both John and Eric have somewhat distinct play styles, so there's some replayability to this game.
- A greater variety of locations outside of Transylvania.
- The graphic effects are pretty cool to look at, which includes a lot of rotations and distortions.
- Great Castlevania soundtrack as usual.
- The setting is lacking in contemporary themes to really sell the World War I backdrop.
- The hit detection is a little wonky at times.