Castlevania Bloodlines is a 2D side-scroller released by Konami in 1994. Originally released on the Sega Genesis, Castlevania Bloodlines stars John Morris and Eric Lecarde on the quest to defeat Dracula. Featuring two playable characters, six stages, and two difficulty modes, Castlevania Bloodlines sets itself apart from other games in several ways. For starters, all the stages come from historical landmarks in Europe. Furthermore, some of the items feature different functions than in past titles.
Why we chose to review Castlevania Bloodlines specifically is due to its release in Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Unlike any other game on the compilation, Bloodlines is the only title to never be re-released officially in any format since 1994. While other Castlevania games have appeared on the Nintendo eShop, Kid Dracula itself received a Game Boy port that came to the west way back in the 90s. Bloodlines, on the other hand, is an entity that has escaped all forms of re-release, to include even the Nintendo Virtual Console, which saw many a classic title ported to its service back in the 2000s.
For the first time in over two decades, Castlevania Bloodlines is available to the public on an official release for all major systems. We’ll review this classic and why it’s standing up well today!
Castlevania Bloodlines features beautiful, colorful graphics and spritework. In contrast to Super Castlevania IV, which was meant to look darker and gritty, Bloodlines looks more akin to the colorful style of the NES titles as well as its TurboCD predecessor, Rondo of Blood. Heroes and enemies alike are quite well-animated. I’m particularly fond of Elizabeth’s dying animation as well as some of the special effects in this game. The Atlantis Shrine features reflections on the water while Castle Prosperina has a part where the stage sort of splits. It’s like looking into a distorted image while you’re trying to platform.
Visual effects feel well ahead of their time for a Genesis game. Also note that this title was known for being bloodier than its predecessors. Dripping blood from the ceiling and death animations were quite gruesome for their time.
One particular note is that this is Michiru Yamane’s first soundtrack in Castlevania. Known for her music in Symphony of the Night and successive titles during the era of Koji Igarashi’s brand of Metroidvania, Yamane composed and arranged many beautiful pieces. Working with the Genesis synth chip, she composed Iron Blue Intention, Calling From Heaven, Reincarnated Soul, A Vision of Dark Secrets, and the Sinking Old Sanctuary, several of which would appear in future Castlevania titles. In addition, the final stage features a callback to Theme of Simon from Super Castlevania IV. Using a sound test will also allow players to hear her first renditions of “Vampire Killer,” “Bloody Tears,” and “Beginning.”
Finally, I’m quite fond of the sound effects. I wouldn’t call them realistic, especially given how the crows bark when you encounter them. However, they’re quite charming in their own way. The Cerberus’ glass-shattering howl, the sound effects of armor moving, and hearing your upgraded whip zap enemies come only from this game.
Bloodlines features your standard 2D Castlevania platforming fanfare. Make your way through six stages using your whip or your spear. Equip subweapons and upgrade your main weapon to deal out the most damage and fight the boss at the end. You’ll encounter spinning metal blades, gravity traps, Bone Tower enemies, enemies chasing you from behind, and more to block your path.
John Morris plays like the Belmont protagonists of Castlevania titles. With the Belmont blood flowing through him, he inherited the Vampire Killer. Similar to Super Castlevania IV, he can angle his whip in several directions. In addition, several stages allow him to swing from the ceilings.
New to the series is Eric Lecarde. Granted the Alucard Spear from Dracula’s own son, his attacks are slightly different. He can attack in four directions, to include a downward pierce when he jumps. Moreover, he can spin his spear back and forth to fight multiple enemies. Plus he has a super jump which you can charge like in Super Mario Bros. 2. Doing this not only lets him jump higher, but he becomes invincible and attacks while using it. This is not only great for boss fights, but he can access certain parts of levels inaccessible to John.
A few flaws.
While Bloodlines offers the complete Castlevania package for the Sega Genesis, it’s not without its problems. For starters, this is the first and only title in the series to utilize continues. For a series known for its difficulty to begin with, Continues were not a necessary feature. While you can use Passwords to make your way back to the stage you died in, this only serves to inconvenience the player, especially in an era where game saves became increasingly common.
Moreover, the final stage features a boss gauntlet that it decides to lump at the player. You start with Death, who you don’t even fight off the bat. He summons tarot cards, all of which you must attack. Three lead to weaker versions of bosses you faced. Lose at any point to Death and you must start back from the beginning of the fight.
When you reach Elizabeth, you’re first greeted by Medusa. Her simple, 4-step pattern is easy enough for a first boss and only serves to inconvenience the player. Once you fight Elizabeth, it becomes a quick game of cat-and-mouse. She teleports, you attack. You miss, she summons enemies to attack. Rinse and repeat. This fight will take at least 5 minutes just because you can’t fight her any faster.
Only after that do you get to fight Dracula and his three forms, one of which is essentially throwaway. Fights like these serve little purpose, yet still pose a hazard to players and their precious Continues. While the game’s momentum leading up to this point is as true to Castlevania as it gets, I found this part greatly unnecessary and inconvenient.
If you’re playing on Castlevania Anniversary Collection, you have the option to use Save States.
Minus the very end, Castlevania Bloodlines is a fine game that will test the mettle of any seasoned or new fan of the series. While it doesn’t have the larger-scale worlds of Super Castlevania IV, it features the colorful charm of the NES titles and Rondo. As Yamane’s first debut in Castlevania, it’s a musical masterpiece for a Genesis title. And you’ll truly enjoy the mini-boss and boss fights against the likes of The Creature, Golem, Gear Steamer, and more!
It’s a saving grace to have Save States when needed. Honestly speaking, if not for the use of Continues and the final bosses’ gauntlet, I would argue this might be one of the best games in the series. It left a legacy behind that included music, boss choices, and even a sequel on the Nintendo DS – Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin – which tells the tale of John’s son, Johnathan Morris, and is a wonderful game on its own.
If you’re willing to tackle the end bosses and accept the challenge of Castlevania Bloodlines, then set forth. You know what you’re in for and it’s one hell of a ride. Konami kept this game locked up tight for 25 years, but once again, the world will get to see what Bloodlines is all about.
Thank you for reading our review on Castlevania Bloodlines. Have you played the game on Genesis or emulator, or is this your first playthrough? Let us know in the comments below!