Konami gave the Castlevania series a little dose of darker horror when they took the series to the Sega Genesis in 1994's Castlevania: Bloodlines. Seeking to tie the Castlevania mythos with Bram Stoker's Dracula, Konami brought two new vampire slayers to the series, both of whom are playable characters: John Morris is armed with the trusty whip (perfect for swinging) and Eric Lecarde possesses the mighty spear (great for pole vaulting). Players choose their character at the start of the game and take the chosen one through six stages of gothic horror, each one based on an actual European location. The story opens as the countess Elizabeth Bartley is trying to resurrect her uncle, the vampire Dracula. Our heroes vow to keep this unholy event from happening, of course, and set off to slay evil.

The game plays much like other games in the series. John's whip functions much like Simon Belmont's famous weapon, but adding a new element to the series is Eric's spear, capable of propelling him to high ledges. The classic weapons - holy water, axe, and boomerang - are also available for use once acquired. By default the A button attacks, the B button jumps, and the C button uses the special weapon, although this configuration is changable through the game's Options screen. The game's six levels are quite long and some include familiar settings. The first level features a recreation of the first level from the original Castlevania, for example. Other locales include the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a shrine in Athens, Greece, a German munitions factory, the Palace of Versailles in France, and the countess's castle. Each character follows a slightly different path through the levels, so to totally complete the game one must complete it with both characters. Continues are limited, but the game does provide passwords after each level.

This is not your father's Castlevania, so to speak. Nintendo insisted on any game appearing on their consoles be squeaky clean, and while the various games in the series that appeared on Nintendo consoles definitely had the appropriate mood about them, Bloodlines adds in the appropriate atmosphere. Enemies bleed, ravens peck at decaying bodies, evil creatures get hacked to bits instead of just disappearing in a puff of smoke, and even poor Eric gets impaled with his own spear from time to time. The game environment is not as detailed as the Super NES's Super Castlevania IV due to the Sega Genesis's limited power as compared to Nintendo's 16-bit console, but the game definitely carries the Castlevania name quite well. The soundtrack was even composed by Michiru Yamane who would later provide the music for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Bloodlines was released in three different versions, although they are all included in the same cartridge and it's the Sega Genesis's country code that triggers the appropriate version of the game. The Japanese version features a more "pretty boy" rendition of our heroes as opposed to the American "tough guy" appearances, while the European version is known as Castlevania: The New Generation and is lighter on blood and gore in order to appease various laws regarding video game violence. The game is definitely worth your time, particularly if you're a fan of the series, and is easily available in used game stores and online auctions. As long as vampires walk the earth our very way of life is at stake.


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