Zelda isn’t the only one turning 25 this year. The resilient gothic action series Castlevania is also celebrating its silver anniversary. The series has seen many entries on a multitude of platforms, but Sega fans have typically been left crying bloody tears as they got inferior versions of titles; provided the games were ever localized/released at all…
But let’s start with something nice.
After completely bypassing the 8-bit Master System, Konami threw Sega fans a bone with Castlevania Bloodlines on the Genesis. This is the only Sega-system exclusive Castlevania, but luckily, it is one of the best games in the series.
First things first, Bloodlines is a difficult game. This should surprise no one who has ever played a game in the series, but I’d say it is quite a bit more difficult than its other 16-bit brethren, Super Castlevania IV and Rondo of Blood. However, unlike other games in the series, there is a difficulty selection with no consequence of playing on an easier level outside of a message during the ending recommending you try the next one. This is a nice option, because even “easy” is pretty rough at parts.
It’s definitely worth sticking it out through the difficult sections though, because Bloodlines is a fantastic looking and sounding game the whole way through. While not quite as impressive as IV and Rondo, Bloodlines looks great despite being on inferior hardware. Konami’s designers make up for the hardware gap by including many large, stage-defining pieces of eye candy in the levels. From giant skeletons to backdrops of massive palaces, Bloodlines is constantly providing the player with memorable landmarks.
The score is also excellent, composed by series regular Michiru Yamane. Bloodlines is actually her first work on Castlevania (her second being the incredible Symphony of the Night score). Perhaps because she was a newcomer to the series, she plays it pretty safe with the Bloodlines soundtrack, but it definitely captures the Castlevania feel and there are some pretty memorable tracks, like this one:
A year after its Playstation release, Symphony of the Night was ported to the Sega Saturn with extra features including new areas and the ability to play as Maria. While an improved version of arguably the best game in the series may seem like a huge score for Sega fans, unfortunately this release was somewhat disappointing. The Saturn version suffers from increased load times and rampant slowdown, making it far from the definitive version of the game. Koji Igarashi even said that he was so disappointed in how the Saturn port turned out that he couldn’t put his name on it.
The final stake in the heart of Sega Castlevania fans was Resurrection. Starring the original Belmont, Sonia, and new character Victor, the game was supposed to be inspired by Symphony of the Night and play like a 3D Rondo of Blood.
While some of the art and screens look a bit questionable now, they were quite impressive at the time. The reason behind the game’s cancellation remains a mystery. Some say it was because of Sony’s unveiling of the Playstation 2; others say it was simply a bad game. Regardless, the cancellation still stung.
At least Sega fans will always have Bloodlines.
Resurrection screens and Gekka no Yasōkyoku case pic taken from The Castlevania Dungeon