SEGA Genesis Did It Better Part III
by Polly

Alright, alright, alright, cool your fanboy jets and put the fanboy torches away. Believe it or not, I'm with you on this one. You probably think that since I said something on the SNES sucked ass and was better on the Genesis in the last two articles that this one's going to be more of the same. Well, you thought wrong.

Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
Super Castlevania IV is a pretty damn good game. An early instance of a series making the big 16-bit leap and doing it successfully while adding lots of new elements to the series and fixing some old problems. "BUT POLLY," you screeched in your crackly pubescent voice, "WHY WOULD YOU SAY SUCH GREAT THINGS ABOUT THIS GAME IN AN ARTICLE INDICATING THAT THE GENESIS INCARNATION IS BETTER?" Well you see, little fanboy, I know you may not be a ble to wrap your eensy, weensy little head around the concept of someone enjoying things on both sides, but that's exactly how it is for me!

Super Castlevania IV is great because it followed closely all of its 8-bit traditions and brought with it aspects that still persist in the series' 2D incarnations today. This game introduced a darker and grittier atmosphere that was more in line with the horror elements it constantly borrows from, bigger and more varied stages, and new whip mechanics that gave the player more offensive and defensive options than ever before. So, why do I prefer that other Castlevania game, you ask? Well, while I enjoy Super Castlevania IV, the game honestly just gets boring. It's reeeeeaaaally long, which is a good thing, but I was never able to spend extended periods of time with it. The password save feature is the only way I finished this one, because I need a break every two or three stages. Other than that, I don't have much more of an explanation. The game simply doesn't stick with me for some reason.

Castlevania: Bloodlines? It's among the best Genesis titles in my opinion and one I still go back to on a regular basis.

Bloodlines caught me completely by surprise. I happened to run across it when I saw some dude stocking Genesis games in a case and wondering when the hell a Castlevania game came out for the system. I knew Contra: Hard Corps was on the horizon a few months later, but had heard nothing about a Castlevania game too. A couple of odd lawn mowing jobs later, I came back a day or two later and walked away with Bloodlines for a mere $19.99.

This game are awesome! It excels at every damn thing it does. Not only that but it goes above and beyond in pushing the Genesis harder than anyone ever had.

The graphics will be your big indicator that you're playing something that a lot of development time went into. This game does things nobody had seen done on the Genesis before. There are so many amazing graphical effects in this game it's impossible to list them all in this short article. Real-time reflections (which induced brick shitting the first time it was seen), scaling and distortion of images on screen, and brilliant pseudo 3D rotation are just some of my favorites. These effects aren't just gimmicky or there for show either. They're part of the actual gameplay and give the game a bit more character than a typical Castlevania or even most other action-platformers of the time.

Along with dazzling special effects, Bloodlines' graphics also sport a vast array of colors and detail representing the locations and age of its European backdrops. Bloodlines employs a brighter and more vivid color palette than Super Castlevania IV and its envionments are entirely more varied. Each new stage, and even sub-sections of each stage are simply exciting to enter. Your first time you don't know what to expect, but I guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised with everything you see. Main characters and enemies feature some great sprite work and bosses simply never fail to impress. Most are multi-jointed, giving them much more motion and maneuverability than typical 2D sprites would have. I could go on and on, but you get it. This game looks fantastic and pushes the Genny as hard as any game can.

The game's tunes also deserve special mention, as there's nothing else on Genesis that sounds quite like it. I'll once again make light of the fact that the Genesis sound processing sucks ass, but this game's score is one that overcomes those limitations and surpasses most games of its era. The synthesized organs and strings are so incredibly convincing, one might not even believe it's being put out by a Sega Genesis. The pieces are composed brilliantly. They're not quite as moody as Super Castlevania IV's, rather they take on the more action-oriented pieces of the 8-bit originals. You can also hear three remixed retro tunes from the first three Castlevania games in the Sound Test portion of the options menu, and they're definitely worth a listen.

Bloodlines is exactly what you expect from a Castlevania game. Lots of vampire slaying and stairs. Tons and tons of stairs. These guys really fucking love stairs...

This time things are just a bit different, as you can select from two different vampire hunters. The more traditional cut from the Belmont fabric, whip-wielding John Morris, or a new pretty boy spear-swinger named Eric LeCarde. The differences between the two are not merely cosmetic, as both characters balance one another well in terms of abilities and at certain points during the adventure, will end up facing different obstacles and enemies due to having to take different paths in a stage. This adds a nice bit of replay value. Both characters play roughly the same, but their slight differences in how you have to approach new challenges is what helps keep the game fresh.

All the stages offer new challenges for your chosen hero to overcome with many containing throwbacks to the first four games in the series. The bosses all contain an equal amount of uniqueness in terms of appearance and methods of dispatching them. Each requires you to learn sometimes fairly complex patterns to finally vanquish, but the difficulty is adjusted well enough that deaths never get to the point of being frustrating. If you're not learning the pattern, you're not paying attention. That's the bottom line.

Castlevania: Bloodlines deserved way more attention than it got upon its release. It did so much with the limited technology at the time and pushed both the hardware and the series further than either of the two had really gone before. That's not to say Super Castlevania IV on SNES is a slouch of any sort. Hell, you should play em both! And with the Wii's Virtual Console you can at least give Super Castlevania IV a go for cheap! You could use other COMPLETELY LEGAL methods to check out Bloodlines. They're both worth a download, but Bloodlines is the better of the two because I said so.

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