Thought I would keep going with this theme of Mega Drive games. Also thought I would get back on the theme of “games I played as a gay little gremlin who hid from the world using the computer.” On top of that, it has been a number of entries since I got to cover anything involving wispy femboys or vampires. So why don’t I take this time to talk about Castlevania Bloodlines? Bloodlines is something I’ve brought up multiple times now, routinely calling it a top three game in the entire Castlevania series. Game owns.
Now, while I admit that is actually one of those games I played a physical copy of a lot as a kid. Of course, I wasn’t particularly all that great at games, being so young, so I never finished it. That didn’t stop me from loving the game, though. Bloodlines was the first Castlevania I really got to dedicate more than a level’s time to (before that, my experience with the series was getting a game over in the second level of Castlevania 3 at my friend’s house), and that’s probably one of the best ways to be introduced to Castlevania. The thing about Bloodlines is that it isn’t just a cool platformer with vampires. Rather, Bloodlines is a game full of really cool setpieces and unique ideas that give each level variety. You got your fairly basic stuff, like a stage with rising and falling water levels. Then you have the Leaning Tower of Pisa actually rocking back and forth as you ascend it. Then you have this absolutely wild effect in the last level that I’m still scratching my head and wondering how the devs were able to pull it off:
The screen splits, but your character still acts in relation to whatever segment they’re on, such as attacking an enemy from further away while your feet are closer to the enemy, so this isn’t just a neat visual thing. No idea how they did it, maybe background layers normally used for that thing every retro Youtuber must see before achieving orgasm: parallax scrolling. In any event, it’s really fucking cool. Bloodlines is this game full of cool gimmicks and setpieces, as well as moving at much quicker pace than previous Castlevanias. In a lot of ways, this feels more like Castlevania as done by Treasure, rather than Castlevania as done by Konami. Like a fresh start for the series.
Then you hit level four. It is no exaggeration that this level changed little kid me’s understanding of games. On paper, it doesn’t sound special. An ironworks plant, essentially a glorified version of the clock tower that has appeared in so many other Castlevanias. No real gimmick to speak of, outside of some pulleys and rotating gears that act as platforms. But that doesn’t matter. It’s the aesthetic: this factory with German skeletons in army helmets (this game is set in World War 1, Nazis hadn’t been invented yet), active machinery, a boss made up of sentient gears. And most important, that fucking song:
It’s pretty safe to say that “Iron Blue Intention” is among my favorite game tracks ever. Me, at seven years old, hearing those opening notes, after fighting my way through three other levels that were no slouches in the audio/visual department either. I had never really given game music much thought up until that point. You know, Super Mario has a catchy tune, right? This is when I bothered to pay attention, and turn up the TV volume from then on. I still sometimes get those chills when I replay the game now. I know that in recent years, Michiru Yamane would probably much rather see a person like me starve to death in a camp somewhere rather than listen to her music, but I still have to admit that it rules and she knocked it out of the park in her first work in the series. Sometimes you have to give the devil his due, or the Q-Anon hers.
Bloodlines has two characters: a burly Texan named John Morris, who is somehow the son of Quincy Morris. Right, Bloodlines is not only canon to Castlevania, but it is also canon to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. John is the traditional whip user, and is honestly the better pick if you’re going to play through this game, as his hitbox is pretty big and he can do a nice chunk of damage per hit. The other character, pictured in every screenshot in this post, is Eric Lecarde, the wispy femboy who carries around a massive spear. While I do prefer playing as John, I had to pick Eric here because it’s Pride Month. He has some cool moves (such as pole vaulting), and has slightly longer attack range, but his hitbox is only the head of his spear, compared to John’s hitbox being the entire length of his whip. That last sentence did not sound nearly as gay in my head.
This was another one of those weekend tradition comfort games that I loaded up in Gens, while listening to the really sick Dracula Perfect Battle albums.. Kid me was wowed by the graphics and music. Teen me was wowed by the level design, the goth aesthetic, and wishing Eric Lecarde was real and
balls deep inside my holding my hand. Adult me considers this only half a step below Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night as far as the best game in the series is concerned, and definitely one of the absolute greatest games ever made for the Mega Drive. Outside of my own personal weirdness of playing the game to escape a pretty shitty reality, it’s a game that is incredibly special. If you’ve never played it, and apparently a number of you somehow haven’t, you owe it to yourself to do so.