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FGC #433 Castlevania: Bloodlines

BLOOD!If gaming is a language, then franchises must be dialects. And among dialects, of course there must be regional variances. And Castlevania: Bloodlines is, unfortunately, the regional dialect of Atlantis.

Gogglebob.com: come for the videogames, stay for the extremely strained metaphors.

Castlevania: Bloodlines is a game very near and dear to my heart. Back in my younger days, I was very much a Nintendo kid, but a Sega Genesis was available to me by about the midpoint of the 16-bit console wars. And, while I owned a mere three Genesis games, my dad granted me one Sega Genesis rental every two weeks. So, about twice a month, my ADD-addled brain got to experience a brand new videogame for a few days, and that whole new experience that was sure to make me scream, “Sega!”

…. Or I just rented Castlevania: Bloodlines again.

I’ve always been a Castlevania fan, and, frankly, I’ve always been a sucker for a game that I have to “defeat”. It took me a long time to come to grips with the idea that I don’t have to “beat” or “100%” a videogame, and showing my love for a piece of art doesn’t mean I have to experience every last secret room or collectible. But back in my younger years? If there was a game that I thought was even marginally fun, and I didn’t beat it? Then what the hell was I even playing the game for!? Fish gotta swim, dogs gotta bark, Pokémon gotta track my sleep for some reason, and videogames gotta get beat, ya know? And, since Castlevania: Bloodlines was an enjoyable Castlevania game that I absolutely could not beat (on Normal difficulty), it meant that I had to retry that title over and over again until I finally conquered death itself (and Death). My young thumbs were still not developed enough to suffer through its insane final boss gauntlet, but I was going to try, dammit!

Swing is the thingAnd, if I’m looking at this title with some kind of wizened hindsight, I can probably admit that the other reason I kept coming back to Castlevania: Bloodlines was that it was simply a damn good game. It features the signature measured level design of previous Castlevania titles, and, while your protagonist often feels like he is being propelled by the same force that could eventually push a snail to cross a parkway, the majority of the title feels fair and appropriately scaled to Belmont (Morris) speeds. The dual heroes of the tale are different enough to feature their own unique (and fun) moves (spear vaulting is great for vertical areas, and whip swinging is… amusing to look at), but also similar enough that we don’t wind up with an X/Zero situation where one character is that much more of an advantage. And, as always in the Castlevania series (give or take a Gameboy adventure), the music is top notch, and the creepy crawlies that haunt the European countryside are numerous and inventive. And murderous. They’re always murderous.

So it’s kind of a shame that the majority of the Castlevania loving public forgot Castlevania: Bloodlines ever existed.

Possibly more than any other franchise, Castlevania has always been a very… what’s the complete opposite of progressive?… nostalgic franchise. When Bowser got seven Koopa Kids and a brand new butt stomp for Super Mario Bros. 3, Dracula was still using his same ol’ teleport/fireball pattern for Castlevania 3. When Mega Man X completely redefined everything that Mega Man ever was, Super Castlevania IV still had Simon trudging through Drac’s dilapidated hallway o’ zombies. This isn’t to say that Castlevania has never had an original bone in its obviously an angry skeleton-based body, but Castlevania has always reveled in its past since before it escaped the gravity of the NES.

DEATH!And (I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear me say this) there is nothing wrong with a little videogame nostalgia. Particularly in the 16 and 32-bit days, it seemed like games were rapidly attempting to burn their pasts on the altar of “cool” and “new”. But it was still cool to see old mainstays like Frankenstein(‘s Monster) or Medusa show up when many contemporary titles were trying to reinvent the wheel by detonating every nearby car (literally, in the case of Grand Theft Auto III).

And, while Castlevania: Bloodlines certainly pays tribute to the Castlevanias we all loved before (“Hi, Frankenstein! Hi, Medusa!”), for a long time, it seemed like appropriate acknowledgment was not paid to Bloodlines in kind. Castlevania Symphony of the Night is the uncontested turning point of the franchise, and, as a direct sequel, it owed much of its plot and iconography to Rondo of Blood and its PC Engine/SNES origins. It also was clearly influenced by much of the imagery of Super Castlevania (that’s where Death met his buddies!), and the Reverse Castle featured the pieces of Dracula of Castlevania 2 mixed with the iconic bosses of Castlevania 1. And, while it almost seems like a footnote at this point, let’s not forget that Alucard premiered in Castlevania 3, and wound up fighting his zombified allies. Truly, Castlevania Symphony of the Night was the culmination of all console Castlevanias that came before, and paid homage to all of those titles in fun and inventive ways.

Except Bloodlines. Nobody cared about Castlevania: Bloodlines.

This is not a glitchAnd, unfortunately, this created a sort of ripple effect in the fandom. While Symphony of the Night encouraged visiting old titles to see first appearances of Slogra & Gaibon, Phantom Bat, or Grant DangheNasty, there was no such drive for Bloodlines. And when future titles decided to bring back more past friends and foes, we saw Skull Knight of Castlevania 3, not Mecha Knight of Bloodlines. And when we finally saw some significant references to Bloodlines in Portrait of Ruin, it was to let us know that both of Bloodlines’ protagonists died inglorious deaths, and Eric’s lance would only return as an accessory for a ghost. A whole Castlevania game was lost, and when the entire experience was lost and forgotten from the virtual consoles and collections that accompanied the new digital era, nobody batted an eye. You could download Super Castlevania, Castlevania: Dracula X, and even Castlevania Rondo of Blood, but Bloodlines was wholly absent. And there were no conversations about the title, because, frankly, who cared? We got all the good Castlevanias, right? If Bloodlines was any good, it would be referenced heavily like those other titles. Symphony of the Night was the pinnacle. IGA wouldn’t steer us wrong.

But a miracle happened just recently. Castlevania: Bloodlines was released as part of the excellent Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Now, Bloodlines is able to stand tall next to its early Castlevania console brethren. Now, people are talking about Bloodlines, and many of them are talking about it for the first time. And they like it! They really, really like it! Because it’s a good game, and always has been! After a 25 year banishment from the gaming consciousness, Bloodlines has returned, and people are again speaking the language of magical lances and Gear Steamers. Bloodlines can once again take its proper place in the Castlevania pantheon, and rest easy knowing that now more people have seen its horrible Dracula and his disturbing crotch face.

DONT LOOK AT MEUltimately, I find this success story to be the best way to conclude this Game Preservation Week (“Week”). None of these games that have been discussed have to be gone forever. Like Castlevania: Bloodlines, we’re always just one collection or digital release (or mini console, apparently) from a title returning to the gaming consciousness. And let’s see some solid videogame archiving in the future, so another game isn’t lost to decades again. The future of gaming may be streaming, but let’s remember our past, our dead languages, and see how they can make our future better.

And then let’s whip some skeletons but good.

FGC #433 Castlevania: Bloodlines

  • System: Sega Genesis. And now available for Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Steam via the Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Sweet!
  • Number of Players: Two choices, but only one player. We’d have to wait for another forgotten Castlevania title to see some multiplayer Castlevania.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I rented Bloodlines from the local rental place so much, I eventually bought the cartridge when they were liquidating some of their “old” stock. That makes Bloodlines my fourth or fifth owned Sega Genesis game (the real money went to my beloved SNES).
  • Out of the Castle: Bloodlines follows John ‘n Eric as they battle around some of the more interesting mystical spots in Europe, like Atlantis or Pisa (?). This leads to some more interesting venues for our hunters to traverse, and maybe an excuse to battle a minotaur or two. And you get to fight World War I German war skeletons. That is so close to whipping undead Nazis!
  • RatzisFavorite Character: I lied earlier. Eric LeCarde makes this trip through Europe so much more manageable. His additional reach is a godsend, and the ability to vault straight into the skies… isn’t all the useful, actually, but it’s fun in exactly one room at Varsailles. Oh! And he has beautiful girl hair! I don’t see how that helps vampire slaying, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
  • A Little History: The big deal of Bloodlines is that it tries to tie the Castlevania mythos to Bram Stoker’s Dracula by claiming the vampire slayer Qunicey Morris (and thus his son and grandson) was actually a Belmont descendant. Who cares? What’s important is that Bloodlines seems to imply that Elizabeth Bartley started World War I as a cover for resurrecting Dracula. Now that’s something they don’t cover in history books!
  • Did you know? The Princess of Moss, the boss of The Versailles Palace stage, is a monster moth initially disguised as a woman. And that woman is apparently supposed to be Marie Antoinette, famous queen and cake-eater. Now, this is not to say that it is official Castlevania canon that Marie Antoinette was some manner of undead, immortal insect creature… but the opportunity is open for future Castlevania titles.
  • Would I play again: Now that I have it permanently loaded onto my portable Nintendo Switch? You’re damn skippy I’m going to play it again!

What’s next? Random ROB is back in action and has chosen… The Legend of Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link! Are you sure that isn’t an Error, ROB? Oh well. Please look forward to it!

I hate this jerk.  He just... rains.

Year in Review: 2015

I’m making a list!

Disappointment of the Year (that I actually played): Batman: Arkham Knight

I am the nightBatman: Arkham Knight is not a bad game. It’s basically Batman: Arkham City, but with a car… and that’s the problem.

See, I played Batman: Arkham City until my Playstation 3 demanded something new to read. I found every last trophy, solved every confounded riddle, and transformed the criminal underworld of Gotham into some kind of jelly substance. I flew around that city for what seemed like days on end, taking any excuse to play just a few moments more or swoop and tumble across the entire skyline again.

Batman: Arkham Knight introduced the Batmobile, which seems like something that could only add fun to the universe, but, nope, it sucks, and I literally never want to see it again. I mean, I can see why it could be fun, it’s not, like, a game of Deadly Towers every time you hop in the vehicle, but it’s the same thing every car mission (well, one of two things, a race, or a tank face-off), and there isn’t enough variety in techniques or gameplay between Batmobile events to justify the hundreds of times Bruce has to use that… that thing.

VroomSo, after I completed the main campaign of the game, I checked a FAQ to see roughly how many times I’d have to use the Batmobile again to 100% the game. The answer… didn’t thrill me. I put the game away, and haven’t touched it again since.

A real shame the game couldn’t be as fun as its older brother. It’s the Jason Todd of the Batman video game family.

Disappointment of the Year (that I played for a half hour): Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival

I have been told by reliable sources that this game improves as more complicated modes are unlocked, but I played this game straight out of the box with some friends, and, geez, Lawn Mowing Simulator 2015 might have been less boring. For a game that has to share a system and peripheral gimmick with Super Smash Bros. 4, you’d think this one would be just a teensy bit more enjoyable, but, nope, random, boring nonsense all around.

Worst of all, it will likely never see my WiiU again, but I’ll still buy all the stupid Amiibos for this game. Damn Resetti…

Reason to not let me out of the house for the Year: Amiibo

Gaze ye upon my OCD and despair!

2015 Completion

Compilation of the Year: Mega Man Legacy Collection

This category only exists because Rare Replay was a contender, but those Micro Mega Challenges are much better when the Blue Bomber is involved. If I’m being honest, Mega Man Legacy Collection was always going to be a winner, because I will take any excuse to play a Mega Man game. Unlike nearly every Mega Man collection previously released (and there’s practically been one for every console generation), this one is flawless, so no weird controller mapping or graphical “upgrades” to ruin the experience of dropping Dr. Wily. And it’s all available on “new” systems like the Playstation 4, so I’ll be able to flip over to a quick game of Mega Man 3 whenever I want for the next few years.

Honestly, if Shovel Knight (and his frenemy Plague Knight) didn’t partially steal the little metal boy’s thunder, this might have been my game of the year.

But it did inspire a nursery rhyme.

Remake of the Year: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

I realize this is sacrilege in some places, but I’m going to say it: I don’t really like Majora’s Mask. I realize that, objectively, Majora’s Mask is a good game, and the innovations it made for the Zelda franchise and all of gaming should be recognized and applauded; but on a subjective level, I can’t stand to play the dang thing. I have a natural OCD Ugly ol' Moonabout video games, and the fact that I can’t save at any time to avert mistakes, or that I have to complete a dungeon all in one try while collecting every last fairy… it drives me insane. Couple this with ancient, blurry N64 graphics and 90 masks to use and only three buttons to use them, and I quickly grow frustrated and roll over to greener pastures.

The 3DS remake, right off the bat, corrects my biggest issue, and now I can save with impunity anytime, anywhere. No, I don’t use it to savescum all day long, but the mere fact that I can puts my mind at ease in a way that’s hard to describe. Then you’ve got the bottom screen inventory that allows for quick mask switching, updated graphics that allow for a draw distance greater than the length of Link’s sword, and various other “quality of life” improvements, and one of my most loathed Zelda games suddenly becomes my favorite.

Way to go, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, now I can enjoy this game with everybody else.

Title of the Year: Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late

pure chaosI played all the way through that fighting game filled with forgettable characters (barring anyone from Melty Blood), and I still have no idea what that title is supposed to mean. I’m not certain a single one of those words belongs anywhere near the others. All told, though, I am looking forward to the sequel, Over Day Outside Death DMG:Early.

System of the Year: WiiU

If I was twelve and had the same taste in video games, the WiiU would be my nirvana. Nerdvana.

I am, at this point in my life, a hopeless maniac that buys new video games at the drop of the hat, whether they are digital or physical, because I’m desperately addicted to whatever endorphins get released when I “unwrap” a new game. As a result, I have a backlog that’s simply absurd, and I’ll be lucky if my grandkids ever make it through my PS2 collection alone.

That said, I still remember being a kid (say, pre-16 or so) when I only received a new video game for holidays, and that was about it. Granted, I could probably milk my different family members for a new game each, but past about April, I likely wouldn’t see a new ‘un again until Christmas. This is likely why I gravitated toward JRPGs and their hours and hours of gameplay, A moment in timeand why I initially rebuked games like Donkey Kong Country that would present the final boss inside of an afternoon.

But if I had a WiiU back then? Oh boy.

Mind you, DLC practically didn’t exist when I was a child, nor Amiibos, so I don’t know where they’d fall in the whole “no more games for months” spectrum, but assuming I was allowed a digital wallet, the WiiU’s library would have been pretty amazing for getting the most bang out of any given game’s buck.

Within this year…

  • Hyrule Warriors gained new maps and characters and Amiibo support, granting multiple reasons to return to an already huge game. The last map was released in, I believe, February, but the Ganondorf Amiibo didn’t hit stateside until September.
  • Mario Kart 8 saw new track releases in April, and its last compatible Amiibo, Olimar, was released in September.
  • Super Smash Bros 4 received DLC characters and stages all year, and will continue into 2016. Practically every (over fifty?) Amiibo released was an excuse to fire this one back up again.
  • Splatoon didn’t even require a dime for its myriad of updates, apparently still going into 2016 as well. Combine this with random Splatfests, and it’s hard not to pop that one in every week to see what’s “happening”. Gotta stay fresh.
  • Mario Maker offers infinite content, and has specifically been releasing Nintendo approved courses every week with fun new prizes.

Even though some of these games were released in 2014, there seemed to always be a reason to return to “completed” games for new and exciting content (or at least a neat costume). Compare this to some of the “big” releases of 2016 on other systems that begged you to purchase a “season pass” for maybe one new map or a handful of new characters, and you can see why I find the WiiU’s offerings so endearing.

Game of the Year: Super Mario Maker

WinnerReally, from the Nintendo World Championships on, there was no way this wasn’t going to be the victor.

Despite cursing reams of paper over the years with my own Mario level creations (and a host of unique Mario powerups best never mentioned), I was initially tepid on the concept of Mario Maker. After all, Wario Ware DIY seemed like a wonderful idea back when I purchased the game, but then I learned that I’m an adult now, and simply don’t have the time to create my own fun. Like, I’d love to sit down and design the “perfect” Wario Ware game… but I’ve got so many other things to organize, create, and vacuum… and then it’s six months later and I haven’t done a thing past the tutorial. My time is precious, and when I want to play a video game, I want to play a video game, not tax myself in pursuit of some impossibly perfect creation.

But then came the Nintendo World Championships, which I decided to watch on Youtube for no greater reason than a general boredom on a Saturday night. And there, months before the game’s release, it clicked. Yes, creating Mario courses of my own would be fun, but even more fun would be the host of Nintendo created stages, and, eventually, stages created by people who also knew what they were doing, and then, finally, there would be infinity Mario levels.

So, yes, I’ve created a number of Mario stages, and I don’t think they’re that great, just fun little obstacle courses. But that’s not what has held my attention these past few months; no, what keeps me coming back are all the amazing levels created by people so BARFmuch more innovative and imaginative than myself. I can now fly through advanced levels that require perfect Mario-manship, or saunter through a stage or two with odd, inspired mechanics (like a goomba that releases traps), or new and interesting spins on encroaching buzzsaws. And there’s something new every day, which is perfect for a play session that is ten minutes or ten hours.

There’s a reason I’ve unlocked all those amiibo costumes… and am still begging for more.

Games I’m sure are great, but I haven’t played: Xenoblade Chronicles X, Undertale

Look, I’ve been playing a lot of Xenosaga recently, and I don’t want to get entrenched in another Xeno game before that project is completed. I realize it may be a while, but I don’t want to confuse my chaos’s with my Emma’s, as that could only lead to disaster.

As for Undertale, this is literally the game that, this past December, I picked up a dedicated “gaming PC” to play. I figured that, if I’m going to write about video games, I may as well actually play some of those “third column” PC games, and Undertale seems like a wonderful start. All that said, I’m set up, the game is in my library, but I still haven’t had time to actually sit down and play the dang thing… but soon!

Gogglebob.com Introspection 2015

2015 is the year I started this site. I’ve given a thousand “reasons” that I started this thing over the last year, almost all of them valid, but it boils down to the fact that I wanted to do something Because it's 2015!“creative” with my favorite hobby, and, like a hundred posts later (combining FGC, Kingdom Hearts, and Xenosaga posts), I’m kind of amazed I haven’t lost interest or started loathing the project yet. Maybe it’s the random nature of the FGC, but I actually look forward to Random ROB’s choices, and, like with next week’s Zool 2, I enjoy the challenge of “now how am I going to get a story out of this turd?” I like writing about the games that I enjoy because I enjoy those games and want to share the experience with others (see the entire Gaming 5 series of these past weeks), and I enjoy writing about games I don’t enjoy because they offer a creative challenge to transform into an article. Famous last words, I know, but I keep waiting for this to stop being fun, and it hasn’t happened yet.

Related, it was towards the end of 2015 that I started the Xenosaga Let’s Play, and I’m downright astonished at how much I’m enjoying that project. Like, seriously, I thought it would be grueling, but it’s like I’m playing the game in an entirely different way, and, while it’s not like you are watching me play the game as I’m actually playing it, I’m playing the game with the LP in mind every step of the way, and it’s led to some of my favorite video game writing I’ve ever produced. I like me creating a Let’s Play.

All that said, here’s some favorite articles from 2015:

Christ, I’ve got five and I’m not even halfway through the list? Leave your favorite articles in the comments, I’m turning in for the day before my ego gets any bigger.

What’s Next? Random ROB chose Zool 2 a couple weeks back, so I’ll finally tackle that Atari Jaguar “Classic”. Please look forward to it!