Wednesday 21 August 2013

Castlevania: The New Generation Review (Mega Drive)

Set in the year 1897, this episode in the Castlevania timeline centres around the female vampire Elizabeth Bartley - executed in the 15th century for preying on around eight hundred girls in Romania. A witch named Drotia Tzuentes has now revived her, and Elizabeth's first thought is to resurrect the master of evil himself - Dracula. 

Enter John Morris, son of Kincy Morris from Bram Stoker’s story, and his good friend Eric Lecarde. Both must set out to assault Dracula’s castle and stop the world from falling into the hands of evil once more. Life is never easy in Castlevania.

Following the traditional Castlevania style, The New Generation (known as Bloodlines outside Europe), is a side-scrolling hack and slash platform adventure. John and Eric must make their way through six areas split into smaller sections while taking on the usual minions of Dracula. In the middle and end of each section our heroes must face off against a particularly nasty monster, and each seems particularly fond of filling up half of your game screen.

While John Morris dispatches the threats by utilising his trusty whip, Eric breaks with tradition of the Castlevania series to this point and wields a spear; each character and weapon playing slightly differently from each other, so the game is flexible enough to take into account players with different styles.

The world of Castlevania is resurrected well on the Mega Drive: while not being as graphically ambitious as either of the Super Nintendo outings, different environments are easily distinguishable and enemies do not disappear into the detailed backgrounds. Characters and enemies, although a tad small, are well-animated and move convincingly without flickering or dropping frames. 

Unfortunately, there aren't a great choice of enemies to be slain, with most levels containing only one or more types of land-based and flying monsters, and little else between. Not a major issue as such, because good level design compensates with a variety of obstacles that unsettle the player. 

In terms of gameplay, things are solid without being fantastic. Characters are responsive and leap about while attacking, but there just seems to be something missing. It's less noticeable with Eric Lecarde, whose spear-based attacks lend a certain flair and enthusiasm to the game - and would be expected of someone trying to save the world. 

On the other hand, John seems much less inspired. His whip can only be used to slash to the left or right while standing. This seems underexploited after Super Castlevania IV and we would have loved to see a full three hundred and sixty degree field of attack back in play. Diagonal moves are possible when jumping but it still leaves a lack of flexibility at all other times.

Castlevania: The New Generation is a competent enough adventure. Although six levels of hacking and slashing will not exactly last you a lifetime, the game is undeniably good fun to play, and the maps and monsters have clearly been commissioned with purpose. It's hard then to really pinpoint any major shortcomings with the game, outside of those mentioned above. Solid Castlevania fare, but it does nothing spectacualr to single itself out from others in the series.


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