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Classic Review Edition
Page 2

Konami has provided us with many of the industry's finest games, such as Contra, Gradius, and Metal Gear. However, one of their most popular (if not THE most popular) series of Konami's career is the Castlevania series. It has spanned many consoles since 1987 on the NES up to the recent Game Boy Advance leap with CV: Circle of the Moon. However, smack-dab in the center of this Draculaic revolution lies the sole Genesis title that bore the Castlevania title. Welcome to the whippish world of Castlevania: Bloodlines.

The role in this game which you will play is that of John Morris or Eric Lecarde, both of whom are on a mission to slay Dracula and send him back to his gravesite. This is the actual story from the Castlevania: Bloodlines instruction manual (and I apologize for the length, although it it useful to the extent that if you don't read enough, you'll have practice): "Journey back to 1897 and the Transylvanian countryside of Romania. It was a time of fear and dread for the simple people of this European country. They lived under the dark rule of Count Dracula for many years. He was a ruthless warrior when he was alive, but he was even more terrifying in death! For you see, Dracula is king of the vampires!

But even one as powerful as Dracula has enemies. From the early 16th century the Belmonts--including Trevor, Christopher, and the legendary Simon--had been fighting Dracula and his minions throughout Europe. Finally, in 1897 Quincy Morris, a descendent of the House of Belmont, overcame great odds to defeat Dracula and send him to his eternal grave. Unfortunately since Quincy was so badly beaten in his battle with the Count, he lost his own life moments after plunging a wooden stake into Dracula's chest. Quincy's legacy has continued, however. His son--John Morris--and John's childhood friend Eric Lecarde had witnessed the Quincy/Dracula showdown from the shadows. That scene changed their lives forever--as they grew older they swore to rid the planet of the evil creatures of the underworld.

Twenty years later...

Elizabeth Bartley. The name conjures up images of a regal countess who, in the year 1421, was found kneeling over the body of a dead young man. He had two puncture wounds in his neck. She was tried as a vampire and found guilty. Her sentence was...too gruesome to mention in these pages. What is important is that she was indeed guilty. And not only was she a vampire, she was the niece of Count Dracula! Now, in the ruins of a mysterious castle in Transylvania, an amateur witch by the name of Drolta Tzuentes dabbles in arcane magic. She casts a spell which inadvertantly brings Elizabeth Bartley back to the land of the living! Now that she has returned, Bartley is bent toward one goal-- reviving her dead uncle, Count Dracula!

In a twist of fate, Morris and Lecarde have been drawn towards the ominous castle. Their task is simple--defeat Bartley before she can complete her macabre objective. Completeing their task, however, will involve many perilous encounters and life-or-death acts of bravado.

Is your heart strong enough for this challenge?"

Whew. The game's graphics did not meet the same standards as, say, Super Castlevania IV or Castlevania X (also for SNES), but it was very well done nonetheless. There are numerous visual stunts done on here that the Genesis was not made for doing, such as a giant (and I mean giant -- taking up a lot of the screen) head getting knocked off its concrete body, or a wobbling tower. The bosses were just as nice to watch. Those such as the boss of Stage 3 (seen in the screenshot below) and the final boss show that Konami took no shortcuts in creating funk-clad maniacal guardians of the realms. The game engulfs us with quality graphics in full, even though the SNES versions may give you a little more.

Tunes are great in this game (Stage 4 comes to mind...), and they suit the various European sceneries well. However, the sound effects leave something to be desired. They seem like they were just yanked in an hour from a small library of SE's. Screams sound muffly but dark, and gears crashing sound like weak gongs being thwacked mixed with a "boing" noise. I suppose the sounds we hear serve their purpose.

CV: Bloodlines delivers fun in a cartridge-sized package, as controls are very well integrated with the game. The difficulty setting of the game is also at a decent level, especially for those who have very little experience with Castlevania games, or even Konami games in general. If you see this title, whip it up as quickly as possible; if you pass up this game, Dracula will survive, and he may just come and devour your succulent blood...

FINAL SCORE: 9.0/10

UPDATED COMMENTARY:
Back in GamerBase times, I was notorious for padding out some reviews with storyline information taken directly from the instruction manual, and this one is a prime example of that. Half the review was actually written by somebody else! I can't believe that I was so lazy. Actually, yes, I can. I am quite lazy now. You wouldn't believe how many nights it took me to finish this entire feature. I won't say how many, but it was more than a few! Anyway, CastleVania: Bloodlines... yes, it's a decent game. I said that the graphics aren't as great as those of Super CastleVania IV, but I blame the Sega Genesis; its graphics were always inferior anyway, as was its sound quality. Meh.

Take a look, a real good look, at all the launch titles for the Game Boy Advance. You've got Super Mario Advance, with the stench of dying nostalgia swallowing it whole. There's Konami Krazy Racers, involving a whole cast of Japanese Konami characters that the majority of the American public haven't a clue about. There's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, which I cannot believe can be THAT popular -- it's just a skateboarding game! Yet there was one game that instantly brought my attention over to it when I was out to purchase my first GBA game...no, it wasn't that Chu Chu Rocket dealie-ma-bob. I bought Castlevania: Circle of the Moon!

The Castlevania games have always been about the rise and defeat of the world's most famous vampire...Dracula! This particular episode in the Castlevania series is set in 1830 and tells of the dastardly incantations spoken by a "Draculan" follower named Camilla who has revived the ill-fallen spirit. After a confrontation, Morris Baldwin, the vampire hunter, becomes imprisoned by Dracula, and his apprentices, Nathan Graves and Hugh Baldwin, get tossed aside to die. However, after Hugh takes off somewhere, Nathan must seek out Dracula and destroy him in order to save his master.

With such a small screen, it's more difficult to make good graphics stand out. This game features dark, eerie graphics that will please long-time Castlevania fans and new gamers alike. However, also include the fact that without decent light sources near the screen, the game becomes more difficult to play (although this will certainly make the game last longer). Find a good spot near excellent lighting, and you'll be able to bask in the celestial LCD glow of the Game Boy Advance screen.

Once you get to the title screen, you're immediately immersed in the atmosphere of the game as a ghost-like singer howls a melancholy tune in the background. Many Castlevania fanatics will also recognize many of the songs found in the various areas from older Castlevania titles. The sound effects are also a truly grand effort, as there are a wide variety of noises obtained when performing tasks. Ear pleasure can be found in this game.

Finding all of the Dual Set-up System cards can be an arduous adventure in itself, as you can create over 80 spells using the power of the cards. This is a great addition to the Castlevania legacy, as it allows new puzzles to be made for the players, and new puzzles for the players to solve. Don't be fooled by the new Dual Set-up System that's been implanted in the game; that doesn't mean that Castlevania: Circle of the Moon doesn't stick to its roots. There are still all of the classic sub-weapons, including the dagger, the axe, and the holy water. And we certainly couldn't do without the famous whip!

This is a great buy for anyone who enjoys either the Castlevania series or just a fresh challenge for their slate. Although the game was the most expensive launch title available, it is certainly worth the money. The world that your character will traverse through is enormous! Konami has outdone themselves once again with yet another brilliant title which effectively boasts the power of the Game Boy Advance system to the full extent.

FINAL SCORE: 9.6/10

UPDATED COMMENTARY:
Just as a bit of an update, the Game Boy Advance SP and Nintendo DS systems have arrived since I wrote this review, and so the problems with having to sit under a 200-watt halogen lamp just to distinguish the bare basics of the game are no longer there. Having said that, I can say that CastleVania: Circle of the Moon is indeed an enjoyable quest, but I would not declare that it is worth a 9.6 out of 10. Companies have a tendency to add unnecessary features to classic-style games, and this is no exception. Adding a card system just makes things more complicated than they need to be. Did CastleVania games really need this? I think not.

This was the first day I had ever played, and even touched, a PlayStation. Now, I somewhat quickly grasped the control sensation of the controller, with the Dual Shock clip-on inside and the double analog sticks...but of course, the game that got me really started in the PlayStation was Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back.

Imagine yourself in the role of a brown marsupial (more specifically, an Eastern Barred Bandicoot) who has crazy-looking eyes and wears funky blue pants. Throw in a whole bunch of fun action-packed worlds, a lot of enemies, piles of crates, shiny crystals that would make the average Joe PlayStation smile, and an evil scientist, and you have the premise of the game!

The graphics are pretty good, although I do notice the pointy parts on Dr. Cortex's hologram! It's unfortunate that we cannot smooth out those things, but it's too late to do anything about it now, isn't it! Otherwise, it's pretty good. It's certain that they spent more time on the graphics involved in the actual worlds and courses. That's....a good thing.....isn't it?

Sound is considerably accurate, and the background effects, as well as edits to the voices, are well done. Some people who enjoy sitting around, just enjoying the sounds of games, will not be disappointed by this game. Lots of boing-boings and crashes in this game make it ear-pleasing, and not ear-squeezing.

PlayStation has a somewhat interesting controller, and sometimes it seems a little odd to the inexperienced PlayStationeer, but even with this in mind, I had absolutely no trouble with controlling the wild bandicoot at all! I played a couple of other games that bared the Crash name, and they all would receive a 10 for Play Control. The Crash Bandicoot series deserves an applause for the controls.

Crash Bandicoot 2 is a fun game. I got into it without a lot of haste. Of course, death is not always fun, but what is a video game without your character falling into a pit, or exploding after eating a spicy vegetable? Um...wait a minute...that's not quite right...spicy vegetable?

It seems like I'm praising this game as though it came from the heavens. Well, frustration was a little bit apparent in this game. I didn't like that. I jumped for a crystal, and ended up in a pit. Dead. I was unhappy, so I let my friend take over the game. I don't think he got the crystal either. His sister was yapping away about the crystal. I'm not sure if anyone has gotten that crystal yet. Anyway, frustration isn't too bad. Just enough to make you snort.

I must mention the medium amount of loading time in this game. Of course, isn't that always the likeness of the PlayStation? Anyways, if you've bought Crash Bandicoot 2 and are uncertain if you've bought the right game, put your mind at ease. It's a good, all-star game.....with a bandicoot in it!

FINAL SCORE: 9.0/10

UPDATED COMMENTARY:
The problem I have with this review is that I didn't own a PlayStation console until almost a year after I closed the GamerBase project. So how could I possibly have written an accurate review based on playing a game such as Crash Bandicoot 2 at a friend's place for no more than an hour? I'll tell you how... Uhhh, I don't believe you can. In UPDATED, I can happily declare that I do own this game, and I can also declare that it is a... sort of fun game. Even the graphics are impressive enough for 32-bit. I'm beginning to loathe my descriptions of game audio though.

Check out our more recent and thorough review of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back!


Meet the sequel to the very-well made game Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. Is this game REALLY as good as the first two Crash Bandicoot games? According to the scoring scheme above, it's as good as the last one! But let's take a deeper look into it. That's a good idea.

Just like in the previous two Crash Bandicoot games in the series, you can imagine yourself in the role of a brown marsupial (more specifically, an Eastern Barred Bandicoot) who has crazy-looking eyes and wears funky blue pants. Throw in a whole bunch of fun action-packed worlds, a lot of enemies, piles of crates, shiny crystals that would make the average Joe PlayStation smile, an evil scientist, and a giant talking head or two, and you have the premise of the game! (You may recognize the majority of this paragraph from another review featured on this site, but everything here fits.) That's the story.

Graphics in this game, although they look quite similar to those of Crash Bandicoot 2, are still very well done! I enjoyed watching myself as I do things on-screen without the eye-squinting pain of bright colors or frantically fiddling with the contrast control on the television so I can actually SEE the game. No, the game is just fine color-wise, and it does have a high variety of colors, unlike some games. That's flashy.

The sound is just as great as the graphics. You get the funky feeling that you are actually in the game. The sounds are also slightly cartoony, but amusing nonetheless. Once of the funniest sounds is the immediate beginning of the game, when the developer of the game is introduced. It's fun to watch something try and break out of a box with the logo of NAUGHTY DOG, the developer, on it, while we hear a voice say "NAUGHTY DAWWWWWWWWG!" That's something most people don't hear every day.

Play control is something the Crash games appear to be very focused upon. I found few problems with the game's controls as far as I played, with the exception of a little difficulty with swimming. Of course, I was only there to review the game on paper, but I played through a level and then some just to test out play control. That's good control.

I had a lot of fun playing the game, as with all Crash games. The fun factor is the only part of the game that received a standing ovation. With all that fruit you collect, and finding crystals in the first run, gives you a sense of joy inside that you don't get very often. That's making me giddy.

I do, in fact, appear to be endorsing a game for a system that I don't plan on purchasing anytime soon. Of course, there is then the frustration factor, in which I can heavily trash a game, regardless of the other scores. Frustration has a little more impact in this game than the others in the series. I found swimming a bit tough though, and I got killed by enemies under there after getting through a small portion of the level. That's frustrating.

Load time once again appears, but if you disregard that, you will find that it is indeed a great addition to the Crash Bandicoot series. If you enjoyed playing the first two, then feel great once you buy this. That's the end.

FINAL SCORE: 9.3/10

UPDATED COMMENTARY:
Just like Crash Bandicoot 2, I didn't own this game until... well, actually, not until February UPDATED did I own a copy of Crash Bandicoot 3. I haven't played it much, considering the depth of my current gaming backlog. However, from what I gathered while testing the game to ensure it worked (used games can be questionable at times), it is very much like its predecessor, so if you like the other Crash Bandicoot games, this one shouldn't be a disappointment. I believe the Crash games are among the few instances where I use visits to friends' houses as preparatory material for a video game review.

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