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And so the shiver of the night has arrived - Castleween 2021!

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him)
I wanted to see how many Draculas one can beat on a flight home from Denver.

The answer is one, you can beat one Dracula. The one in the first Castlevania, specifically.

I also played a few stages of Bloodlines, turns out it is super hard.
I just finished two runs through Bloodlines last night (John on Normal, then Eric on Expert), so please add them to the pile!

Bloodlines is indeed tough! It's one of the only Castlevania games with limited continues (I believe that is a contractual obligation of publishing a game on the Genesis). Also, I may be mistaken, but I don't think you get lives from hitting any score milestones. I know I didn't use a continue on my Normal run until the last stage, and I didn't gain any extra lives other than a 1Up or two found in candles in that entire stretch, so if I'm wrong, the threshold is significantly higher than in any other Castlevania where it happens.

On the other hand, the continues are essentially just more lives (unless you care about your score, lol), since you'll start at the same checkpoint with a fresh continue that you would if you had just lost a life. This is nice, because Bloodlines may have the longest stages and most checkpoints per stage of any stage-based Castlevania, and if continues functioned more like they did in other games in the series, you could stand to lose a ton of progress.

It's important to know that you can tweak difficulty and lives per credit in the option screen, maxing out at 5. So you essentially have 15 lives to clear the game (plus any 1-ups you find), which is reasonable if you train up on Easy mode first.

Also, to anyone just starting out or having a hard time with Bloodlines, I personally find playing as Eric significantly easier than with John. I think John's whip is more powerful (on enemies that take multiple hits, I seemed to count more strikes with Eric than John), but only marginally. Eric's spear feels much better suited to protect you, as its entire motion is in front of Eric (and you can switch between stabbing directions faster than you can with the whip, and there's even a nifty spinning animation for style points while you do it). Also, while they both have big aerial moves that grant them invincibility, Eric's pole vault can be done anywhere, while John relies on a ceiling to be able to swing. John's ability to strike upward in midair can be nice at times, letting him get hits at airborne targets that Eric can't reach without subweapons or his pole vault. But Eric can strike upward on the ground, so you just need to be a bit more patient/defensive in those instances. Overall, they play a lot more similarly to each other than, say, the playable cast of CV3 or Rondo. But Eric seems to hew to a slightly more patient, stay-at-home defensive approach, while John rewards a bit more aggression.

Something that applies to both of them: If you hold the attack button, it keeps their weapon extended a moment longer and usually results in landing an extra hit per strike. This really adds up over the course of a run!

Also, this is one of the few Castlevanias where you don't need to press Up to use your subweapon, so you can use it while crouching, and this lets you attack from relatively safer positions many times throughout the game. It's a seemingly minor thing that comes in extremely handy when you remember to factor it in!

I have such a hard time sorting out my Castlevania favorites, but Bloodlines is a really good time. I love how stylish it is, and this seems like a good series for it to display that bit of edge that was so prevalent in the Genesis's U.S. marketing: Zombies are bloody and some have flies buzzing around them, landing hits on harpies will randomly knock their heads off and cause them to spurt blood, one of the bosses dies screaming and bloody...

And it emphasizes environmental hazards to a greater extent than much of the series. Falling chandeliers hurt you in a few games, but this is the only one I can think of offhand where they hurt enemies too. There's an enemy that throws other enemies and bombs out of its bag, and the bombs will hurt you, the thrower, and the other enemies it throws. There's a pendulum in the first stage that will wipe out skeletons as well as endanger you.

Fun times!
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him)
Before getting the hankering for Bloodlines, I had been working on Aria of Sorrow, and I've just wrapped that up, so add it to the pile!

Stray thoughts: I love how different each playthrough can feel if you don't actively grind for souls. I remember discovering how Curly, an enemy whose arsenal consists of "walk forward," has this flashy, powerful soul attack that grants invincibility frames. This time, I leaned heavily on Valkyrie, and used a lot of stone breath to clear out pesky fleamen and stone a few tough enemies (dolls, the military officer enemies), before I had the equipment to one-shot them.

Everything involving Balore's build-up and presentation is a lot of fun and very impressive (and the Phantom Bat fakeout isn't just a throwaway gag; it's one of the most useful and crucial souls in the entire game!). But the fight itself just kinda sucks.

On the other hand, Legion has an amazing build-up as well, and that fight's a lot of fun. The high point of the game in my opinion!

I ran into Death at Level 13 and his second form was really wiping the floor with me. I realized that I managed to skip two bosses in the intended order before running into him...it's been a long time since I've played this game. It took about 20 tries, but I got him. A key realization was that when he boomerangs his scythe in his second form, it always travels horizontally, so you can safely crouch under it. This is not the case in his first form, and I could take so few hits that I guess it just took a while for that to click. But it felt satisfying to prevail, and cleaning up the golem, headhunter, and their assorted areas was cathartic.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
It’s been so long since the last time I played Aria, and had forgotten so much of the game… but still knew exactly where to go for the Claimh Solais, and lemme just say, that does not do a lot to make for a graceful difficulty curve
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Beat the three Draculas in Castlevania III: Dracula's a Barfing Quintesson For A Bit, and will start over to collect all the playable characters.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
What are the three you're counting here, 'cause if it's just different phases of the last boss I think that just counts as one. Sorry. -_-

Anyway by my count (eh heh heh) we're up to 24 Dracs Defeated.
 

narcodis

the titular game boy
(he/him)
I beat Aria of Sorrow, and turns out the real Dracula was inside me all along. Or, sorta just like, floating around in the castle, kinda? Anyway I got rid of all the dracula.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Didn't Aria teach us that the real Dark Souls Dracula was the friends we made along the way?
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him)
What are the three you're counting here, 'cause if it's just different phases of the last boss I think that just counts as one. Sorry. -_-

Anyway by my count (eh heh heh) we're up to 24 Dracs Defeated.
Depending on the route, you can fight Alucard for half a point. But yeah, 1.5's the most a CV3 run would be worth, off the top of my head.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I did some cleaning and maintenance on my PC Engine yesterday and that resulted in one Dracula defeated by Maria Renard.

Maria mode is so easy to me that it makes the game feel almost insubstantial at times (it's hilarious how quickly she defeats Dracula's second form with just her regular attack), but she's got so many tools that there are still new things to try out each time. This run I tried using the turtle subweapon, which I'd never really tried at all before. I always thought when a heavy attack hit her and broke the shell that it damaged her, but in fact, no, you get thrown back but still take no damage. Figuring out when to trigger the shell during a boss battle actually made some of them more interesting.
 

Exposition Owl

could use a space fortress
(he/him/his)
Just beat Castlevania 1’s Dracula.

I can never tell whether that game’s final stage is like three times harder than anything before it, or whether it’s just the fact that I could never beat Death as a kid means that’s the only stage I don’t have decades of muscle memory for.
 

R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
Killed Harmony of Dissonance Dracula, who is really just a ghost and then a buttload of organs. I did not enjoy my time with this one.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him)
Just beat Castlevania 1’s Dracula.

I can never tell whether that game’s final stage is like three times harder than anything before it, or whether it’s just the fact that I could never beat Death as a kid means that’s the only stage I don’t have decades of muscle memory for.
I can usually get across the bat bridge unscathed (though if one thing goes wrong, it's almost certain death). With some patience and good timing, the skeletons afterward aren't so bad. But that last flea man/harpy barrage is never something I can tackle cleanly...it's just a mad rush (spamming the stop watch if I can keep it there).
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Put me down for Draculas of The Adventure, Belmont's Revenge and Legends variety. Breaking from that niche, there's also Dracula from Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti, who is soundly trounced in a dance-off.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Dracula of Castlevania the first is also down for the count, as a quick addendum.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Hoo, Draculas in your PC Engine? That's rough. Glad you were able to fix it.

The PCE is just the diva of all my classic consoles. I got a refurbished one in 2015 and I've had to have the dock unit replaced once already. Lately the system was having a hard time reading the Super CD boot card and it was telling me the memory was full too. But a little cleaning seemed to help. Apparently the memory is stored in a capacitor, rather than a battery, and it just drains by itself if you leave the system off for a while. Once you start saving games it apparently starts working again.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him)
Phalanx from Demon's Crest has been whooped twice, with a third beatdown pending.

I decided to change things up a bit and use a random number generator to determine the order I progressed through the game, which was certainly interesting. After clearing the initial stage, it sent me to the main/upper route of the jungle, which is an extremely unfriendly option, but a very refreshing challenge. It also sent me to the lower route shortly afterward, which was also a satisfying challenge to tackle without the Tidal Gargoyle (but it's a shame that it took away one of that form's few shining moments). The random route ended up getting me to Phalanx early, and while he can take a lot of abuse from your early-game weapons, it wasn't much trouble getting the win.

Then I went for the next-best ending, and the RNG sent me to the Legendary Gargoyle as soon as it became available, which I collected. But since a large point of approaching randomly was not to simply steamroll the game with the OP forms, I tackled the Crawler route of the Atlantean ruins without it, letting poor Darkfire (which is typically rendered almost completely obsolete by Legendary, and they're found in the same level) get a chance to play.

When you don't let Air and Legendary do all the heavy lifting, this game has some fun, creative level design that really takes advantage of Firebrand's ability to travel vertically and horizontally. I mean, I love the game even when crushing those design elements, because it also may be the most stylish 16-bit game I've played. There are so many differing details to the gargoyle forms, the backgrounds are lush and varied (I love how the tower stage's background seamlessly moves from trees, to mountains, to sky, and then you have that showdown with the full moon backdrop), and there are little macabre flourishes, like skeletal chandeliers, tons of little curios in the shop backgrounds, and efforts to create the illusion of lighting effects. And of course, you have the big showstoppers like the title screen and the introductory boss fight (Somulo itself is an incredible sprite, but even the arena background sells the illusion of a vast, sprawling location, with scratches and etchings on the walls). So, so good!
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
Add another Dracula to the pile. My replay of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is finished.

I enjoyed my first playthrough, but I appreciated the game even more this time through. It's truly a masterpiece.
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
I vanquished the most devious of all Draculas in Aria of Sorrow, the one inside myself.
I initially read that as delicious, so perhaps I'm hungry for Dracula's? I'd better stay well away from our Drac until I know for sure.
 
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