Bram Stoker's Draculaa game by Psygnosis, and Sony Imagesoft
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Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 movie of Bram Stoker's classic novel didn't become the new standard for Dracula films, and the recent 16-bit games weren't huge hits, either. Now that the CD version has finally arrived with little impact, perhaps we can finally lay this bloodsucker to rest.
ProTip: Pay attention to Van Helsing's commentary between levels. He'll point out some of the dangers ahead.
Less Bite for Your Buck
The film and Sony Imagesoft's SNES and Genesis versions all shared two things: the plot and the lush visuals. On the Sega CD, you again play Jonathan Harker, a young English solicitor who fights his way to a deadly rendezvous with that pain in the neck, Count Dracula. While the story line is familiar (and illustrated here with scenes from the flick), the Sega CD for some reason has the weakest Harker of the bunch (including the fine Came Boy version). Harker no longer picks up daggers, swords, and muskets along the way. He's your standard punchin', kickin' fool in a supernatural world that demands extraordinary powers. With only three continues, this slow, feeble hero drains all the life from the game's veins.
- Walk halfway into the traps buried in the Level One snow, then jump safely across them.
- Kick field goals with these nasty beasties as you move through the Castle.
- Rely on your Jump Kick against this batty version of Drac near the end of Level Two.
Even worse, the graphics have somehow been diminished. The full-motion video scenes from the movie, which you get at the beginning of the game and between levels, are pixilated and unimpressive. The colorful backgrounds from the SNES have gone gray, and the varied enemies of the other games now seem small and monotonous. The Count showed up in several huge forms on the 16-bit systems, but here he seems much less intimidating and much more beatable. You'll want more from the game's graphics than you'll get.
- Don't walk to the edge of this last plank to get across the Level One bridge. Step back to the center of the plank, and then make your jump.
- Get your kicks (and punches) in the Castle's library. Stand in front of the pillars and you won't be struck by the books that fly from the background.
Music of the Night
The chilling sounds help keep you on your quest, however, and are the best part of the game. The suitably creepy music underscores the action in the horrific settings, and atmospheric sound effects create a malevolent mood. Screeching ravens, tolling bells, and whistling winds add life...er, death...well, you get the idea.
Fangs, But No Fangs
Despite the potential for a gruesomely good time, you're really sticking your neck out with this monotonous game. Bram Stoker's timeless novel deserves a great treatment, but, unfortunately, this isn't it. The CD game only makes you hungry for a nice stake.
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Beautiful, scary and challenging, Bram Stoker's Dracula is flying onto the SNES this month to put some bite into your Christmas. You'll be staying up late as a creature of the night once you get caught up in this long, seductive game.
ProTip: Jump into this notch in the ground to dodge the trio of Bride Bosses at the end of Level 5.
Fangs a Lot
Based on Francis Ford Coppola's artsy film adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel, the game centers around Jonathan Marker's search for Dracula, the evil impaler who likes to go for the throat. You play Harker as he walks through 16 horrific levels of Transylvanian scenery, searching for the ol' blood-sucker. Along the way, you'll encounter every imaginable horror, from rabid wolves to sword-wielding skeletons, from huge spiders to lovely-but-lethal Brides from the Underworld. It's enough to raise the Undead.
Rats, hounds, and henchmen are everywhere in the early levels. Dodge them so as not to risk losing a precious Energy Beaker in a fight.
Regrettably, Marker's a feeble hero. He's barely strong and nimble enough to cleanly defeat a single rat with a dagger. Nor is he able to leap the numerous sharp-edged moving obstacles he'll encounter. Although he finds swords, guns, and other armaments scattered ahead of him, most of them have limited use and aren't up to the difficult challenge, even at the Trainer setting. A hero who doesn't merely plod along, and who can fend off a small vampire bat without hurting himself, would've made the game much less frustrating.
- Light Torches as you progress. They'll be your new starting points when you die.
- Against Level 2's whip- toting Blue Dracula, sneak in dose and quickly hack him with your sword.
While the lame Harker will make you want to impale yourself on the nearest spike, the excellent graphics and sound effects will make you persevere. The visuals are the best part of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with strong colors, well-detailed backgrounds, and eerie surprises around every corner. Skeletal horses show every bone, deadly tarantulas move with spindly ferocity, and hellacious zombies swarm with fluid grace. This is a game you'll enjoy more for the sights than for the game play.
- Be careful while walking under trees. Arachnids above will quickly pounce on you.
- Rabid Wolves are upon you as soon as you leave the Castle. Jump onto this chain to get some breathing room.
The sounds contribute to the horror, too. Creepy music underscores the action to help build the suspense. In addition, scary sound effects, such as the howling of distant wolves, make what's left of your blood run cold.
You've probably played other Draculas before -- as in the movies, it's one of the most belabored stories ever. Overexposure shouldn't keep you from staking out a claim with Sony Imagesoft's latest version. Though it's a long, hard journey, those who survive will be able to say "Fangs for the memories."