Genre: Action Developer: Psygnosis Publisher: Sony Imagesoft Players: 1 Released: 1993
Where do I begin with Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Based off the movie, this game follows our hero Jonathan Harker on his quest to kill Count Dracula. To reach the sinister Count, he’ll have to survive seven terrifying levels of arcade action. In premise, this might sound like a good licensed action game. Heck, Terminator on Sega CD is a great action game with a rocking soundtrack. Bram Stoker’s Dracula? This is one of the worst games I have ever played on any system. There are so many things that it does wrong, that the few good qualities it has, such as some nice sound and graphics here and there, are completely overlooked.
I’ll be the first to admit that Bram Stoker’s Dracula is impossible. I used eighty-one lives before beating its seven levels, so without the one hundred lives code, I would never have gotten past level two. Why is it so hard? For one, the game just throws hordes of enemies at you and they stick to the character and sap his health away. Our hero can defend himself, since he has a knife and even a wooden stake. Those are normally the tools of a vampire hunter, right? Wrong. Poor Jonathan Harker doesn’t have a single weapon. Yes, this fool is out to kill Dracula without bringing along anything with which to protect himself, and he’s instead decided to rely solely on punches and kicks (hey, just like in the classic novel!). The few attacks he does have are almost impossible to perform, and the collision detection is so bad anyway, that half of the time your punches and kicks will just go through the enemies without hurting them.
Speaking of the enemies, now would be a good time to talk about how stock this game is. You will fight rats, bats, spiders, ghosts, snakes, zombies, and owls, among other creatures. How uncreative can one get? To be fair, some of the later levels have some interesting villains, but be prepared to play exterminator as you punch and kick your way through hordes upon hordes of rats and spiders. It just screams of unoriginality. This is something I would have expected on the NES, not on the Sega CD.
Hey, remember in NES games when too many character sprites were on the screen, and the screen would then flicker? Guess what, that happens here too on your Sega CD! In addition to the horrible slowdown, the screen flickers and flashes when too many rats and bats try to swarm you. You will be losing all of your lives and continues within the first level or two, as spiders drop from the ceiling, bats fly into you, and rats bite your face off. It’s embarrassing.
The embarrassment doesn’t stop there. There are so many unpolished areas of the game, that one wonders if any effort was put into its development at all. For example, your character walks through doors and walls. Other problems include the character being animated only in black and white (yet everything else is in color, so I can’t believe it was for a stylistic purpose), enemies just appearing onscreen from out of nowhere, the fact that they don’t have to be touching the main character to hurt him, the horribly long loading times, the music sometimes stopping or random sound effects just popping in, character sprites sometimes randomly changing colors, and the difficulty level that would make Dracula himself cry.
What about those pre-rendered 3D graphics? I’ll concede that some of the later backgrounds look good, specifically the London town and the mental asylum. But overall, everything is too grainy. The developers just could not push the Sega CD to make a decent-looking game. The full motion video segments are taken directly from the movie, and they are full-screen, but these look grainer then during gameplay, and it is often difficult trying to figure out what is going on. Most of the colors are dull grays and blues, and that really adds to the dullness of this title. What should have looked real and like a movie, instead looks like a grainy mess.
Some of the music sounds pretty good though. It’s orchestrated and it really does fit the mood of the game. Heck, even some of the voices are crystal clear. But it’s not like that across the board. For every decent-sounding song or speech clip, there is an equal or worse bit of voice and music. Some of the audio is just painful on the ears, it gets so bad. The “scream” when you lose all your lives is both one of the worst sounding voice clips in any video game, and possibly the most hilarious.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula has no replay value, so why put yourself through the torture? Also, why is Dracula’s life bar on the top right of the screen at all times during the game? He only comes out a few times, so why have his life bar present all the time? On that note, the only way you’ll see Dracula, is by using either the hundred lives code, or the various level select codes. Maybe you would want to play level six again, which changes things up as you ride your carriage to Dracula’s castle. But if you saw how bad it looked, even this section would keep you away. The background for the sky is composed of two different colors, again, this is something my NES could have easily handled.
It looks like Bram Stoker’s Dracula had some good ideas going into it. Pre-rendered 3D graphics, CD sound, clips from the film, and digitalized actors. But the execution just went terribly wrong. What’s more, the ending is about as anti-climactic as you can get. It lasts no more than ten seconds, then the credits roll, and it says, “The End.” That’s it! This is the kind of game that I feel sorry for. I kept seeing used copies sitting on store shelves for next to nothing, and there’s a good reason for that. Actually, there are many good reasons, as hopefully you now know. Do yourself a favor and stay away from this disgrace of a game.
SCORE: 2 out of 10