Bram Stoker’s Dracula was possibly one of the most anticipated titles, at least for the first half of ’93. The world was in the middle of a naive “oh my God a CD can hold soooo much data, that means the games will all be amazing!” stage. This isn’t the sort of game that would have kept this dream alive. I mean, think about the potential that this game had. It could have been the Resident Evil for the early ’90s, if done properly. Everyone loves a good thrill now and then, don’t they?
It certainly looked promising, sort of, if you judged it by its FMVs. They were, at that point, the best quality seen on the Sega CD. But, as you should all know by now, you can’t judge a game by its cover (or by its flashy cutscenes, as it were.) Alas, this promising potential got turned into a great big bag of shite when they developers decided to make it a sidescrolling beat-’em-up without any of the fun that a good beat-’em-up contains. You start off outside the mansion, and you get attacked by what appear to be bats. I say they appear to be bats, as they consist of three, maybe four colors, and look like they’ve been drawn on a Commodore 64.
This goes for pretty much all the in-game graphics, sadly. Very grainy, not well defined and poorly animated—I think that would sum them up pretty well. Yes, I think we all know the Sega CD doesn’t have a largest color palette, but that really doesn’t excuse what you see here. Inside the mansion, it looks like they’ve put a fair effort into making the backgrounds pretty, but this has been pretty pointless considering there can only be around 64 colors on screen at any one time. Really, this game another example of a rushed product—the developers knew what the Sega CD was capable of, and its limitations, and they didn’t use any of its potential.
But, as you should also know by now, great graphics do not make a great game, and shitty graphics do not make a shitty game. Well, this game has shitty graphics, and it’s also a pretty shitty game. You go along, left to right, punching, kicking, and also dying. You tend to do a fair bit of dying, really. You are continuously attacked by very resilient rats, bats, zombies, and other things. This is not fun. Not fun at all. It would seem that the main character, Jonathan Harker, has all the combat skills and agility of a bowl of slightly runny blancmange. As you can imagine, this does not work to your advantage.
To make matters worse, you are also bombarded by audio that would make a PC speaker giggle like a schoolgirl. The biggest advantage of having the Sega CD to develop your games on was that it used compact discs as the storage medium, and therefore, you could have CD-quality music in your games—something that, back in the day, was amazing to hear. This seems to have been overlooked by the developers here. There are a few basic sound effects, and whatever music there is, it isn’t worth the space it takes up on the CD.
I think, all in all, the developers (would you believe Psygnosis?!) wasted a big chance to create something special. Yes, the hardware wasn’t the most powerful in the world, but has that prevented great games from being made before? And with the (at the time) enormous media capacity at their disposal, they really could have made this the first example of the survival horror genre. Sure, it couldn’t have hoped to be as refined or shit-your-pants-scary as, say, Resident Evil 4 for the GameCube, but it really didn’t have to go this way. It just seems like they got the license, spent 90% of their effort on the cutscenes, and rushed the actual game together with what time they had left. Oh, well; that’s the way it was in the ’90s with most licensed games. wasn’t it? Shame, though.
Final word: The game’s box is infinitely more scary, entertaining, and well-made than anything this game can deliver. And it’s not all that scary or entertaining…or well made, for that matter.