Available on: Amiga, GB, GEN, GG, NES, PC, Sega-CD, SMS, SNES
Developer(s): Psygnosis, Traveller's Tales
Publisher(s): Psygnosis, Sony Imagesoft
Founded in 1989, Sony Imagesoft was a subsidiary of CBS/Sony, which originally published games exclusively for Nintendo systems, before, for some reason, they were signed to publish games for Sega systems as well. The strict rule was that everything that had Sony Imagesoft written on it was total crap, they were the new LJN. The most common thread between the two companies was that you could take any bad movie license and bet your life on either LJN or Sony Imagesoft's logo being on the box art, and it usually was. If not them, it was THQ (Home Alone!) or Ocean Software, but at least they had some playable games. 1994 was a year that Sony Imagesoft surprised the hell out of critics with quality games like Skyblazer and Mickey Mania. In 1995, Sony Imagesoft became a part of Sony Computer Entertainment, who today are one of the highest-grossing video game publishers in the world - responsible for the releases of most PlayStation exclusives. What a beautiful story, huh? Well, all sins of the past can't be forgiven. Especially if one of those sins happens to be Bram Stoker's Dracula. Although its shittiness doesn't quite match that of Imagesoft's other pride and joys from their movie licensing days, such as Last Action Hero and Cliffhanger, it is bad. Oh Lord above, it is bad. Worst of all, it came out on nearly every platform of the era.
Don't know about blood, but it does suck
A British lawyer named Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to offer his legal aid to a mysterious Count Dracula. Soon he finds himself trapped in the count's castle, while its immortal, vampiric owner is on his way to meet Harker's lovely fiancee back in England, whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his lost love from centuries past. With the help of vampire expert Dr. Abraham van Helsing and others that have suffered due to Dracula's actions, Harker sets out to slay the abomination and save his bride-to-be.
|Yeah, I wouldn't have found a human skeleton |
on the wall any suspicious, either.
Since Sony Imagesoft never actually developed any games besides some cheap games based on TV quiz shows and just felt the need to get the "credit" for every shitty licensed game there was, this game was actually done by Psygnosis, which in my mind was a quite formidable game developer at the time. It's amazing that out of the seven people who worked on this piece of crap, at least two also worked on the game that brought Psygnosis to the map, Lemmings.
Let's start with the graphics, which are probably the game's best quality, though far from great. I've seen uglier games on the NES, and as a matter of fact, I've seen a worse pixelated version of Keanu Reeves. The guy on the screen doesn't look like Keanu one bit, but at least he doesn't look like total crap. I don't know if I should even start with the music, since thoroughly going through every annoying bit of soundtrack in this game would take me the rest of the night and I would probably run out of appropriate nasty words halfway through the deal. The music is obnoxiously bad, and I'll leave it at that. Not to mention the sound effects.
|Wouldn't hurt to put on some pants, Gary.|
You have three lives in the beginning of each game. A generous abundance of extra lives is something you should not expect, and the cherry on the top of the cake is that even continues have to be earned as items. Yes, that's right, there are no continues. Three lives plus the very rare 1-Up, that's it. What else? Well, usually you get full health after each death. In this game, you only get half. What else? Seemingly normal lifts can suddenly give way and drop you into spikes or water, which is apparently just as hazardous to your health, mandatory leaps of faith into chasms can lunge you right into the heart of a storm of ghosts, hands can suddenly appear out of walls (read: nowhere) and slap you to your death, and an enemy might spawn right in your spot and kill you just before you exit the stage you are in. This game simply can't be beaten without an extensive knowledge on the art of trial and error... and of course, a truckload of patience that you are easily prompted to spend elsewhere.
Just as any unimaginative NES platformer, Bram Stoker's Dracula borrows a lot from other games. Items are gathered from question mark blocks... hmm, I wonder what game they are from? There are secondary weapons such as hatchets and holy water, but unlike in Castlevania, you don't get to choose between weapons. You are stuck using the secondary weapons instead of your "trusty" knife as long as you have enough of them. Non-surprisingly, you usually run out of them when you would actually need them, which is in boss fights, but at least Psygnosis had some thought put into this: secondary weapon tokens fly all over the screen in most boss fights.
Unlike Imagesoft's worst, though, Bram Stoker's Dracula on the NES is a quite harmless game. It doesn't really hurt to try it, it's just not any good and paying for it is one of the worst mistakes a gamer can possibly do. Almost a fun way to kill some very, very extra time - but I think when it comes to vampire killing on the NES, I'll go back to the Castlevania trilogy. Yes, even Simon's Quest.
Graphics : 6.5
Sound : 4.0
Playability : 4.3
Challenge : 5.0
Overall : 4.5
The graphics of the game aren't BAD, they just simply look like NOTHING. Very similar to dozens of other movie licenses: large sprites, generic backgrounds, not much details, not much happening. Same goes for the music: not exactly awful in this version, but totally unmemorable. Kind of like the same ambient stuff used in the horrible Batman Forever a couple of years later.
Although this version of the game was also developed by Psygnosis and published by Sony Imagesoft, it was developed by a wholly different group of people, and it's actually rubbed in your face that the game is based on the movie. The imagery is very close to the movie, and Francis Ford Coppola is mentioned by name in the credits. I feel sad for one of the best movie directors of our time right now... as a funny sidenote, Fred Fuchs is also mentioned! Three cheers for Fred Fuchs! When it comes to the Psygnosis staff that was actually part of the game's development, I have to say I'm even more surprised of the quality of these guys' later projects than I was in the NES game's case. Well, I guess every career has a beginning...
During all my years as a video gamer, I've very rarely played games that are so bad they piss me off as a person. I usually just laugh at them, except if I've paid for them. Luckily I very rarely buy games on instinct, I have to know they're good before I spend one stinking cent on them. However, when I was a kid, I played anything, especially games based on movies and TV shows I liked. These games were rarely bought, but I rented a lot of games from the local video store, and Bram Stoker's Dracula was one of them. Even to me, a kid that couldn't tell shit from flowers when it came to video games back then, the game was one awfully snotty slap to the face. Trying it again after all these years almost made me lose belief in humanity.
|I'm in the second stage and wondering why |
in the hell I'm still playing this game.
Everything that moves is hazardous to your health, and yes, some obstacles and hazards still appear out of complete blue, and with no logic at all. Just about everyone's an enemy. Yep, even that drunk passed out on the floor, or a pile of crates. He's your enemy. Don't know what Harker has ever done to him, but he hates his guts and has a lot of spare bottles to throw at him.
On a 99% certainty, you won't be patient enough or interested in this game enough to try to beat it, but it is possible, more than that since if you just keep mashing the attack button(s) and memorizing the locations of every random spike coming out of the ground or a boulder falling on you, you will finish the game in no time. Even the bosses are just as pathetic as the game itself.
It still might not be Imagesoft's worst game, can't say I'm overwhelmed by a desire to get into those two or three games, but it is most definitely still one of the worst commercial games released on my favourite console of all time, so you can pretty much imagine how much love and respect I have for the company's SNES catalogue in general. Compared to this major piece of horse shit, the NES version is more than playable. The title screen looks much closer to home than the one of the NES version, but everything else squeezed into this poor cartridge should never have seen the light.
Graphics : 6.0
Sound : 5.8
Playability : 2.8
Challenge : 2.5
Overall : 2.7
GameRankings: 20.00% (Sega-CD), 56.50% (SNES)
The PC version was also developed by Psygnosis, but unlike any other version, it's a first-person shooter.