The Fall issue of Senpai Magazine will be out very shortly. Originally, I was going to review Vampire Hunter D, Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust, and Vampire Hunter D the game. However, due to the spatial limitations of the magazine, the game review was cut. However, you can still read my thoughts about the two classic anime titles in the coming issue, and read my game review right here!
I remember enjoying Vampire Hunter D a lot when I was younger, and I still pop it in every Halloween season for a nostalgic playthrough. However, I must admit that this mediocre 3rd person adventure game has too many flaws to firmly stand on its own.
Shortly after the release of the successful Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Jaleco produced Vampire Hunter D for PlayStation. The game deviates only slightly from the anime, as it’s centered around the same plot, and most of the secondary characters appear in it. However, unlike the anime, the story unfolds solely within Carmila’s haunted castle where D will battle hoards of generic supernatural baddies in his quest to return Charlotte to her village.
While the framework was there for an enjoyable hack-and-slash experience, the game suffers from uninspired gameplay and control issues. To its credit, there are different endings depending on the player’s actions in the game, and the cut-scenes are fairly well-done for their time. Despite its few good qualities, there simply is not enough to recommend this game for anyone except the most die-hard of fans.
The gameplay is more or less a copycat of the classic Resident Evil games. This means the camera view will keep switching on its own as the player moves D from one screen to another. In similar fashion to RE, this becomes an issue when D starts running right into the waiting arms of enemies the player cannot see. Also, in comparison to those games, the movement controls feel a lot looser than they should, so this means that one should be prepared for much frustration (and hilarity) as they try to guide a wildly zig-zagging D from corridor to corridor. Make no mistake about it, D is a force to be reckoned with and can do a lot of things, sadly walking straight does not appear to be one of them. It actually does not seem right to say that the player “moves” D as much as they merely “guide” him, similar to how it works in games like Resident Evil and Dino Crisis, and similar to how one doesn’t “drive” a boat but rather “steers” it.
So, in other words, if you’ve never played Resident Evil (all… one of you, maybe?) then imagine that D is a boat. With that in mind, you should have a much easier time guiding him from point A to point B.
D confronts Meier Link
The movement issues are compounded by the fact that attacking enemies results in D “auto locking” onto them. This means that D cannot help but face one enemy constantly, until that enemy is dead. This feature can be very annoying in instances where D is low on health and the player just wants to flee to safety but can’t, and they end up making D wildly run around the enemy in circles as they try to escape.The confusion continues until the player hits “L2” to turn the auto-lock off, only for it to turn on again as soon as D is tagged by another enemy.
In fact, most players will not even bother with combat when it’s avoidable. After getting used to D’s tricky movement controls (again, think “boat”), they will have little hesitation in playing the vampire-killer as if he’s a professional runningback by having him dart over and around enemies in an effort to reach the room’s exit. After a loading screen, the player resumes the tactic in the next room, and so on and so on until they’re stopped by a puzzle, cutscene, or a need to grind enemies for energy.
Even the puzzles feel like they're ripped right out of Resident Evil.
Since the enemies immediately respawn as soon as D exits a room, there’s almost no point in bothering to kill everything. In fact, there’d be no point to combat altogether if it wasn’t for the fact that is how D’s “Vampire Gauge” (bottom left of the screen) is replenished. That gauge is important for it indicates the amount of times D can use specific powers.
To explain, the Vampire Gauge is refilled in one of two ways: either the defeated enemy’s blood rains down on D, or D inhales the monster’s soul through his possessed hand.
Graphically the game is dated, but the environments are nicely detailed and varied, which helps the player to keep from getting lost.
The Chapel: One of the more colorful areas of the game, and one of my favorite.
Also the game makes nice use of D’s Dampeal (half human, half vampire) powers, especially those linked with his parasite hand. Not only does his hand suck up weakened enemies, but he can also use it to heal himself, and blast enemies with a powerful burst of fire. D also has an array of sub weapons ranging from grenades (!!!) to wooden stakes.
Lastly, the game frequently offers the player choices which affect the outcome of the game. Depending on what the player chooses, the game can end in one of three ways: Bad – only D survives (although I prefer this ending as it captures the loneliness inherent in the character better), Meh – similar to the anime’s ending, and Good – Meier and Charlotte alive and well and escape in a ship, as D and Leila leave the crumbling castle.
Now it is VERY important to remember, when presented with a choice, press “X” and NOT “start” like I’ve accidentally done on a number of occasions. “Start” will skip the cut-scene altogether, and your choice won’t actually be selected.
In the end, Vampire Hunter D amounts to little more than a Resident Evil clone, right down to its silly puzzles and wonky controls. There are much better options for PlayStation vampire-inspired gaming, namely Castlevania Symphony of the Night and Castlevania Chronicles. However, those that really enjoyed Bloodlust may have some fun with Vampire Hunter D. It can be obtained fairly cheaply online for approximately $10-$15, and since it is a PlayStation One game it is fairly accessible, since it can be played on a PlayStation One, 2, or 3 console.
– Furry Senpai Mikekun