Release Date: January 2000
Platform: PC, Mac, PSX
Note: Originally published in the year 2000
That's it, I'm moving to France. If I must, I will force myself to eat escargot and laugh hysterically at Jerry Lewis films. I will disavow my American citizenship and wear a red beret. I will change my name to François. I will allow my children to drink wine with their dinner (except it really will be grape Kool-Aid; I will just tell them it is wine). What has forced me into this decision to no longer masquerade as an "Ugly American?" Why the sudden swerve in nationalism? Faust, Omikron,Outcast, and now Dracula Resurrection--all of French origin. And these are just the cream of the crop; let's not forgetIsabelle, Atlantis 2, or Aztec. Or The Devil Inside, Pilgrim 2, or Alone in the Dark 4--all scheduled for release later this year and all French. What has happened to pervert our culture so that frag-fests like Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena are considered family entertainment and cerebral games like The Longest Journey and The Quivering cannot find a publisher? Adventure developers have heeded the criticisms that their games were too linear, too illogical, and too 2D and have produced nonlinear, logical 3D masterpieces--to no avail. The North American urban myths continue that adventure games will not sell; that adventure games are too expensive to produce; that adventure games take too long to complete. I would guess that no one has yet to inform the French developers and gaming public of this fact.
So where was I? Oh yeah, Dracula Resurrection. The latest and probably the best in a long line of adventure/horror games featuring vampires. Dracula Resurrection is actually presented as a sequel to Bram Stoker's novel. The opening movie reenacts the climactic events of the 1897 novel as we watch Jonathan Harker attempt to destroy his arch-nemesis. His weapons prove futile, though, and only the rising sun saves Jonathan and Mina, his fiancee, from a life of eternal darkness. Seven years pass, and we watch as Jonathan reads an unbelievable letter from Mina, now his wife. She has been overcome by an irresistible urge, a yearning for the sexual bloodlust of the vampire, and has returned to Transylvania. Jonathan, as we learn through a letter he composes to his friend Seward, journeys to save his beloved, and thus our game begins. This is not a Hammer film, though. There are no subplots, no vampire hunters, no Christopher Lees. It is simply you, playing in a first-person perspective as Jonathan Harker, attempting to reach Dracula's castle and rescue Mina. Much as the novel dripped of atmosphere over a hundred years ago, so also does the computer game. A feeling of loneliness prevails as you wend your way through catacombs and hidden passages. The fear of the townspeople is reflected in their eyes and etched in their faces. The game's creators, Jacques Simian and Francois Villard, do not hammer you over the head with the obvious, but have instead let loose their talent to create a world of shadows and darkness that speaks volumes. Like a good novel, the story relies on the characters and their personalities. Simple, but effective. Two CDs--the first covering Jonathan's attempts to reach the castle and the second his journey through the deserted ruins looking for his beloved--are all that is necessary to complete your journey into darkness. A sequel with a more elaborate plot would be the ideal follow-up, but for now this is the perfect appetizer. Plot--B.
If Dracula Resurrection can be said to have a weak point, it would have to be the puzzles. Not that they are outlandish. Rather they are at times too easy. Though to be fair, they do build in difficulty, as they should in any well-crafted adventure game. Their simplicity is related more to the fact that when you have a lighter in your inventory, it is used to light a candle or some other object, not distorted into some obtuse puzzle that makes little sense. Inventory is accessed by right-clicking on the mouse, and all items are stored in an inventory ring. When the correct inventory item is placed over the small moving gears that denote that a puzzle must be solved in that area, a green circle appears around the inventory item. All inventory items magically disappear when they are no longer needed. Some minor pixel-hunting is involved, but nothing totally frustrating. There are a surprising number of puzzles that involve nothing more than selecting the correct key or pulling a lever a la Tomb Raider, and a little more originality would have been welcome. There is also one inventory item, a dragon bracelet, that is way over-used, but better to have a few puzzles be too easy than spend hours hunting for red herrings. As the puzzles do intensify, common sense and a good eye for detail will dictate your success. Overall, a tad on the easy side and a grade of B-.
The cut scenes in Dracula Resurrection, and there are many, can only be described as jaw-dropping. You will not be pressing the space bar to skip them. Strange as this may seem, in a game about a vampire, your character's death is never a factor, so many of these movies may only be viewed once. Whether it is the more common third-person viewpoint as we watch Jonathan's actions as a result of our decisions or a close-up of a character's face, the effects are stunning. Wrinkles and pores are etched on character's faces like roadmaps; their weariness belies their misery. The 3D characters and animations, created by Jerome Combe and Stephane Hamache, are eerily distinctive. From Micha the barfly to Dorko the sorceress, these are people who relay their emotions through their facial expressions and body movement. The in-game graphics are just as good and are traversed by panning your cursor in any direction across the Barina Inn, Borgo Pass, or Dracula's Castle. Everything is mouse-controlled, and the usual icons--an arrow, a hand--guide your choices. The panning and movies are seamless and deservedly receive a grade of A.
One thing I cannot provide an honest opinion on is the voice acting. Yes, I played from start to finish, but in a mix-up due to language barriers, France-Telecom mistakenly sent me the French version of the game. Now I did study French for four years in college, but for some reason all I retained were the cuss words. It is a testament to the power of Dracula Resurrection that I was still able to not only play but follow the story even if I could not always understand the characters. So much was conveyed by the excellent graphics that the characters speaking in their native tongue only served to enhance the game's atmosphere. It could be that if I had received the translated English version, I may not have enjoyed the game as much. Music is sparse but used effectively during climactic scenes, and the sound effects are as crisp as any I have ever heard. The creaking of floorboards and the barmaid's nervous cough in the inn are unbelievably realistic. I actually thought my wife was coughing in the next room before I realized it was coming from my left speaker. As an added bonus, a visit to the Dracula Resurrection website has Dracula theme wallpaper, screensavers, and Shockwave games. Documentation with the game itself is as sparse as can be, but it really is not needed as the controls are intuitive. Saves are limited to eight, more than enough, and are marked by the time and a snapshot of the place you saved. Even with my slight disadvantage of playing an untranslated version, the music, sound effects, and voice acting are all superb and graded A-.
This game is not earth-shattering. It breaks no new ground. What it is is a solid, atmospheric adventure game that follows a linear path and features puzzles of increasing difficulty. The novice and the more experienced gamer can both enjoy it on their own terms. Dracula Resurrection is currently not available in North America, but with any luck it soon will be. We happen to know that a few companies are interested in purchasing the distribution rights. Advertise to the Anne Rice/Stephen King crowd and, combined with the current revival in horror action/adventure games like Resident Evil on the Playstation and Nocturne on the computer, this could be a title that encourages many to attempt a pure adventure game for the first time. Virgin blood so to speak. Let's put a stake through the heart of the bloodthirsty for once and show our support for a game that doesn't suck.
Final Grade: B+
Pentium 166 (200 recommended)
32 MB RAM (64 with Win98)
16-bit sound card
4x CD ROM drive (8x recommended)
Power PC OS 8
32 MB RAM
16-bit sound card
3D accelerator card
4X CD-ROM drive (8X recommended)