#20 Dracula: Unleashed
Developer: Viacom New Media
Publisher: Sega (Sega CD), Viacom New Media (PC/Mac/DOS), Infinite Ventures (2002 re-release on DVD).
Systems Released On: Sega CD, PC, Macintosh IIE, DOS
Release Date: 09/15/1993
Dracula: Unleashed is probably my second favorite game for the Sega CD, after Dark Wizard. It’s too bad no one else on the IP Games staff had played it when we did our Sega CD feature, thus it was left off. Alas. It is nice to know we have at least one other staffer who has played DU, as our own MISTERRRRRRRR KENNEDY revealed to me this is one of his favorite games, even if he did never manage to achieve the “good” ending.
Dracula: Unleashed is another Full-Motion Video game. Bet you never thought you’d see two of these on this countdown. But where Night Trap had its flaws and made the list for being a great satire on horror and for its historical importance, Dracula: Unleashed makes it on here, because like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, it’s actually well done and a lot of fun to play!
Dracula: Unleashed is a direct sequel to Stoker’s actual novel. Unlike 99% of the other video games out there that feature “Dracula,” D:U sticks very close to the source material and actually portrays the count and vampires according to how Stoker wrote them. This is not Castlevania people.
You play as Alexander Morris, brother to the late Quincy Morris, the Texan who was slain when Van Helsing and his party killed Dracula in his home of Transylvania. Or so they thought. It is ten years after that climatic evening passed, and London for the most part has returned to normal. You have traveled the Atlantic however, to discover the truth behind how your brother died. What was he doing in Eastern Europe of all places? What happened to Lucy, the woman he loved so dearly? You arrive on the shores on England with many questions such as those, but you are greeted by a headline on the Times that Alexander does not equate with his brother’s death, but anyone who knows the subject matter at hand certainly does: Headless Corpse Drained of Blood Found. Insert your ominous music here ladies and gentlemen!
You play out (if you are lucky) through four days in England, encountering old friends of your brother Quincy, as well as old enemies. If you play your cards right, you will save the soul of the woman you love and achieve what your brother could not: disposing of the Lord of the Undead once and for all. But that my friends, is much easier said then done.
You see, Dracula: Unleashed is a most unforgiving game. Being in the right place at the right time is essential throughout the game, and if you mess up, you will most likely die. This means a lot of the game is trial and error, but this is also what makes it both fun and far more believable. To defeat a creature as old and sneaky as Dracula, you would need a great deal of luck on your side, and DU strongly enforces that belief. There are many, MANY way to die in this game, and you will most likely encounter them all long before you find the correct solution to the game. What can I say, I love hard games that make you think. Combine that with the fact the game puts a time limit on you, by giving you a 24 hour clock and making sure certain events only happen at certain times, well, that gives the game an even stronger sense of reality. That’s what I love about Dracula: Unleashed, unlike most horror or terror games, there is still a great deal of fantasy and letting go of reality. DU forces you to stay grounded with time limits, and the cold hard fact that a vampire would most assuredly kick you ass, regardless of how many Annie Rice novels you’ve read.
The graphics in the game are simply amazing for 1993. It had easily the best graphics on the Sega CD and was years ahead of its time. The DOS/Mac versions were even better. Thanks to the massive amount of real video footage in the game, Dracula: Unleashed really does feel like a direct sequel to Stoker’s most famous novel. The sets and costumes within the game are amazingly authentic and add onto the already thick layers of creating a game that fits the terror genre, rather than a massive killing lots of freaky monsters tale which most “horror” games are.
The acting too will surprise most of you. Back in the early 1990’s what little voice acting there was in video gaming was woody and pretty awful. Dracula: Unleashed shocked most of the people who played the game at the time by having actors who were actually VERY good. Practically everyone I know who had played the game would point out the acting in DU was better than some of the acting in Bram Stoker’s Dracula which came out shortly before this game. That’s both a big compliment and a knock of the Harker/Murray pairing of Reeves and Ryder. Ew. The acting is good enough that you forget you are playing a video game and find yourself playing the game simply to unlock new cinematics and see what other paths a character could take.
The music of DU is not on the same level as the graphics or the acting, but it is still quite good and fits the mood of foggy old pre 20th century London perfectly. Creepy, but not overwhelming and it subtlety adds to the story and gameplay.
And we probably should talk about gameplay at this point. As I mentioned before the game runs on something close to “real time.” Every segment of the occurs in various minute intervals, save for sleeping, which is several hours long. The gameplay is not one full of action of violence, but rather something more out of a Victorian monster tale, or a Lovecraftian short story. A lot of the game is researching, speaking with people around the city and solving a mystery centuries old involving well, vampires! I mean, if you haven’t figured out the game has vampires by now, you’re a daft fool. You use the map screen to pick where you will travel, but remember, traveling around the city eats up time too. There is no right or wrong to where you go or for how long, but to get the “good” ending, you do need to be in certain places at the specific times and use objects you have to have found earlier in the game. Like I said, there is a lot of trial by error in Dracula: Unleashed, but it fits the game perfectly and adds to the fear factor. Especially once it gets dark…
Like I said the game is hard and unforgiving, but that’s what makes it so worth playing through. ANY gamer can beat a game where you shoot zombies in the head. Not every gamer can use their brain long enough to write down clues and log times and locations on scratch paper. This is a game for the intelligent and perceptive gamer, not the “shoot ’em up, YEEHAW!” gamer.
Dracula Unleashed was re-released a few years ago on DVD. The video quality appears remastered from the original footage and it looks even better than it did on the Sega CD. Where the game was once impressive for 1993, it is STILL impressive for 2006. The video footage is movie/TV quality and like you did 13 years ago, you will forget that you are playing a video game all over again. You can buy it at Draculaunleashed.com for $19.95. I suggest you buy the dual purchase of DU along with the digitally remastered version of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective as well, for a sum of $34.95. That’s $17.50 each for two of the best games ever made, now with video quality worthy of current computers and next gen systems. I will admit I have not played the new version, hence why the only screenshots in this review are for the Sega CD and DOS versions, but you can always follow the link and see for yourself. I’ve also been assured by reading the walkthrough written by Infinite Ventures Inc., the company that re-released the game, that everything in the game still plays exactly the same. So for those of you without a Sega CD or who threw out your Apple IIe’s, you can now enjoy the best FMV game ever made for a pretty decent sum. Look how many of you threw away fifty bucks time and time again on various Tomb Raider gamers. This is bargain city baby!
Dracula: Unleashed is one of those games that sadly languishes in obscurity. It’s an excellent game brought down by the fact every other game in the FMV genre has sucked worse than Shadow Tower. If you want to finally experience a game featuring Count Dracula that actually does honour to Stoker and Vlad the Impaler, you owe it to yourself to play this game. Or the next on the countdown.
Since it’s “Dracula Day” on the countdown, it makes sense to give you a reprint of an essay I had published in the Spring of 1999. Man, have I really been a sub-cultural icon for this long? I have to admit on looking at this, my writing style has REALLY changed over the years. But hey, who else but the Showstoppa is going to give you both video games and make sure you learn something before you’re through? As Bill Cosby would say, “HEY, HEY, HEY!”
Behind the Scenes of Dracula
Although it is well known that Stoker was almost anal-retentive in the way he tried to preserve folklore and myths in his stories (Wolfe, xiii; Florescu, p.7), no author can write a tale without adding his emotions or personal outlook of a myth. As well, some of the texts Stoker used as his folkloric sources contained incorrect data. As such, even though Stoker tried to make his tale as authentic to the Old World tales as possible, Dracula is an amalgamation of Folklore, history, and Stoker’s own personal touches. As such ,we will take a look at how Stoker’s attempt to transform a Wallachian Prince into the Lord of the Undead, and how he both succeeded, added some personal touches, and made some foul-ups along the way.
The biggest mistake in the text comes when Van Helsing says, “The Nosferatu do not die like the bee when he stung once (p.287).” Van Helsing uses Nosferatu as a synonym for Vampire. However, Nosferatu actually means “Plague of Rats.” It is a Slavonic word derived from the Greek word, “Nosophoros,” which means: Plague carrier. Romanians use the word Nosferatu in conjunction with vampires, because Old World vampires were believed to be the cause of plagues like tuberculosis and the Black Plague. However, Stoker used this erroneous information only because of one of his folkloric sources, Emily Gerard’s travelogue entitled, The Land Beyond the Forest (1885). Gerard’s book captures the feel and look of Transylvania/Wallachia/Romania very well, but Emily did not speak the language well and as such assumed Nosferatu and vampire were interchangeable words. In her text she writes, “More decidedly is the Nosferatu, or Vampire, in which every Roumanian peasant believes as firmly as he does in heaven or hell…even a flawless pedigree will not insure any one against the intrusion of a vampire into their family vault, since every person killed by a Nosferatu becomes likewise a vampire after death…(p. 185-186).” Because Stoker was determined to add every possible folkloric reference he could find to his text, he accidentally perpetuated a mistake that continues in the Western World to this day, as we see in films, books and even role-playing games. However, if you go to Romania, or any Eastern European country…the two words are still exclusive. The true Slavonic word for vampire remains “Stirgoi”.
One of the most overlooked and important details about Dracula is that Stoker did expressly plan for his vampire to be Vlad the Impaler himself. However, when Stoker set out to right his vampire tale, he had no knowledge of Vlad. The Book was going to be called, The Un-Dead until the day he ran across a set of old books in the British Museum Reading Room (Florescu, 150). Stoker become fascinated with The Impaler Prince, and quickly gathered all the information he could find on Vlad. The sources ranged from texts written during Vlad’s life, like The Story of a Bloodthirsty Madman Called Dracula of Wallachia, written by the poet laureate Michel Beheim in 1463 for the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, to speaking with actual well-known experts on the leaders of Western Europe, such as Arminus Vambery (Florescu p. 7; Wolfe; P.291), who as thanks, was placed into Stoker’s novel as an ally of Van Helsing. Stoker’s own letters and journals that he made over the seven years it took to write Dracula are now housed in the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I myself have been lucky enough to read through them. In one journal entry Stoker writes how he came across a book by William Wilkinson which he checked out of the Whitby Public Lending Library. In fact, Stoker even recorded the call numbers of this book and others he checked out about Vlad (Florescu, 148.)! Within Wilkinson’s book, Stoker found information about Vlad’s betrayal by the boyars and his brother Radu. Stoker notes how important details like this are, so he can place them in the Count’s life. And so Stoker does at the beginning of Chapter 3 when he has the Count say, “Who was it but one of my own race who at Voivode crossed that Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery upon them (p. 41)” Dracula goes on ranting about the greatness of this Dracula for another page or so. But unbeknownst to the casual reader, or to Harker, the Count is actually speaking about himself, but must refer to himself as a separate person, so as not to reveal his true nature to Harker. Thus Stoker has managed to give Vlad real immortality, by transforming him into the Undead Count that shall never be forgotten by the race of man.
Yet Dracula/Vlad is not the only real life person carried over into this novel. Parts of Dracula actually tell the history of Bram Stoker. You see, many of the characters in the book are based on real people Stoker knew or was fascinated by. Obviously we have the Count and Vlad, but every main male character has a real life counterpart. Harker’s real life counterpart is scene designer Joseph Harker (1855-1920) who Leonard Wolfe tells us was the scene designer or the Lyceum Theatre where Stoker worked (p.1). As well, Stoker mentions the real Harker in is book, Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving. In this biography/memoirs, Stoker mentions Harker only is passing by saying he was a great painter and did many of the sets of Shakespeare plays at the Lyceum (p.110, 156). Quincy Morris was a very important character to Stoker. He was one of the few Americanophilles in England in the 19th century. He was good friends with Walt Whitman and Mark Twain whose work he defended across the Atlantic to his fellow Europeans (Wolfe, p.78). Stoker published a pamphlet entitled, “A Glimpse of America,” which he called America, “a nation not merely like ourselves—the same in blood, religion, and social ideas, with an almost identical common law, and with whom our manifold interests are not only vast, but almost vital (Wolfe, p.78).” Quincy was added to Dracula to basically spite the Anti-American sentiment that was all around him. Quincy was based on Joaquin Miller, an American frontier poet who was writing the same time as Stoker. Miler moved to England where he was renowned for his rustic cowboy look and his outfits. Morris reputedly talks similar to how Miller spoke. As well, Stoker based Quincy on John (not David) Bowie. Stoker has him not only wield the knife that bears Bowie’s name, but he too dies of knife wounds while fighting off Mexican soldiers at the Alamo. Stoker changed his death at the hands of one “foreign enemy” to that of Dracula’s gypsies. Finally, the most interesting character is that of Abraham Van Helsing. Mina describes the good doctor as being,
“A man of medium height, strongly built, with his shoulders set back over a broad, deep chest and a neck well balanced on the truck as the head is on the neck…the head is noble, well-sized, broad and large behind the ears…big, bushy eyebrows…The forehead is broad and fine, rising at first almost straight and then sloping back above two bumps or ridges wide apart; such a forehead that the reddish hair cannot possibly tumble over it, but falls naturally back and to the sides. Big, dark blue eyes are set widely apart, and are quick and tender or stern with the man’s moods. (p. 226-227).”
Why is this important? Because it is the very description of Abraham Stoker himself! Stoker gives the character his first name, and like Stoker, Van Helsing has archaic knowledge and insights into both the realms of the Vampire and Tepes himself. As well, through Stokers letters to friends and families and diary entries we are given subtle hints that he is playing the part of Van Helsing in his novel. Many of his friends and heroes are transformed into characters in his novel, why not the author himself? Many other authors have picked up on this idea, from Leonard Wolfe (p.148), to J. Gordon Melton (653), to even Famous Dracula Scholars Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally (p.147-148). So now, not only has Vlad the Impaler achieved immortality through this classic novel, but many of Bram’s friends live on as well.
Another important piece of folklore that Stoker included that the Western word has forgotten is that of the Blue Flame and Walpurgis Nacht. In the beginning of Stoker’s novel we see comments about St. George’s Day (Western name for Walpurgis Nacht) and during Harker’s ride on the coach, the blue flames are encountered (p. 17 and p. 29). Walpurgis Nacht, for Eastern Europe is quite simply, the most Evil Day of the year. Montague Summers comments, “Upon the eve of the saint, the powers of vampires, witches and every evil thing is at its height. (p. 313).” Stoker has a woman warn Harker about this evil night when she says, “It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway (p. 7-8)?” And the young lady is right. On this day, Vampires can not be killed…by ANY means. Stoker found this information on many sources, chief probably being Gerard’s text again especially because she ties the legend of Walpurgis Nacht together with the legend of the blue flames. She writes, “For in this night (so say the legends) all these treasures begin to burn, or…’to bloom’ in the bosom of the earth, and the light they give forth, described as a bluish flame…serves to guide favored mortals to their place of concealment (p.230).” But the blue flame has appeared in other novels and on days other than May the 5th. Ann Radcliff and “Monk” Lewis have incorporated the blue flame into their novels as well (Wolfe, p.29). But for Eastern Europeans, May the 5th is a very important day. After all one may find great riches, or one may find their death at the hands of the undead. Knowing this now, it is no wonder the peasants tried to prevent Harker from traveling to the castle of Dracula.
Stoker added his own little pieces to the vampire mythos as well. Most notable of these is the vampire bat. The vampire bat was first found by Spanish conquistadors in Mexico and South America in 1760 (Melton, p. 41; Abrams, p. 55). As they were not native to Europe, before this discovery it would be hard to find a reason to link the un-dead to our only flying mammal. However, after this discovery, bats became a symbol for the undead in the mid 18th century. The even appeared on the cover of Varney the Vampire, a popular “Penny Dreadful” in England. Yet Stoker was the first to make the logical conclusion that perhaps vampires could both control and transform into a bat. This idea caught on like wildfire amongst vampire fans and writers and has never left the public consciousness about vampires since.
Although this is just a light dabbling into the folklore and hidden secrets that Bram threw into his novel, we can see how rich this text is in regards the old legends of the vampire. Many of the legends Western society was not aware of, and has since forgotten remain alive in this book. Stoker felt it was exceedingly important to make sure the old tales stayed alive, and that every facet of the tales were necessary to create vivid picture of the count, the life and powers of the Un-dead and the land which he hailed from. Because of the seven years of research and care Stoker put into this novel, he has created one of the most influential books in literary history, as well as one of the most famous. Yet if one tries hard enough, it is obvious that Stoker wrote Dracula on many levels. It is much like reading Gulliver’s Travels; once you know the hidden commentary placed into the novel, it reads as a very different tale indeed.
Florescu, Radu & Raymond T. McNally. In Search Of Dracula. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.
Gerard, Emily. The Land Beyond The Forest. New York, NY: Harper and Bros., 1888.
Marigny, Jean. Vampires: Restless Creatures of the Night. London, England: Harry N. Abrams, 1994.
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink, 1994.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula London, Jarrold, 1966.
Stoker, Bram. Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving. 2 vols. New York: The MacMillan Co., 1906.
Summers, Montague. The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. Rpr. New Hyde Park: New York University Books, 1960.
Summers, Monatgue. The Vampire in Europe. Rpr. New Hyde Park: New York University Books, 1961.
Wolfe, Leonard, ed. The Essential Dracula: The Definitive Annotated Edition of Bram Stoker’s Classic Novel. Middlesex, England: Byron Preiss, 1975.
#19. Dracula: The Resurrection
Publisher: Dreamcatcher Interactive/SCEE (Sony Playstation European Version)
Developer: Canal+ Multimedia
Systems Released On: PC, Sony Playstation
Release Date: 6/14/00
You know, I really wished I had planned for this to be two Dracula games, back to back, but it was simple sheer coincidence.
D:TR was the first video game I can honestly say I ever bought due to the cover. It was just so cool to me, I went over and picked up the box expecting it to be an amazingly awful game, and so I was even more skeptical when I saw the graphics were literally the best I had ever seen in any video game up until that point. But then I noticed it was an ADVENTURE terror game and I was sold. It is after all, nigh impossible to mess up the controls of an adventure game. And with that, I made my first ever purchase of a PC launch title on its release date. What can I say? I’ve always been a console gamer. Dracula: The Resurrection became my gateway drug back to PC gaming, and without it, I probably wouldn’t have played 75% of the horror or terror PC games on this list.
Although it is not related to Dracula: Unleashed, D:TR has the same basic premise in mind of trying to be a sequel to Stoker’s novel, while staying true to the words and themes of his novel about everyone’s favorite Wallachian Count. But that’s all the two games really have in common.
In Dracula: The Resurrection, Dracula survived his fateful encounter with Van Helsing, Seward, Harker, and Morris, and faked his death. This of course means his control/bond with Mina Murray was still intact and Dracula uses it to draw Mina back into his clutches so that she can be his undead bride. Harker discovers his wife missing, puts some clues together and embarks on a return to Eastern Europe in an attempt to save his wife from eternal damnation.
The game’s plot really doesn’t get much deeper than that. Harker ends up having to solve puzzles and put objects together in order to advance through the game as one finds in any of the point and click genre games. The game can easily be divided into two areas: Romanian Village and Dracula’s Castle. Both have their particular puzzles to solve, with most of them being self contained to specific sections of each area.
Being a point and click game, Harker has no chance of dying. You either solve the puzzles and advance, or you sit there like a bump on a log until you get past them. This does not lessen the impact of the actual game at all. After all, most adventure games come down to this “solve the puzzle or be stuck forevermore.” D:TR is able to hide this one flaw most naysayers of the genre have through it’s excellent characterization, voice work, brooding soundtrack, and most of all the graphics.
Oh yes, even though the game is five years old, Dracula: The Resurrection is STILL able to blow my mind with how amazing the graphics are. Upon thinking on this aspect more, I believe I am even more impressed today with the visuals then when I bought the game. Five years ago my reaction was, “A game should not be this pretty and still be this enjoyable. Usually a game’s visuals are in direct opposition to the gameplay.” Today it’s more, “This game’s graphics were so far ahead of it’s time it’s still better than nearly all the stuff being released today.”
I am not a graphics whore. For those who have been reading me for years you know I am the type of gamer who prefers 2D gaming. 2D fighters, 2D RPG’s, 2D Shooters. Graphics matter little to me. I often have disdain for games that are amazingly pretty in hopes it will cover up the shallowness of the plot and gameplay such as most Squaresoft games. Give me Double Dragon over Resident Evil. King Of Fighters 98 over DoA. Pong over any game released by Eidos. So the impact of what I am about to say should hit you all very hard.
“HOLY CRAP THIS GAME IS BEAUTIFUL BEYOND WORDS. BUY THIS GAME JUST SO YOU CAN BECOME ENTRANCED BY THE AMAZING BACKGROUNDS, SCENERY, AND CHARACTER MODELS. BUY IT BUY IT BUY IT.”
Man, how can every other reviewer on the planet stand that level of foaming at the mouth fanboyism. Sheesh. I do it for a single paragraph in my highly opinionated countdown and I feel dirty as hell. Of course I don’t take swag or payola like say, everyone at Game Informer so it’s probably just because I’m not used to it. Dreamcatcher, I expect a dump truck full of money delivered to my house posthaste.
Oh, and the graphics praise is completely kept to the PC version of the game. The latter release on the PSX obviously features visuals that had to be toned down due to the limitations of the console.
Speaking of the graphics, Dracula: the Resurrection took a lot of its visual inspiration from Francis Ford Coppola’s cinematic adaptation of Dracula. The John Harker you play as has more than a passing resemblance to Keanu Reeves. The voice actor here actually does a superior job to the Reeves though, which admittedly isn’t that much of a shock to those that have see the film. Mina too resembles everyone’s favorite Minnesotan born kleptomaniac. Out of all the characters that appeared in both the film and the game, Dracula alone has an original design, which embodies more the elder recluse version of the count that Stoker first has Harker encounter upon his arrival to Transylvania than any young suave version of Dracula that has appeared in the majority of celluloid over the past half century.
The only real flaws with the game are plot related. The first is that Dracula is in the game for about five minutes, and you never have any real conflict with him. But then the game wouldn’t have piqued as much interest if it was called “Harker Runs Around Romania.”
The second is that the game throws in a Baba Yaga wannabe for some reason. It’s a well done character, and the voice actress does a fine job, but it’s a bit jarring as she doesn’t fit in with the Stokerian theme of the game. Finally, the game doesn’t truly end. It’s much like the infamous Soul Reaver ending. Personally I didn’t mind it and though the montage at the end was excellently done, but it may leave some gamers a little cold.
D:TR produced a sequel as well called Dracula: The Final Santuary. It falls short in all aspects when compared to the original, but for those of you who play the game and want some sense of finality, you may well want to pick up. Just be advised that unlike in D:TR, you can (and will, often) die in D:TFS.
Dracula: The Resurrection is the ONLY game on the planet I would ever tell people to buy simply based on graphics alone. Thankfully all the other aspects of the game are excellent in their own right. It’s a bit hard to find, and even The Adventure Company’s store only has the PSX version of the game in stock. Because of that, I suggest checking Ebay or your local game store’s used PC section, as to play the PSX version of D:TR is akin to eating Lamb or Duck cooked any more than medium rare. Sure it will still be enjoyable, but you’re missing out on the true flavour and the maximum quality it can provide you with.
D:TR is the best game ever released to feature the most famous monster of all time, save for INSERT POLITICIAN HERE. If you’re a vampire fan, a Dracula fan, or just a fan of amazing games, you owe it to yourself to track to Dracula the Resurrection. There’s no way anyone can be disapointed with this as a purchase. Again, as this countdown is geared towards highlighting the best horror and terror games for the average person and not the hardcore “I can beat Super Mario Brothers in seven minutes” type gamer, D:TR may just be the best game on this entire countdown for getting a non video gamer to develop a passion for this form of entertainment
And we’re now over a third done. Not bad. Next week we take a look at two classic PC games. One is by far and away the best licensed Call of Cthulhu product ever released in video gaming. The other, is the game that inspired Resident Evil, and sadly also…a Uwe Boll film. Ew.