Released in March 1994, Bloodlines is the first Castlevania game that lets you choose your character from the beginning. One of the characters, Eric Lecarde, usually known as "spear dude", is the first spear wielder in a Castlevania game. Spear dude can pole vault 15 feet in the air from a still position, but apparently never took swimming lessons. Years of bleaching have obviously taken a toll on spear dude's hair; his hair is green in every stage, but blonde in every cutscene. The other character, John Morris, or "whip guy", obviously never went to a D.A.R.E meeting about steroids in high school. Also, there is blood: lots and lots of blood. Of course, Europeans don't bleed (scientific fact!), so Konami removed blood from the European release.
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Single-segment on Expert as Eric Lecarde: 0:30:27 by Travis Nible.
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So here we are again, another long season of attempts (1981 attempts to be exact) and I finally get to write out commentary on another Castlevania Bloodlines run!
But Klaige, you say, this dude don't look like no Warren Sapporis to me! Sharp eye there viewer, I decided it was finally time to give the lanky spear guy his due. I originally didn't have a lot of interest in running him, but between seeing how much improvement could be made to the current SDA run, and the fact that I plan to run Bloodlines at marathons in the future, it was a given I needed to figure out the other side of the coin, and thus here you have my run with the one and only Yao Mincarde! (I love my stream viewers <3 <3 <3)
As you can guess from my Morris run and comments, much of the same difficulty in running Bloodlines applies. You still need consistent use of the fully upgraded spear and the super sub-weapon, and you still lose them anytime you get hit. The biggest change in learning how to handle Spearguy is that while he is much more agile and has the very useful super jump, he simply doesn't do the same damage Sapporris can. This means boss fights tend to be longer and require a little more planning, and certain enemies will need an extra hit or two to take down.
As always this run will have audio commentary so in the stage breakdowns I'll mostly note the route improvements and major things to watch for.
Stage 1 –
Stage 1 is infinitely more obnoxious for Lecarde because the RNG can cause him far more difficulty. His lack of damage means Hellhound almost always gets 2 or 3 attacks in and can create more annoying patterns (as always I get a pretty awful Hellhound pattern in this run). Many of the skellys can simply end an attempt if they like and more than a few got their hits in. The super jump by the boner pillar is only a few pixels wide and more difficult than it looks and the room after that jump I alter the route a bit by super jumping off the turning spike platform. This makes for more RNG possibilities, but is noticeably faster and looks nice. The bone dragon at the room before the boss can't be killed quickly so learning how to dodge his patterns saves a ton of time.
As always the biggest RNG issue in this stage is good ol Armor Battler. I was honestly having below average luck in this stage until the boss fight. Armor battler was extremely cooperative for a change and allowed me to complete a really good stage 1. This stage was roughly 15 seconds faster than the current run.
Stage 2 -
The RNG tones down significantly but the execution ramps up in a hurry. The sub-boss rush is now one of the highlights of the whole run here. Manipulating water mage and killing him the quick way with Lecarde is rather easy and this was already in the current run. The big improvements to this stage start with the 3rd mini boss (yes the item crash axe skip on the 2nd one still works fine with spearguy). Because of Lecarde's slightly shorter reach on his weapon I can't employ the same fighting style I used with Morris. So I went ahead and figured out the timing to recreate the TAS strat on this fight. The window to jump between those poleax swings and not get hit is very small, probably between 2-4 frames each jump. This fight goes flawless and is a huge time saver over the current run.
Even with the baller looking mini-boss section where the real meat of improvement in this stage comes from is setting up the really long section just before the boss. Joe Stanski (the man) originally did the Lecarde run and had the awesome route plan of taking a hit in the auto-scroller to set up damage boosting over the bone pillars in that long section. He didn't get to use this strat in his finished run but he shared this awesome tidbit of knowledge with me and I'm able to use his route to perfection. That section goes incredibly smooth now as long as the bone dragon cooperates (which he does wonderfully in this run). I owe at least 5 seconds of improvement in this to Stanski. He is the original Bloodlines speed runner and I owe much of my success in these runs to all the hard work he put in years ago.
Typically our friend Mincarde has to work harder on bosses, unless it's the stone golem boss. Where we mash super sub weapon like a champ and earn a free victory. You'll notice the waggle dance I do during his death animation. This comes up many times during the run and is a way of saving some lag frames. The flame animation on the spear really slows down all that awesome BLAST PROCESSING and waggling back and forth during laggy animations helps eliminate some of the slowdown. It's not much but over the course of the run it can be worth a second or more.
Stage 3 –
Much like the Morris run this stage is all about getting Harpies to play nice. I get superb harpy luck throughout this stage and it really makes life so much easier. The hit on the Minotaur at the end of the first section is intentional, as it eliminates the RNG of harpy luck in the super jump climb. By taking a hit here I can guarantee I'll get the Powered up spear back in time for the boss fight, which is the only part of this stage it saves significant time. I can actually take this hit at an angle where it doesn't knock me back, so that cost me a smidge of time, but nothing of importance.
The rest of stage 3 is uneventful as always, lost of auto-scrolling, a quick dash through the mummy room and on to fight the bat boss. As is the case with basically every boss fight in this run I get a perfectly executed fight and we're on to the real dangers of the run.
Stage 4 –
This stage is as difficult as ever, and with Yao Mincarde its even more dangerous thanks to the fact that RNG can actually screw the run in the clock tower climb. As always I intend to take a hit on the first screen to set up the damage boost in the blade section. Usually I'll do it on the barrel skeleton towards the end, but this time one of the earlier skellys does me a favor and chucks a bone on my skull.
Things are smooth until the 3rd room. Jumping on the stairs to hit the conveyor belt is a nice boost the TAS uses, and while I've hit it right many times, in the runs leading up to this one I kept taking a hit. That continues in this run, and while the hit costs all of a second in time, it now means I am completely at the mercy of the RNG as to whether or not I'll have enough health to damage boost through the final blade of the blade room.
The pendulum room zip goes off without a hitch. It really has become one of the easiest skips for me; I pretty much never miss it anymore. The clock tower climb is simpler for Lecarde in terms of execution at the start, as all you do is super jump your way to the top. But the risk is high as skeletons can be in your path and hit you after almost every jump. Too many hits and you'll either die or lack the health to do the damage boost. I take damage on the climb and have just enough left to do the damage boost as I reach the platform under the giant turning gear.
This is point of major tension during the run because there's a good skip that can be done at this point. The super jump by the stairs and under the turning gear can boost you up to it and save time, allowing you to super jump again and reach the stairs to the exit. However because the platform area by the stairs is so small and you have to hold down to charge the super jump, this makes this a true one pixel jump. One pixel to the right and you'll jump but not actually land on the spinning gear. One to the left and you start walking down the stairs. If you start walking down the stairs you can merely keep jumping left and do a super jump without losing much time, however this means taking a hit from the skeleton on the final platform and in this case I'd lack the health to do the damage boost, ending the run.
The pressure is increased further because if you super jump but miss the gear by being a pixel off to the right, you waste time from the missed jump, and you are going to get absurd lag for the rest of the room because a medusa head will come in on top of all the other animations going on and all that BLAST PROCESSING just has to remind us that it only likes to animate so much at once.
So luckily in this pressured filled situation I man up and hit the one pixel jump which is an awesome inclusion in the run. The weighted platform room and Frankenstein fight are both flawless as we come to the room that makes this stage the Widow-Maker. The blade skips are just as nerve-wracking as they were with Sapporris, but I hit all my marks as planned. It's still one of the coolest looking parts of the run and I'm glad I've gotten better at it.
The rotating platform section is a massive improvement over the current run. While the super subweapon can cause a good amount of lag, it saves a boatload of time by whittling down the mace skeletons for me. This section goes from being one of the clunkiest and slow looking ones in the whole run to looking insanely smooth and well executed. I'm really proud of that section.
Gear boss has a ton of health as always but through a lot of practice I've learned how to get the maximum amount of hits on him ASAP. With my strats this fight is essentially perfect. No dancing for you today Gear Boss!
Stage 5 –
This stage has actually become the most difficult for me with this run. While it doesn't have the insane skips or frame tight tricks of earlier stages, it is loaded with non stop tests of execution and consistency.
The first big task is getting through the green vine monkeys. The strategy I employ here is almost identical to the TAS, and works well but requires very good timing and attention to detail. For this stage to go well I have to keep the powered up spear through the first 2 sections.
The chandelier room goes flawlessly with no wasted effort or extra spear swings. This allows me more than ample health to use the damage boost on the giant pone pillar which has been the standard for this stage since stanski's run. The super jump climb with the laser eyes is solid, I get a bit of bad RNG with the laser near the top and having to wait, but my RNG overall to this point has been awesome so I can't complain.
The fleaman dropping harpy section is a big RNG fest. I really have to play safe and respect the need to kill fleaman in front of me as well as trying to keep harpies out of my way to jump over the small platforms. One harpy goes into the decap bleed animation and costs me some serious lag frames, and I have to wait for another harpy to pass by so I can jump towards the end. Not the worst RNG i've had in that room, but RNG has easily cost me 3-4 seconds at this point in the stage.
The sub boss fight goes swimmingly as I have the patience to not trigger the glitch that happens when you kill him in attack animation. (That ended I think 3 good runs over these attempts). The section leading up to the stone pillar sub boss can be a tiny bit smoother but overall no real complaints. The stone pillar fight is far easier with lecarde as up-stab makes it a cake walk to score 4 hits per cycle.
The Princess of Moss fight almost went bad as I didn't cancel my first spear hit which would have caused her to hit me and end the run. Luckily I recover fast enough and am able to lame her out with super subweapon spam. I get more lag in this fight than I was expecting, and then something rather un-explainable happens. After the kill the orb takes ABSURDLY long to appear on screen. I've never seen this happen before and I have absolutely no idea what caused it. It easily took 2 seconds longer for the orb to appear than normal so there was a bit of extreme misfortune that I can't really explain.
Between the RNG and the weird orb timing this is the most improvable stage of this run. But it's still an excellent stage, which speaks to the quality and optimization I was able to get out of this whole thing.
Final Stage –
Again the final stage is the same affair, a short jaunt through the castle into a huge boss rush. The initial stage is executed flawlessly except for the upside down orb room. This is probably the ugliest looking mistake in the run, but because I don't get knocked back the hit stun is very short and I only actually lose maybe a second from the gaffe. Chalk that one up to the nerves of knowing I'm that close to finally putting the run in the books after almost 2000 attempts. The loss of the spear on the first screen is planned btw as it costs minimal time and avoids me getting RNG screwed in the armor battler hallway. If I keep the spear but have to break a candle that contains a boomerang or water to kill a charging armor battler and pick it up during that hall I wont have super sub weapon for the boss rush, which is a deal breaker.
The boss rush is long and tedious just like it is with Morris. The big change is that while Morris has a hard time with the stone golem refight, Lecarde just laughs and uses super subweapon. The real highlight of the first part of the rush is the death fight, which is pretty much flawless. The super jump hit on him when he swoops down allows me to kill him with super sub weapon before he can attack again.
Medusa is a pretty trivial fight now that I've learned to just back up a bit to jump over tail whip. This makes the jump infinitely easier and Medusa goes down without incident. Elizabeth Bartley is annoying and boring as ever and I have to do an extra cycle due to Lecarde doing less damage. Back and forth, back and forth. ::snore::
At this point all that's left is drac himself. All 3 forms are pretty easy for Lecarde, the major point is to get a good pattern on form 2. I've learned how to manipulate that fight quite well, but I get some blessed RNG and get the best pattern possible, giving me a perfect fight. Form 3 is pretty anti-climatic as all I have to do is push him to the corner and up stab until the final phase. After that it's 3 jumps and a dead Drac, and I have finally achieved my goal of a sub 30:30 Lecarde run.
I can say without question this I the best run I have ever done. The level of optimization and execution requirements made this no small task to achieve. I have almost no complaints about the end result. I'd estimate there is probably 3-4 seconds worth of actual execution errors in the run, and probably 5-6 seconds of time lost to unfavorable RNG. Even with that said the RNG was overall very very friendly for this run, and really came in one bad chunk during the course of stage 5.
With perfect execution and resetting for perfect luck (god help you), I think this run could go sub 30:20, but frankly I'm not sure the stars will ever align in ones lifetime to see that come to fruition. I don't see myself ever going back to this run unless serious improvements are found through new TAS strats. It really did turn out as I hoped it would.
I want to thanks as always, all of my stream viewers and followers who come with me on these journeys through Bloodlines. You guys are the best and you always give me good laughs by providing awesome gifs and jokes to keep me sane when runs go bad. Much love and thanks to the SDA staff and admins, as you all keep this ship going the right direction and allow us to share our runs with the world. Not enough can be said about your hard work.
Special thanks to Stanski as he is the OG for this run and has taught me so much. This run wouldn't be possible without him and he deserves a boatload of the credit. Much of this run is his ideas and planning, all I did was hold the controller. Also thanks for Samhaim-Grin and Truncated for their work on the Bloodlines TAS's. I've take a lot of my own strats and routes from their work and they too are a big reason why such a complicated run exists.
Shoutouts to my fellow Iowa speedrunners Murph and Puwexil, and of course major shout outs to The Boston Terrier Mafia. It was a REAL nice run, and it's a damn good thing nothing happened to it! :D
One final personal note: I want to dedicate this run and everything behind it to my Uncle Jerry. Midway through the 5 months I worked on this, he lost his battle of 5 years to prostate cancer, and the obvious connection we have here at SDA between runs and cancer research really made what I do with these runs hit home. After we lost him I was no longer trying to finish this run just for me, but for him and for everyone that has lost a loved one to Cancer.
Castlevania Bloodlines is the game that has really brought me into the amazing community here at Speed Demo's Archive. It's also the game that is going to give me a chance to be a part of AGDQ, where I'll get to join the fight against cancer research. That more than anything I've accomplished here means a great deal to me, and I can think of no better way to wrap up this run then to honor my Uncle's Passing with it.
Single-segment on Expert as John Morris: 0:29:50 by Travis Nible
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First and foremost I want to thank everyone who made this record a possibility. All my friends in the speed run scene as well as all my stream viewers. Very special thanks to Stanski who laid all the initial groundwork for speed running Bloodlines. If not for him, none of these runs could have ever come to light.
For those of you new to Bloodlines I highly suggest watching the audio commentary for stronger details. The most important thing to understand about this run is that the 3rd level upgrade (blue flame/plasma whip) and the super sub weapon that come with it are the single most important part of the run. The only way to get these is to get a 50/50 drop from the bible in stage 1, or to break 30 candles that don't contain sub-weapons while having the level 2 chain whip.
If you get hit at all you lose the whip and have to recollect it by breaking candles, so any accidental hits are an instant end to this run at the level I was going for. Hitting the sub 30 mark essentially meant even the most minor mistake could be the end of the attempt. I'll go over each stage in general briefly in the comments, as the audio commentary lists off all the important new optimizations from my old SDA run of 30:47.
Stage 1 – This stage was flawless in execution and got ok but not great RNG. Stage 1 is the most RNG heavy stage in the game and ends more runs that any other. I get a 2:57 in this stage which is a very strong time given that the RNG was not top level.
Stage 2 – This is the single most improved stage in terms of new routing and optimization over the old run. This stage got absolutely crushed and was tenths of a second from being a gold split. It's really easy to see where the optimizations come, the long corridor with the helmet mace enemies being the biggest improvement. It's become one of my favorite sections.
Stage 3 – This stage has one of the few noticeable mistakes in the first mummy room where I miss my whip swing. However it balances out as I quickly recover costing myself only a second and due to amazing harpy luck in this stage I get to use the super sub weapon on the bone dragon sub boss which results in a much faster kill. Some slightly better lag frame manipulation in the last auto-scroller could have saved probably half a second, so still a fantastic stage with top tier harpy RNG.
Stage 4 – I get some unlucky RNG in this stage with the skeleton that walks right up and smacks me on the stairs. I have to delay there to make sure he doesn't jump so that was a bit unfortunate but costs minimal time. The axe throw on the mace skeleton was also a few frames too early so it didn't do full damage for a kill. Other than those two minor errors this stage goes flawlessly. The clock tower climb is really strong and everything else is fantastic. Can likely gain a second on this stage with raw perfection.
Stage 5 – Some better optimization of this stage in the section right before the pillar sub boss saves a lot of time over the old strats. All in all this stage is almost perfect, I miss 1 hit on the pillar sub boss and didn't whip for the very last hit of the princess of moss boss for the quick kill, but still only costs maybe a second total. This stage is really execution heavy and I'm very happy with it.
Stage 6 – This stage is what will forever put the stamp on this run. Going into the final stage knowing I was on pace to finally break sub 30 was the most pressure I've ever felt in a speed run. I knew if I played a strong stage it was going to finally happen, so I decided to do one better: I had my best stage 6 of all time. Scoring a gold split by over 2 seconds.
There are no mistakes in this stage, period. Everything is flawless, every fight is amazing, and the stone golem refight gave me extremely good RNG. I could not ask for a better finish to this run.
This is hands down the strongest run I've ever done and I may never top this in terms of optimizing, routing, and executing to the highest level. I could not be happier with this time, after 4 years of running Bloodlines I managed to push Morris to the sub 30 mark, and unless someone can challenge this time or new TAS strats are found I will not do this run for time again.
Thank you a ton for watching and I hope you all enjoy this run!!
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