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Up from (Super) Obscurity

In the last 3 weeks, we've covered a lot of stuff about the SNES's Bram Stoker's Dracula, like:
  1. hats
  2. kinds of levels
  3. 5 very poor game design decisions
Maybe I should just rename this site, "SNES Bram Stoker's Dracula Weekly." But for now, here's some more stuff about the game's very poor design decisions!
As mentioned above, last week we'd covered 5 different poor design elements, so that means we'll start counting at:
6. The Head's-Up Display for Hitpoints is a Head/Desk:
Your hitpoints are tracked by transparent flask outlines at the bottom right corner of the screen. Before you've been hit, each flask outline is 60% full of opaque black liquid. Each time you get hit, one of the flasks becomes 0% full of opaque black liquid.
For example, here's Harker after he's been mauled by vicious dogs to within two flasks of his life:
2 full out of 5
Of course, this system of "outline that's 60% filled in black = full, outline that's 0% filled in = empty" is problematic if the background under the outlines is partially or entirely black.
Since this is a game about a nocturnal monster, that happens a lot. Here's some examples, with zoomed-in versions to illustrate the subtle differences:
You can tell this is "2 full out of 5" despite the black windows in the background -- look very closely at the middle flask: see that bit of wooden frame showing through the bottom left corner of it?
In this case there's some tiny fragments of brown rock which are VISIBLE behind the first flask outline from the left, but NOT visible behind the second flask outline. That indicates we're at "4 full out of 5"
Of course, sometimes the bottom right corner of the screen is entirely black.
Hmmm, this is going to be tricky!
The sad thing about all this confusion? They clearly know how to make a flask-outline with easy-to-distinguish contents. The Boss's energy is measured by one big NOT-transparent black flask full of RED liquid, that slowly drains as you slash away:
Granted, I like that each of your hitpoint gets its own icon, rather than a vague slowly-draining level (not that it matters that much sometimes), but just imagine if those 60%-full bottles were full of BRIGHTLY-colored liquid instead:
There Psygnosis, I just fixed your game for you.
Ok, that was pretty bad. Let's move on, to...
7. Ranged Weapons: Deranged.
Ranged weapons are...
  1. rare (at most one or two per stage),
  2. have very limited ammo (9 for the useless weapons, 5 for the one good weapon),
  3. when you pick up a new one, it replaces the old one,
  4. and even if you pick up the same one twice, their ammo doesn't "stack" (you're reset to 9 or 5 -- it doesn't ADD 9 or 5 to what you had).
...and just in case that doesn't make them irrelevant, they generally do the same amount of damage as 1 sword-strike. As you'll recall from last week, almost all enemies take 2-4 sword-strikes to kill.
So...if you track down the one or two missile weapons in a given level, you're gaining the ability to kill SEVERAL (constantly respawning) enemies from more than arm's reach.
Yet the ranged weapon, (aka "Missile") is the attack which the game maps to the "Y" button by default.
8. Much more clumsy or random than a sword... (Ranged Weapons part 2)
Here's the lowdown on the 3 ranged weapons you'll find:
The Blunderbuss:
Make no mistake about it, this thing is fun. Not only does it do a spread-shot pattern when you pull the trigger,
...but the bullets ALSO ricochet (more than once!) off hard surfaces, and miracle of miracles, they don't injure YOU while doing so!
Unfortunately each bullet is still just 1 extra sword-blow of damage, and you only get FIVE blunder-blasts on pickup.
Basically its best saved for dishing out a little bit of "free damage" during a boss fight.
We'll go from the sublime to the ridiculous:
Yes, it bounces like a superball, it has an extremely long "fuse" time before it explodes (a lot longer than it takes for it to fly off-screen in an open space), and worst of all, it doesn't explode early if it hits an enemy.
I'm pretty sure it doesn't do much damage when it explodes (but I'm not 100% sure of this, because despite winning this game 5-6 times, I've only managed to catch an enemy in the TNT's explosion once or twice). But at least you get 9 TNTs when you pick it up!
The Stakes:
...couldn't be lower.
After the comical badness of the TNT, the stake is just bland. It does as much damage as your sword when you throw one at an enemy or a boss. It flies in a slightly-downward arc, such that it will hit the ground slightly before the edge of the screen. You get 9 of 'em. Ho-hum.
You might as well save these for flinging at one of the boss fights which doesn't have a safe spot you can hide in (more about this next week!) -- but that's assuming you don't find a blunderbuss to pick up instead.
Well, that's sort of a low note to end on --
But my Bram Stoker's Dracula-a-thon will continue next week...including exciting scenes like,
Jonathan Harker cowers from a fire-breathing dragon!
And in a touching underdog story, Jonathan Harker coaches a zombie softball team of comical misfits to victory in the Transylvanian 99-and-over devision,
and the team carries him off the field on their shoulders, in complete triumph!
— carlmarksguy, 2014-03-28
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