Submission #2114: VANDAL, Truncated's Genesis Castlevania: Bloodlines "John Morris version" in 27:36.17

Console Sega Genesis Emulator GENS
Game Version USA Frame Count 99370
ROM Filename Castlevania - Bloodlines (U) [!].bin Frame Rate 60
Branch John Morris version Rerecord Count 113780
Unknown Authors VANDAL, Truncated
Game Castlevania: Bloodlines
Submitted by Truncated on 10/13/2008 5:45:48 PM

Submission Comments

General info

Movie goals, in order of importance:
  • Uses an optimal character: Whip guy (or John Morris)
  • As fast as possible
  • Does not take damage, because it doesn't save any time
  • Hoards too many crystals
Plays fine in Gens 9.5, and probably others. This run is 3 minutes 28 seconds faster than Exilant's 31:04, but it isn't really a fair comparison, since that run is horrible and ours is all kinds of awesome!

Things you should know


Whip swing 16
Blue whip 10
Axe 1-10
Axe crash 1-8
Blue snake 8
Green spear 8
Green explosion 8
High jump 4
Spear twirl 3
It should be obvious from this that Whip guy has an easier time with bosses than Spear dude does. Spear dude has to lob a lot of axes to increase his damage output.
The swing sometimes only does 4 damage. We don't know why.
The axe's damage varies. It generally seems to do less damage if the axe is already inside the enemy when it becomes vulnerable. It also happens if the axe has already hit something, like a stray candle, or another enemy. Maybe it's not as sharp anymore?

Highest level weapon

You can get the strongest weapon (blue whip/green spear) and special subweapon (blue snake/green explosion) either by picking up a book which gives it to you regardless of what level weapon you have, or by picking up 30 crystals / bags when you have the second strongest weapon.
While you have the strongest weapon, picking up the subweapon you already have will give you the special subweapon.


All bosses have a minimum of 31 frames between hits. Both characters can attack faster than this.
The boss must have less than 0 health to die. In other words, a boss with 100 HP takes 11 hits to kill with the 10-damage blue whip.
Bosses, with the exception of Armor battler and Elizabeth 2nd form, take half damage from subweapons.

Travel speed

  • Whip guy walks 1.5 pixels (1 pixel 128 subpixels) per frame.
  • Both characters jump ~1.5323 pixels per frame, assuming flat ground.
  • Spear dude walks 1.625 pixels (1 pixel 160 subpixels) per frame.
In-depth explanation. Prepare for some math: Jumping is equally fast for both characters, and starts out at 1.5 pixels per frame. After the peak of the jump, the character starts to accelerate (in violation of all laws of motion), 2 subpixels per frame^2. At the end of the jump the speed is actually higher than Spear dude's walking speed. The mean speed of a jump on a flat surface, which lasts 37 frames, is ~1.5323. Whip guy gains 1.195 pixels (0-1 frames) every jump, but Spear dude loses 3.430 pixels (2-3) frames.
This leads to what you see in the movie, that Whip guy jumps around like a moron, while Spear dude is more or less glued to the ground. Whip guy can pick up crystals without losing time, and use them liberally. Spear guy, who needs axes the most to increase his low damage, cannot get them easily.
Swinging is faster than jumping in most cases, by several frames. Since it is faster in the end and basically stands still in the beginning, swinging is only useful when you can perform the majority of a swing. How many frames a swing should be "held" for optimal speed varies depending on ceiling height. Under optimal conditions, the speed is about 1.7353 pixels per frame.


Spear dude is more likely to create lag than Whip guy. One guess is that this is because he always has the flaming extra sprite on the screen. The green explosion is almost guaranteed to create lag, while the snake is not.
Besides the obvious stuff, high-jumping can help reduce lag, as can ducking. Swinging increases lag, especially when your hitbox overlaps with a boss, even if the boss is not vulnerable at the moment. Turning around rapidly with Spear dude does not display the flame sprite, which sometimes helps.

Why no damage?

We considered taking damage at a few locations. However, we reached the conclusion that it does not save any time. The obvious delay is the "I'm hurt!" pose, but it can be minimized by "jumping into" the damage . The less obvious ones are:
  • Fighting the following enemies (in the worst case also the boss) with weaker weapon
  • For spear dude: extra jumping to collect crystals for weapon power-up
  • Weapon power-up pause, about 25 frames
  • Life-refill sequence at the end of the stage


Subweapon-propelled jump

You jump slightly higher if you use a subweapon on your way up. This is why you sometimes see us throwing axes at nothing.

Instant high-jump

There is one frame when you land from a high-jump where you can perform another high-jump without charging. You can also "save up" a charge by ducking for a while and then later land from a regular jump to perform an instant high-jump.


You are invulnerable to everything (everything!) during a swing or a high jump. Okay, except falling into holes. All (all!) video game characters have a natural weakness against holes. Okay, except Epsilon Eagle.

Backwards attack

Both Whip guy and Spear dude can hit things behind them when attacking. This attack comes out slightly before the attack in front of you, which can be useful.

Avoid fall pause

When you land from a high fall, you normally duck for a while to take a break. This can be avoided by using an attack which ends at the same time you hit the ground.

Walk through enemies

You cannot get hit by enemies after they have been hit, until they are vulnerable again. You can not, however, stand inside them and hit them again on this frame to continue passing through.

Staircase shifting

You can only land exactly on the steps on the staircases. You can use this to shift forward instantly by landing between two steps, even if you are not planning on going up the stairs.
If you are going up long staircases, by walking 1-2 frames in the stair before you jump, you can land one step further up.
It is possible to land on the very last step of a staircase (the one on the same height as the floor it's leading to) and walk one step up into thin air.


It is possible to zip up or right if you manage to get stuck under a platform. This is used for some minor boosts throughout the run, see if you can spot them.

Removed air attack

If you attack up/down during a jump, and the animation does not finish before you land, and you jump on the first possible frame, you cannot attack with your weapon during jumps. This condition persists until you do not jump on the first possible frame. (This is of course more annoying than useful.) You can use your subweapon, if you do so with Whip guy, he will use both his subweapon and and upwards whip at the same time. (What?) This attack comes out slightly faster than a normal attack.

Level notes


The Konami code is entered to unlock Expert difficulty. After you have unlocked it, you also need to enter the options and actually select it. While there, we also turn off the demos, which saves a few hundred frames per level.


All candles give weapon upgrades, unless there's already a weapon upgrade present on the screen. For Spear dude this is a problem, since he doesn't like jumping, but needs a crystal on the next screen for the zombie.


The book gives the strongest weapon immediately - no freezing and blinking! This is where Spear dude gets ahead by skipping all of 1-4.

1-5, Hellhound subboss

It is preferable to get the hellhound to breathe fire. Even though you cannot attack him with your regular weapon during that time, his howl creates silly amounts of lag.
Spear dude has a very special solution for this boss fight. The axes hit twice (going up and down), with worse damage on the second hit. The second hit can be "overridden" by hitting with the spear at the same time. The high jumps are the fastest way to escape from the flame breath.


Two cool swing tricks in this room for Whip guy. Previous versions had much slower solutions. Spear dude gets both a subweapon propelled jump and a pre-charged high-jump.


After a lot of tries we got past the mace skeleton without being hit with Whip guy. There is only a 1-2 frame window for this. Previuosly we were forced to kill him.

1-11, Armor battler boss

You don't gain control until you reach the top of the stairs.
The Armor battler has to be manipulated to stay in the corner like he does in the Whip movie. Usually the first thing he does is to jump out to the middle of the room. Every time he loses a body part, the delay between hits is 41 frames instead of 31. This can be avoided if he is in the air during this hit.
When the boss dies, he needs to straighten his legs before he can kneel down and explode. It is important to kill him in a state where his legs are already close to straight, such as when he lands from a jump. The last hit is delayed in the Spear dude movie because of this.


Since Spear dude is a weakling, and the axe has poor horizontal range, we change to the boomerang. It works wonders on the bulls because their invulnerability between hits is so short.
The spitters at the end cause lag if you kill them, so we make sure they don't appear in front of us.

2-3, Magician and 2x Armor

Three subboss fights, all of them have something interesting to show.
The first subboss always appears on the opposite side of the screen when you hit him. Or does he?
The second subboss is allergic to axes. He backs up until he falls of the end of the world.
The third subboss doesn't get much screen time either.


This "room" was hell with Spear dude and took us forever.
The bone snake not only creates loads of lag but also hits you even after you smack him in the face. Taking damage is not an option because the special subweapon is needed for the boss.


Whip guy can reach the bulls from above to reduce lag a bit, Spear dude can't. At least not as long as he has the green spear, which has slightly shorter reach than the normal spear.

2-7, Golem boss

This boss tactic for Spear dude is very cheesy and fast, but leaves him completely drained of crystals. It should be noted that the green explosion does not damage everything on screen: the green shrapnel actually has to hit the enemy. Maybe all the collision checking is what's creating so much lag?
For whip guy, there's a bit more work involved, but nothing difficult. He also uses up most of his crystal stack. Luckily for both there are two autoscrollers in the next stage where you can fill up.
Taking out all sections of the boss makes him disappear faster. Thanks to all the people that pointed this out to us.


Spear dude is low on crystals during this and the following rooms, most enemies cannot be killed easily with only the spear. The two autoscrollers help in stocking up.


Whip guy has to swing through an extra room, but Spear dude goes directly to the subboss. About which there is nothing much to say.


The medusa heads are almost extinct after the slaughter in 2-4. Since they are an endangered spieces, Spear dude decides to dance instead.

3-9, Gargoyle boss

This boss is special. It has 24 HP every "round", when it zooms up on the screen. Surplus damage from one round is not recorded to the next one.
Whip guy manages to hit 25 damage (whip, whip, half-damage axe) before the boss even attacks.
Because of Spear dude's lower damage output the boss escapes from the screen and about a second is lost between every round. He gets a nice combo on the final round though.
The death animation is incredibly laggy. Also the spinning tower is buggy.


Sword skeleton = aggravating. If he begins to attack, he takes two hits instead of one. If he is not killed, he is pretty much guaranteed to interfere with the two last jumps.


Whee! Stanski tipped us off about this bug, but didn't know any way it could be used. That didn't stop us for long. :) We consider this one of the highlights of the run.

4-7, Frankenstein's monster subboss

The subboss doesn't twirl his thing, whatever it is, until you attack or get close enough. Attacking with a subweapon is the fastest way to get him to start, the sooner he does that the sooner you can close in and finish him.

4-8, spinning axe room

Here is the first place we considered taking damage. However, we found a better way to handle the spinning axes. Hitboxes... so glitchy...


Whip guy crushes everything in his path. Spear dude takes a more cautious approach.

4-11, Gear steamer boss

This boss is scary: he starts out with 4352 HP! It gradually decreases as he assembles and is 192 when the fight starts though. The boss decides what to do mainly on his current HP. It goes from: throwing gears -> "swim" -> spin horizontally -> sprint -> go large -> jump and impale head in ground.
Whip guy:
At last the extra damage from the whip swing (16 compared to 10 usually) comes to good use. The first swing saves one hit, the next two swings save another hit. The problem is that swinging often creates lag at this boss. We also made 1- and 2-swing versions, which are only 6-7 frames slower, even though they have to hit an extra time.
We have a version which is 7 frames faster than the movie you see on the next to last hit, but 15 (!) frames behind on the last hit... Yeah.
All in all we made 11 optimized versions of this boss fight, with different tactics.
Spear dude:
Spear dude has to hit the boss 25 times instead of 18. Ungh. He does not have to worry about which mode of attack to use though - the axes give half damage here too and is usually not worthwhile.
When the level ends, if you high jump so that you end up above the screen, you lose your jumping downward attack in the next level. (What?) So we had to skip that from the playaround at the end.


Despite the scary-looking explosion, the pollen from the roses does not damage the player. It only reverses left and right on the controls.


The chandeliers can be made to fall earlier by attacking them. This is only available to Whip guy. (Actually Spear guy can use the axe, but that is slower than just walking up to them.)


The paths diverge here depending on which character you are playing as, and converge again at the subboss three rooms later.


Spear: Luck manipulation is needed to get the harpies to appear at the right time, from the right direction, and to not have them lose their heads which causes heavy lag.
Whip: Lots of swinging here. We experimented until we found the interval of reattaching the whip with the highest mean speed.


Spiral staircase. Gravity works to the advantage of Spear dude here.

5-6, Armor subboss

This boss, like his cousin earlier, can be killed by making him back off the end of the world with the axe attack. Unfortunately the exit does not open this way and you are then trapped in this room forever. :(
If you kill him while he has his arm outstreched, the area it occupied will continue to be dangerous until the boss completely explodes. For this reason it is better to slightly delay killing the boss, so he has time to retract his arm.

5-7, Faces subboss

This boss is unique in that
  1. Every attack does the same amount of damage.
  2. The pause between hits is 32 instead of 31.
Other than that, not much to say. Only the speed in the last round matters, so we play around in the others.

5-8 Moth boss

The boss is not very interesting. It is important to kill it above one of the floating platforms, so that it lands sooner to start its death animation. Unlike the exploding pollen in 5-1, these hurt you.


Keeping one of the crows alive spares us from some lag. They go up in processor power-consuming blue flames when they die.


By cramming in 5 whip swings and one zip in this confusing room we managed to save about 30 frames for Whip guy. The numerous stairs are also helpful for shifting forward a bit.


The boss from stage 1 returns! This time his mode of attack is causing 1-3 frames of lag every time he explodes.

6-6, Boss refights and Death

Boss mayhem! Three refights! And Death! (And later Elizabeth! Twice! And Dracula! Trice!!)
The returning bosses have halved life (or actually you do double damage), so some of the strategies are different than what you saw earlier. Death is a major push-over (only 48 HP) in this game.

6-8, Elizabeth

Elizabeth, then. Her first form has 256 HP (the most in the game!) and takes half damage from subweapons. Because of this and how stationary the boss is, our strategy consist of killing it in the head until it dies.
Elizabeth's second form has 40 HP and takes full damage from subweapons. Hmm. She also only takes damage from the last attack of every round. The previous movies of this game used the boomerang to hit her as early as possible every time she materialized. There are two problems with this strategy:
  1. The boomerang does pitiful damage. The axe can hit her just as fast and twice as hard.
  2. Whip guy can hit her on the first frame she materializes anyway, and Spear dude 3 frames later.
In other words, if we'd had more axes here for Spear dude, that would 3 frames per axe.

6-11, Dracula

First form: completely boring, and there is no way to speed it up. The time between each hit is set in stone (332 frames). Since the first form has 48 HP, Spear dude has to do two more hits than Whip guy, and he loses a tremendous amount of time.
Second form: Some death copy, also 48 HP. As you can see he doesn't die until he finishes his current attack, even if his HP is gone long before that.
Third form: for some reason, he turns into a snake dragon. It never helps. The dragon has three forms, which in order shoot sickles, fire, and bones. Amount of HP is 144. The graphical effects when he gets hit and streches creates a lot of lag, which we didn't find any way to get rid of. There was for some reason slightly less lag if fighting him on the left side of the screen compared to the right side.

What is better: whips or spears?

The graph should be interpreted as "How much ahead is Spear dude?".
We think it's rather incredible that Whip guy came out on top considering his lower walking speed, a long extra room in 3-4, vertical stages like 4-5 and 5-5, the second boss, etc. It was only in the three last boss-heavy rooms that he managed to catch up.

Possible improvements


  • Better lag control throughout the run. We did not think of twitching with Spear dude to remove the flame from the start. It is a lot easier to manage lag in the new Gens 10.
  • Finding the real subpixel RAM position. The one we found only works in scrolling rooms, when the character is in the middle of the screen. Optimizing this could possibly save some single frames here and there.
  • We did not find the fastest method to go up stairs until stage 3.
  • In 4-7 with Spear dude, he inexplicably exited the level 1 frame faster if he had his back turned to it. Perhaps this is usable elsewhere.
  • Use the subweapon-propelled jump to get the red ball with Whip guy more often. Doh.


  • The stair shifting in 1-2 can possibly be improved.
  • Dammit has a better Hellhound fight in his WIP movie.
  • Perhaps Armor battler can be manipulated to time his jumps to when he loses body parts. His position when he dies is better for Whip guy than for Spear dude.
  • For both characters, the floating eye in 3-2 can be passed through using a downstrike and the hitstun trick mentioned above. zggzdydp suggests this saves around 20 frames.
  • For Spear dude, it is likely faster to jump up the stairs in 3-6 than to high jump.
  • For Spear dude in 4-5, zggzdydp claims it it faster (by ~4 frames) to high-jump to the first platform. This is not what our tests showed, but we can of course be mistaken.
  • The Spear dude Gear steamer fight can likely be improved in the part where the boss jumps for the first time.
  • The Spear dude rematch against Gargoyle can be improved one frame.
  • Every extra crystal you pick up with Spear dude saves exactly 3 frames in the second Elizabeth fight. There are some crystals you can pick up in less time than this. There are some crystals we used that saves less time than this. We used 2 crystals to spice up the autoscrollers.
  • Using an axe crash in the first Elizabeth fight saves 4 frames, if you can get the extra axes.

Thanks to

Dan_, Mazzeneko, Mechuyael, Frenom, Titus Kwok, Sir VG, pirate_sephiroth, eternaljwh and everyone who posted happy words in the Bloodlines topic.
Thanks to JXQ, zggzdydp, and Dammit for (probably?) keeping the spear run secret.
Thanks to Upthorn for Gens 9.5 and to Maximus for TAS Movie Editor.
Special thanks to Stanski, for a great Spear dude speedrun on SDA and giving feedback on our progress.

Last Thoughts/In The Future

Truncated: If you think this took a long time, consider how long it would have taken for one person... at least if that one person had been me. Having a partner really helped, both for sharing the workload and for motivating me to soldier on when I hit a stumper. Having two runs made it easy to work in parallel. Also I feel our skillsets complemented each other well. All in all it was a fun time! I hope you enjoy the result!
VANDAL: I had a lot of fun working on this project which was mostly because I was able to work with someone. Sure, it took longer but it sure made the runs extra special. In the future, I hope to work on Bloodlines again with, most likely, Truncated but that won't be for a while, at least on my part. Here's hoping you guys enjoy as it took more than a year to complete. See you all later.

NesVideoAgent: Hi! I am a robot. I took a few screenshots of this movie and placed them here. I'm not sure I got the right ROM though. (I tried Castlevania - Bloodlines (U) [!].gen, which was the closest match to what you wrote.) Well, here goes! Feel free to clean up the list.

mmbossman: Accepting this, alongside its companion, for being all kinds of awesome. Since there are distinct styles of play and several differences in the route taken, I see no reason to not have both Spear Dude and Whip Guy join the TASvideos family.
ShinyDoofy: Processing...

Last Edited by on 1/1/2022 6:13 PM
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