When most people think of Dracula and video games they probably think of Castlevania, and rightly so. It is no surprise then that this old Game Gear game shares many similarities with that venerable series. Of course, instead of playing as someone cool like the Belmont Family members you get to play as some guy named Dr. Social (I'm docking 2 points from the score for bad name) who appears to be wearing a pink shirt (another two points for that).
Of course, this is irrelevant as are the excellent graphics. There is plenty going on in the backgrounds, the sprites are big and colorful, the cut scenes are very tasteful and stylish and screen blur is rarely an issue. In fact, the graphics in Vampire: Master of Darkness fall into the pitfall that it can sometimes be hard to determine what can be interacted with. Also totally not having anything to do with the quality of the game is the music, which was very good in parts (though it seems to be missing many sound effects it really should have). The really important thing here is gameplay, which is also where we get to talk about how similar it is to Castlevania.
Vampire: Master of Darkness is a side-scroller where you find many enemies who are attacking you because they are compelled to by the forces of darkness. Hmm, sounds like Castlevania, but that's pretty broad. You also get to carry main and secondary weapons which can be attained by destroying strange floating objects. Sounds like Castlevania, though now you can't pick up your old weapon if you wanted it. Actually, that's where the similarities end (aside from the general look of the game). Still, the most noticeable difference is that while Castlevania games often feature very Metroid-esque level design (with lots of backtracking) this is "a linear sequence of scares" as Max Payne would put it. It's as if Castlevania came in a small bite size form. This would be nice if there was a save feature, but instead you have to get back to whichever "round" you were on last time the old fashioned way. Luckily you can go back to the start of the rounds you were on when you die without having to do it all again.
The only other real problem I have with this game is with the difficulty level. While the first level is good, the learning curve goes straight up from there. In fact, it took me three attempts to kill the first boss ... but, I didn't die at all getting to him. Furthermore, whoever designed the bat AI was both stupid and a jerk. The bat frequently flies in completely the wrong direction but even then, killing them is nearly impossible. It's hard to play a game with something damaging you every two seconds unless you jump over it. It's actually rather like playing with a jump rope while fighting zombies. Anyone who can mod Game Gear games, get busy on that right now!
To sum up, this is a fun game with high production values and some derivative but fun gameplay a good dose of style and the ability to whack to zombies with a cane. It has an extremely steep difficulty curve, but as a portable game, that's not such a big issue since you will certainly enjoy coming back to this one.