The Retro Critic

Master Of Darkness

Finally, Halloween is upon us and you know what that means: it’s the end of Vampire Month!

Not too long ago, I checked out Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis and, because reviewing another Castlevania game would be somewhat redundant, I thought I’d take a good look at the Sega Master System’s answer to the popular franchise: Master Of Darkness.

If you’re a regular listener of this wonderful site’s wonderful podcast, 1 More Podcastle, then you’ll recall Master Of Darkness as one of the Retro Showdown picks from episode 17.

It lost out to Advanced Lawnmower Simulator

You could call this game a Castlevania ripoff but if you grew up with a Sega Master System, then you couldn’t have cared less. Sure this wasn’t officially a Castlevania game but as its own thing, it was still a very well made game and hardly a rushed, half-baked cash-in.

Dr Social Master Of Darkness

Yes, your character is called Dr. Social.

First name: Anti.

I’m guessing.

You’re basically investigating strange murders which have been going on around London and your search eventually leads you to Dracula, yada yada yada. You know the drill. Then again, the plot may sound standard and boring but they do try to shake things up a bit with Jack The Ripper…

Jack The Ripper

… and living waxwork among other things.

Waxwork Master Of Darkness

As you can tell, the graphics actually look pretty darn good for the Sega Master System and the game constantly shows off its detailed characters and backgrounds as well as its solid animation. Now, I’ll admit that some of the levels are maybe a little bit too detailed to the point where your screen gets a little bit busy:

Church Level

But I’d rather a game looked visually busy than visually derelict so I’d still say that Master Of Darkness is a great-looking game. Maybe even better looking than the first Castlevania game but that’s debatable. Both games go for completely different styles so it’s unfair to compare them in that sense.

The best thing about this game is the bosses.

They’re not amazing-looking or anything, they’re just fun to battle and worthy challenges at the end of each round. They’re also extremely cocky and sure of themselves, which makes defeating them that much sweeter.

First Boss MOD

“ARR!” ?

Purple Pirate Jack The Ripper needs to be taught a lesson.

First Boss 2 MOD

He’s not the only one to laugh maniacally at the prospect of fighting with you, believe it or not.

Boss Lady MOD

This lady also wants to start something, difference is:

She’s got the power of SATAN to help her out!

Boss Lady SkullWell, a big giant head skull, anyway.

No biggie.

Boss Lady Dead

Just realised how violent the above screenshot looks.

Dr. Social doesn’t f*** around.

Count Boss


Don’t these bosses ever learn?

Whatever, this guy’s a bit harder to beat in that he’s got fireballs and teleports but, as with every villain in this game, he’s not too difficult, you just need to be persistent and keep bothering him while avoiding the occasional slow-moving projectile.

There are some weird enemies in this game, including dogs:

Dog Banshee

But the most bizarre has to be the chair:

Chair Fight

Like, seriously? No Frankenstein monsters, no mummies, no werewolves?

No cat people even?

You’ve selected a single CHAIR as this level’s mini boss?

Hm, well I guess if it’s just the one chair I can look the other way…

Table EnemyOh good.

Now the tables and the candle holders are angry.

Somehow, I can’t quite find the right word to express my annoyance at this development.



Yes, that works.

Thank you, angry glowing head purple man.

The writing in the game is actually very good, the story is told well and, at times, even a bit poetically. It kinda feels like you’re playing a novel until this part which, I must admit, did make me chuckle:

Castle Dracula

Castle Dracula 2

You know, I have a feeling this level takes place in Transylvania.

Call it a hunch.

Silly line aside, the writing’s good throughout the game, promise.

Anyway, once you fight off the likes of zombies:

Zombie Master Of Darkness

(don’t mind those spooky floating faces, by the way)

(actually, don’t look at them, they’ll haunt your dreams)

And wave “bye bye” to the Mona Lisa:

Mona Lisa

You finally battle Dracula, who is a bit of a pain to get rid of, but that’s to be expected from a final boss. He clones himself, stuff like that, but if you’ve picked up enough bombs along the way, you should be able to vanquish the vampiric Count soon enough.

Dead Dracula

I would say, all in all, that Master Of Darkness is about as good as some Castlevania games. It’s maybe not as memorable as the NES Castlevania games, as action-packed as Bloodlines or as intricate and fab-looking as some of the later ones but it’s in the middle somewhere: it’s a good game and a decent unofficial Castlevania game.

Plus, if you own a Sega Master System, it’s kind of a must.

Now, whether it’s better than Advanced Lawnmower Simulator I wouldn’t know but chances are, it’s much less lawnmower-ey.

Wishing all you retro dudes and gals a fantastically terrifying Halloween and thanking you for your support during Vampire Month!

I leave you with some deep Master Of Darkness words.

Dracula End Text

Sleep tight.

(don’t trust chairs: chairs BAD)