BioGamer Girl: A look at the “CASTLEVANIA” seriesColumns,News Amanda Dyar
The CASTLEVANIA games from developer and publisher Konami dates all the way back to 1986, and if you’re a horror fan, you’ve likely played through several in the series. In total, CASTLEVANIA has seen well over thirty different titles in the last two-and-a-half decades, with some being considered among the all-time greats, while others faring less well. Owing plenty to the classic horror films and literature that came before it, the series has also made several contributions of its own to the genre, as well. Countless references and cameos exist throughout the gaming industry and pop culture, and the series has even managed to produce at least one highly successful fan-made series, and rumors of a high budget film have been circulating for several years now. With the release of CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2 looming (and gracing the cover of FANGORIA #324) and CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW MIRROR FATE having just arrived, Fango presents a brief look back at all that’s come before.
The CASTLEVANIA series has almost always centered on a young monster hunter and their ultimate quest to destroy Count Dracula and his cursed castle. The first debuted for the North American players on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987, and introduced protagonist Simon Belmont of the Belmont family clan. Armed with a powerful whip and various secondary weapons that could be found hidden throughout the game including a cross, holy water and more, Simon would do battle with a wide range of undead creatures, demons, the monster movie equivalent of Frankenstein, the Grim Reaper and other dangerous foes. The original CASTLEVANIA is still regarded as one of the most difficult games ever, as many of the boss battles would become near impossible without the proper equipment.
Only a year later in 1988, Konami released appropriately named CASTLEVANIA II: SIMON’S QUEST. Much like its predecessor, SIMON’S QUEST saw the return of Simon Belmont and was a tremendously difficult game, made even more so by several design issues. Having been horribly wounded after the battle with Dracula in the previous game and cursed by the Lord of Darkness, Simon would need to restore the monster to his original form, defeat him again and seal his dark evil away for good. The game’s plot definitely sounds like a lot of work, and a horrendous mechanic that paused the action while turning all NPCs into monsters during the night made this a nightmare of a game, as did the change in gameplay that included many open world elements of an action role playing game. Needless to say, SIMON’S QUEST is considered among the worst games of all-time
CASTLEVANIA saw several more releases over the next few years. Some were good, while a couple weren’t nearly as well received, but most every release was throw-your-controller-across-the-room tough. It wasn’t until 1997 that longtime fans of the series received a true masterpiece, CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT for Playstation. SYMPHONY took a different route from the traditional formula and starred Alucard, the son of Dracula as the one who would face off the dark master instead of a member of the Belmont family. Alucard was an interesting choice as the game’s protagonist, having previously been a playable character in 1989’s CASTLEVANIA III: DRACULA’S CURSE on the NES and having his own horror origins in the 1943 film SON OF DRACULA. CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT is memorable for so many reasons, from its excellent gameplay that allowed Alucard to find plenty of loot, familiars and upgradeable moves, to the silly dialogue sputtered off between Richter Belmont and the Count. The classic game’s soundtrack also remains widely regarded as one of the best. Not only is it the must play title of this entire series, it helped pave the way for the future as handheld devices continue to innovate the core mechanics introduced in CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY with new characters and storylines.
CASTLEVANIA’s beginnings, influences, monsters and boss battles can be traced through classic horror film and characters like Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves and zombified citizens. The original title also paid homage to horror films with a fake credit roll that included Vram (Bram) Stoker as screenplay writer and Christopher Bee (Lee) as Dracula. Of course, plenty of other horror films and classic literature are referenced throughout the series as well.
The series has made many appearances in other video games over the years, too, including numerous Konami titles, and most recently, THE BINDING OF ISAAC and Zombie Studios’ FROGGER: HYPER ARCADE EDITION. In popular culture, the “What a horrible night to have a curse” quote from CASTLEVANIA II: SIMON’S QUEST has become something of a meme.
Fans have expressed their interest in a full, live-action film based on the CASTLEVANIA series for a long time, and in 2005, Crystal Sky Pictures acquired the rights to produce a picture based on the series. Horror director Paul W.S. Anderson (RESIDENT EVIL) had originally signed on, but in late 2006, the rights in North America were signed over to Rogue Pictures, and the job was passed around to numerous others. Most recently, INSIDIOUS director James Wan was attached to co-write and helm, but that seems to have fallen apart.
In 2012, a handful of dedicated fans, led by director Benji Gillespie, created the original series CASTLEVANIA: HYMN OF BLOOD. The series stars Eric Etebari as Dracula and Rob Norton as Simon Belmont and follows the story of Simon Belmont as the only person powerful enough to vanquish the Lord of the Night and free the Belmont clan from the terrible duty of keeping the monster at bay. Though built on a small budget, CASTLEVANIA: HYMN OF BLOOD has given fans a taste of what they have been craving for so many years, and the film was so successful that it was featured across numerous gaming websites, including IGN’s Start.
The latest in the franchise was CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW—MIRROR OF FATE for Nintendo 3DS. The title presents the classic 2D gameplay the series has been known for and features an epic storyline line that spans generations as players reveal new storylines for Gabriel Belmont, Trevor Belmont, Simon Belmont and Alucard. With LORDS OF SHADOW 2 on the horizon, the future is looking bright for the CASTLEVANIA series. Good news for fans, and terrible for Dracula who’d rather fade into darkness and not have someone trying to kill him every day of his undead life!