What is Castlevania by The Successor

astlevania is one of the long standing classic video game series from the 1980's, alongside the likes of Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Mega Man, and The Legend of Zelda. It is one of Konami's oldest and most well known franchises.
It debuted in 1986 on the Famicom Disk System in Japan, under the title Akumajo Dracula, and has been steadily continuing ever since. The series' widespread popularity took off on the Nintendo Entertainment System, receiving 3 successful titles. The games set a standard for action platformers, with well thought out stages and tight control mechanics, demanding painstaking precision from the player.

Iconic horror creatures comprise the bad guy roster in Castlevania, like Frankenstein's Monster and Igor.

The earliest titles in the series drew inspiration from 1920's to 1950's horror films such as Dracula and Frankenstein. They included an array of classic film creatures as enemies and put special emphasis on Count Dracula as the Lord of the undead creatures.
The player's goal was to enter Castle Dracula (also dubbed Castlevania), survive a cadre of horror monsters and climb to the top of the haunted castle, where Dracula awaited. These adventures consisted of linear stages with a boss waiting at the end of each.
It was a frequently used formula for the first 10 years of the series' life. There were, however, sparse deviations, such as the second title in the series, Vampire Killer for the MSX2 home computer, and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Both games allowed more freedom and stressed puzzle solving and exploration.

The protagonists of the series at this point were almost always members of the Belmont Clan of vampire hunters, with Simon Belmont being the most eminent. As vampire hunters, you'd suspect some kind of medieval weaponry to be involved. The Belmonts use an enchanted family heirloom to defeat creatures of the night. A whip known as Vampire Killer.
Every 100 years, Dracula and his castle rise in Transylvania, and it is up to the Belmonts to enter the Castle and slay Dracula in order to put him to sleep for another 100 years before his forces threaten Europe on a large scale, and eventually, the world.

The Belmonts pass the whip and their teachings down through the generations. Players take control of different Belmonts in different games as the series spans several eras in history. Because the immortal Count always returns after 100 years of slumber, it is a sort of curse of the Belmont bloodline to be bound by fate for seemingly eternity, hunting everlastingly.

The Castlevania series hopped from platform to platform with generally the same brand of action game that began on the Famicom Disk System. The series made a name for itself due to its attention to visual and aural presentation, comparatively high, yet conquerable, difficulty, and unique, restrictive control mechanics.

Simon fills the role of silly foil character in Captain N: The Game Master.

From 1989 till 1991, Castlevania was even strongly represented on television in the classic Captain N: The Game Master cartoon. Simon Belmont was a regular starring character, and the world of Castlevania served as the setting for a few episodes.
This was a light hearted parody of Castlevania's characters and tone. Simon was portrayed as a flirtatious and cowardly narcissist, while Alucard, the brooding son of Count Dracula, appeared as a skateboarding rascal.

1997 was the year that monumental changes would first be seen in the series, heralded by the acclaimed title Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the Sony Playstation. With this game came the arrival of Koji "IGA" Igarashi, who served as director, and later, producer. In years to come, IGA would go on to become a stalwart of the series' development team, whose name became nearly synonymous with Castlevania.

IGA wanted to make a Castlevania game akin to the Super Nintendo title Super Metroid. He borrowed the map system and open ended exploration aspects of Metroid and applied them to Symphony of the Night's Castle. The linear stages of past installments were no more, replaced by interconnected areas that one could return to upon passing through, and even open up more places to explore in an old area that were previously out of reach.

Role playing game concepts, such as an item inventory, statistic system, status effects, various equipment and weapons, and a level and experience point system were included. Greater emphasis was placed on story and characters, and the 1950's horror cinema themes of past games were cast aside in favor of theatrical dark romanticism, baroque art, and generally more elaborate presentation.

Key figures in the development process of this period were illustrator/character designer/concept artist Ayami Kojima and music composer Michiru Yamane.

Ayami Kojima gives the Belmonts an update in appearance, shunning the Conan inspired look they began with.

Ayami Kojima played a significant role in giving the image of the series a complete overhaul. The leather clad and muscle bound heroes that had represented the Belmonts for 10 years were replaced by handsome noblemen with flowing jackets and sophisticated clothing.
Instead of depicting Dracula with a Béla Lugosi-like image, he took the image of a regal grandee with an extravagant air about him and somewhat tragic story, as the series explored his origin and motives. There was an effort made to beautify the series, while still illustrating a dark, gothic, and morbid world.

Symphony's gameplay format and aesthetic would be the model for many Castlevania games to come, such as early 00's Gameboy Advance titles, Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow. Each game was given a distinct magic system or gameplay mechanic to differentiate the play experience from others.

The first two Nintendo DS games in the mid 00's kept the same format as Symphony, but regressed to a more basic anime art style in an attempt to appeal to a wider demographic. Order of Ecclesia in 2008 returned to a darker, more serious approach, albeit without Ayami Kojima as illustrator.

In between Symphony of the Night and Harmony of Dissonance, the first game to fully follow in Symphony's footsteps, Castlevania ventured into 3-D on the Nintendo 64 in 1999 with a title simply named Castlevania. This game is commonly referred to as Castlevania 64 to avoid confusion with the first NES Castlevania game, which is usually known as Castlevania, or Castlevania 1. Castlevania 64 is broken up into self contained stages, but they are not completely linear, offering the player a wide breadth of exploration within them.

Castlevania appeared in full 3-D again on the Playstation 2 with Lament of Innocence. This game was strikingly different from the N64 titles, as it was IGA and company's first attempt at a 3-D Castlevania title. It carried over the grandiose aesthetic flair introduced in Symphony of the Night, and non linear level layouts. Its follower, Curse of Darkness, is very similar.

Characters like Aria of Sorrow's Soma Cruz allow a perspective of the Castlevania world aside from that of the Belmont Clan.

During Castlevania's later years, the Belmont Clan was not consistently the focus as much as it had been in earlier times. Playable characters like Symphony's Alucard, Aria of Sorrow's Soma Cruz, and Curse of Darkness' Hector began appearing more often. Nevertheless, the Belmonts' presence remained strong, as they'd frequently appear in the games as supporting characters, and even star in a few, such as Juste Belmont from Harmony of Dissonance, and Leon Belmont from Lament of Innocence.

Castlevania's long history of games is connected by a solid timeline that spans hundreds of years. Most games hold a definite place within the timeline. Remake titles like Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles can either be considered to hold the same place as the original game, offering a different outlook on events, or are negated by the original game.

5 games are not included in the timeline. They are Castlevania 64, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, Castlevania Legends, Castlevania: Circle of Moon, and Castlevania: Order of Shadows. As a result, the events of those games are looked upon as never happening in official Castlevania canon.

Castlevania includes the novel Bram Stoker's Dracula in the timeline. As such, the events of the novel are part of the Castlevania storyline. Castlevania embellishes upon the novel, in particular, retroactively making Quincey Morris a descendant of the Belmont Clan.

While Castlevania draws its influence from literature, such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, and horror cinema, events in actual history play a role in the series, including the Crusades and solar eclipse of August 11th, 1999. Castlevania's world is a parallel to our own, and a meshing of history, myth, literature, film, and religion.

Castlevania interests players for a variety of reasons, such as the bottomless lore found in its locales, creatures, and large storyline. The grand musical scores that unrelentingly raise the bar for video game soundtracks. The awe-inspiring, meticulous visuals, which portray elaborate, decaying, and morbid gothic worlds. The consistently solid mechanics and design. Those are some reasons why Castlevania has been going strong for 20 plus years, and shows no sign of stopping.

If you're one of those who has ignored this series up to now, do yourself a favor and lose yourself into the rich world of Dracula in one of the many Castlevania titles.

Does Castlevania captivate you, but you're not sure where to start playing in a series this large? Never fear. Here is a short list to give you some recommendations on what games to try first. They are selected by quality, impact on the series they have, and how easy they are to get a hold of in today's age.

1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

The most celebrated entry in the series. Its beautiful artistry and phenomenal musical score are guaranteed to impress. Alucard is a joy to control and the sights leave jaws agape. What it lacks in challenge, it makes up for in everything else. Though the original Playstation version is recommended, Symphony of the Night is available on the currently more accessible PSP as an unlockable extra included in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles.

2. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Aria of Sorrow improves on Symphony of the Night in a variety of ways, such as enhanced difficulty, a more developed story, and an innovative magic system allowing considerably more depth and customization.
This is a tighter, better paced game than Symphony of the Night, though not as elaborate in aesthetic design. Nevertheless, it is far from being visually or aurally disappointing. Aria of Sorrow is arguably the best all-around game of the Metroid inspired titles. It is playable on the Gameboy Advance, either by itself, or included with Harmony of Dissonance in the Castlevania Double Pack.

3. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood

It is good to know the series' roots. The legendary Rondo of Blood is perhaps the best the linear action based titles have to offer. It features a whip wielding Belmont trekking to the top of Castlevania to face The Count himself.
This is a great example of the classic, simple ideal of the series' earlier days. It spices up the usual stage based adventure by offering hidden areas that lead to an alternate route towards the final stage. This game offers more flexible controls than the other action based Castlevania games. Alternate routes, hidden maidens waiting for rescue within stages, the ability to unleash special attacks through sub-weapons, and anime shorts interspersed through the adventure make this a choice pick to represent the older titles to new fans. It is available as an unlockable on The Dracula X Chronicles for PSP.

4. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Harmony of Dissonance stars a vampire hunting Belmont in a non linear adventure akin to Symphony of the Night. It is notable for its unique consistent illusory atmosphere. Painstakingly detailed graphics show what the Gameboy Advance is made of and often outshine Aria of Sorrow. Finding one's way through the labyrinthine castle is emphasized in this title more than any other. This game can be found alongside Aria of Sorrow on The Castlevania Double Pack for the Gameboy Advance, or on its own for the GBA.

5. Castlevania

This is the game that started it all! It is worth a try for that alone. Regardless, this game stands the test of time surprisingly well. The graphics, though basic by today's standards, are still enjoyable, and the soundtrack is full of tunes to hum along with. The difficulty is rather high, but can be mastered with practice and effort. You can take Simon for a ride through 6 fright-filled stages on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Gameboy Advance, or Wii Virtual Console.

6. Super Castlevania IV

Many fans of olden times will say this is the best Castlevania out there.
It portrays a surprisingly glum and downtrodden world through its somber graphics and melancholic soundtrack. The controls are more fluid than most of the action titles and it has a good number of clever stages to keep players occupied for a while. It has little story, but says a lot through its admirable presentation alone. This title is available for the good old Super Nintendo, or Wii Virtual Console.

Layout © 2008 The Successor
Flash banner by SenileSnake
Picture frame animated by SenileSnake with art by Diplocephalus and DarkmaneTheWerewolf
This site is in no way connected with Konami.
Chapel of Resonance and content © 2013.