On May 1st 1987, Konami opened us up to the world of the everlasting battle between Dracula and the members of the Belmont clan, introducing us to Castlevania. Taking cues from the monster movies of the early 20’s, Castlevania took the world of platforming and action and created one of the most enjoyable games of all time. Castlevania had players have to think about what they did, instead of trying to just rushing through the game. This, including the great old school villains, made the game enjoyable and engaging to a generation who would eagerly welcome a sequel. The problem is Simon’s Quest wasn’t the sequel most people were looking for.
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest took the vertical platforming of the first game, and turned it to a collection quest, making you look for Dracula’s remains, and introduced a number of cool new gameplay mechanics, including a day and night cycle, and a curse system, that many people may or may not care about. While this game was fun, there was a clamoring to bring the series back to what it used to be, and Konami was able to oblige.
The next two games in the Castlevania franchise, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Super Castlevania IV, Konami went back to the old formula, but added a couple of twists. Castlevania III, instead of being a solitary game, you can now add characters to join your quest to defeat Dracula, including a priestess, a thief, and the Son of Dracula himself. Super Castlevania IV allowed you to not only use the whip, but you are now able to attack from any direction, including diagonally. You are also able to power-up the whip and the sub-weapons for the first time. There was another game in the SNES era, called Dracula X, which was the sequel that we didn’t original get here in America called Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. These two games added different elements to the game, which included using an Item Crash element, which would make your sub-weapon stronger. While these games are great, there was a need to evolve the franchise, and we would see that the next game would be the most influential yet.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night does a fantastic job at not only taking the best from the other games of the franchise, but improving on the formula, vastly. While it carried the same weapon subsystem as the other games, the gameplay style is way more fluid, allowing you to back-dash more simply, and attack while jumping. You can now also attack with Magic Spells. Also taking elements from Simon’s Quest, you can now level-up the character, adding a new strategy to your game, and turning a platforming adventure game, into a full fledge action RPG. They also added branching paths of gameplay, making you span the levels, looking for weapon and armor upgrades. This type of gameplay has now become known as Metroidvania, due to it’s similarity to the Metriod series in exploration.
As the series progressed, the system still stayed in two different forms. The games on the Nintendo systems, both GBA and DS, have adopted the system from Symphony of the Night. They maintain the exploration and gameplay, but add new elements to the story. The other form basically took different cues. The original titles for the N64, Castlevania 64 and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, tried to play like the old games on the SNES but with really bad 3D navigation. After that, the games on the main system, took cues from Devil May Cry, adding more to the hacking and slashing as apposed to the RPG system of the Metroidvania games.
Castlevania is a fantastic game that lasted the test of time. While it hasn’t vastly evolved recently, it still has a formula that feels fresh. Wither it’s your first time entering Dracula’s Castle, or you are a master of the Vampire Killer, this games are always a joy to play.
If you can’t tell about the part with Symphony of the Night, that game is the best in the franchise. As previously stated, the game takes the best of the older games in the franchise, and improved on them vastly. While some of the voice acting is really dated, but it’s awesome. If you haven’t played SOTN, you should as soon as possible.
Castlevania: Judgment is the perfect example of why you shouldn’t do something, just to do it. While Castlevania is a great franchise, it didn’t warrant a fighting game, let alone a fighting game on the Wii. The fighting game element tried to mix some of the gameplay from the main games, with the fighting styles. That was a good start. However, horrible controls, bad voices and ridiculous game design, make this game the black sheep of the family. This is one time that we wish the Belmont clan would have just stayed home.
I know that a lot of people had problems with Simon’s Quest; however that is my personal favorite one. It’s also the first game I had for the NES. I remember playing it with my Grandpa after we had comeback from fishing. We would take turns leaving the town to go fight fishmen, as they constantly spawned. We didn’t know how to level up Simon’s weapons, nor did we care. We were to busy gigging at each other once we died. It was a great night for a curse.