If you are old enough to remember the name Soleiyu or the Password HEART HEART HEART HEART you probably understand it when I talk about overlooked gem.
For those of you who have no idea what I talk about, let us journey back to 1791 to the rumanian countryside of Transylvania. Or, in short, CASTLEVANIA.
Castlevania originates from the Latin Castelo and the dutch Vania, meaning Castle in the Woods. Pretty straight forward if you ask me. It’s original japanese name would be Akumajou Dorakuya – Demon Castle of Dracula. And that pretty much sums up what the Series is about.
Usually, you are a lone vampire hunter of sorts, traversing the castle to kill Dracula. And while this may sound bland, borign and uninspiring to todays Halo generation, those games basically are about the same – just replace Dracula with the Aliens and you are good to go.
Now, the Castlevania series started in 1985 with the MSX game Vampire Killer. However, it was not until 1986, when the USA first got their hands on Castlevania, for the NES. It was introduced in 1987 for the NES aswell and only one year later for the MSX, if at all. This ends an age old debatte which came first: MSX or NES. In japan, that honor goes to the MSX, in the rest of the world, it was the NES game.
As with all successful games, sequels followed in form of direct sequel, prequel and spinoffs. During the nineties, more than ten games were released for various systems, including ports. It was only at the dawn of the new age of gaming, the 3D age, that the series lost its stamina and fell into oblivion.
Castlevania for the N64 was the first 3D game, and a moderate success. While some may not believe it, the game was actually rather well recieved by critics, scoring arond the 8 out of 10 mark. It sequel was more a special edition, and was recieved with mixed reviews. After a short break from 3D gaming, the PS2 games were introduced. and while the first of the batch was rather well recieved, the second one, again, not so much.
The last 3D Castlevania game was the underrated Wii fighting game. While many simply ignored the game for the sheer fact that it is unknown to modern audiences, those who still remembered the name were off-put by the atrocious character designs. However, both fractions missed out, as this game is better than one might actually expect. It’s not Soul Calibur, but it is fun. And filled with fan service. And horrible character designs. But that is not the point.
The next and probably final attempt at Castlevania 3D finally comes this fall, with the Ps3/X-Box 360 game Lords of Shadows. And finally, I can tell you why YOU should care.
If you unerstood my nice little introduction, you might care because this game COULD bring the franchise back to its former glory. Developed by a rather unknown team with the backup of Kojima productions, the game goes the Reboot route, similar to James Bond. And it worked very well for Bond. The game is set during the 11th century, and features a nice little twist on the classic Dracula premise. Famous voice actors play the characters, that range from Belmonts to new faces and even include Cornell. This alone is a reason to believe in the game, for Cornell is one of the best characters this franchise has ever seen. And Patrick Steward.
For the rest of you ill fated, who did not ever play Belmont’s Revenge here is something for you. The game is set in Medieval Europe, and combines various folklorial creatures and mythical shennigans into one neat package. It is an action game in the truest sense, with ots of melee combat and well executed designs. Sure, by now some of you googeled the trailer and will tell themselfs: Oh, it is a God of War clone. But truth is, God of War actually is a Castlevania clone and furthermore, the two latest games are not so common after all. Castlevania for instance does not rely on the cheap “lets fill the screen with virtual blood” gimmick Sonys series is about. The games were always known for their difficulty, well played level designs and outstanding musical score – something that was absent all together from God of War.
Mind you, i do like God of War. In fact, when I first played the first and third game, i was rather obsessed. But I always felt something was missing. Except for a plot that is… And I believe Castlevnaia will deliver the missing bits. With the violence scaled down to a believable level, and high production values, this game combines modern cutting edge 3D visuals with smooth and defining gameplay, well voiced dialogue and a stunning soundtrack. The promise of returning characters, musical cues and hints to the classic canon should be enough info for anyone who even remotely remembers Castlevania to be good to actually go out and buy this game when it hits later this year.
For everyone else, I can only say that there is a good reason this franchise still exists after more than twenty years. And that this game will pack a punch, since it is the very last chance the series will ever get on a 3D game. If this flops, Castlevania is doomed to stay on portables. And while almost all of the Portable entries in the series are more than awesome, it would be a shame for this once glorious name to become even more niche than it was the last ten years.