Castlevania

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Castlevania
Castlevania logo.png
The current logo of the Castlevania series, introduced with 2003's Lament of Innocence.
Genre(s)Action-adventure
Developer(s)
Publisher(s)Konami
Platform(s)
First releaseCastlevania
September 26, 1986 (1986-09-26)
Latest releaseCastlevania Anniversary Collection
May 16, 2019 (2019-05-16)

Castlevania[a] (/ˈkæsəlˌvniə/) is an action-adventure gothic horror video game series created and developed by Konami. It has been released on various platforms, from early systems to modern consoles, as well as handheld devices such as mobile phones.[2][3] The franchise has also expanded into other media, including comic books,[4] an animated TV series and several spin-off video games.[5]

Castlevania is largely set in the eponymous castle of Count Dracula, the main antagonist of the Belmont clan of vampire hunters.[6] It debuted with 1986's Castlevania for the Nintendo Family Computer Disk System.[7][8] The first entry and the majority of its sequels are side-scrolling action platformers, and were later succeeded by the 1997 game, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Originally released for the PlayStation, it returned to the nonlinear gameplay seen in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, which introduced RPG elements and exploration.[9] Several installments later adopted Symphony of the Night's gameplay, and along with Super Metroid, it has popularized the Metroidvania genre.[10] 2010 saw the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, a 3D action-adventure reboot of the series developed by MercurySteam[11] and Kojima Productions.[12]

It is one of Konami's most critically acclaimed franchises[13] and also one of the best-selling of all time.[14]

Games[edit]

Timeline of release years
Original series in green
Lords of Shadow series in yellow
1986Castlevania
Vampire Killer
1987Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
1988Haunted Castle
1989Castlevania: The Adventure
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
1990
1991Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
Super Castlevania IV
1992
1993Castlevania (Sharp X68000)
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
1994Castlevania: Bloodlines
1995Castlevania: Dracula X
1996
1997Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania Legends
1998
1999Castlevania (Nintendo 64)
Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness
2000
2001Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Castlevania Chronicles
2002Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
2003Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
2004
2005Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
2006Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
2007Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
2008Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
2009Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth
2010Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
2011
2012
2013Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate
2014Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

Many Castlevania titles have been released for markets in Japan, North America, Europe and Australia on various video game consoles, personal computers (PC) and mobile phones, with additional remakes and re-releases.[15] The first console title, Castlevania, was released on the Famicom Disk System in 1986 and then in North America in 1987 on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).[8] A 2D sidescrolling action game where the player progresses through six stages, many principal features of the Castlevania series originated with it.[16] It has since been ported to many platforms, such as the NES Classic Edition.[17] Also released in 1986 was Vampire Killer for the MSX home computer, which played significantly different from the original Castlevania, where players now had to search for the exit before they could proceed to the next stage.[18] Following that year, in 1987, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest further departed from the standard platforming genre of the first Castlevania for a game more similar to the nonlinear gameplay of Metroid, with several RPG elements such as a world map which the player is free to explore and revisit.[19][20] Castlevania's first arcade game, Haunted Castle (1988), returned to the linear platforming gameplay of the original.[21] This continued with the first handheld Game Boy entry, Castlevania: The Adventure[22] and the NES sequel, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, both released in 1989. Dracula's Curse added new features to the original gameplay, including alternate stages and multiple playable characters.[23] The Adventure later saw a Game Boy sequel, Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge, in 1992 and also a remake developed by M2 for the WiiWare service in 2009.[15]

The franchise's first 16-bit home console game, Super Castlevania IV, was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in 1992.[5] A Castlevania title for the Sharp X68000 home computer was exclusively released in Japan in 1993 and would not be available in English until Castlevania Chronicles (2001) for the PlayStation.[24] During the same year, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood was released for the PC Engine and was also not localized in English until it was included with Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (2007) for the PlayStation Portable.[15] The first Castlevania produced for a CD-ROM, Rondo of Blood featured Red Book Audio and fully voiced dialogue.[25] The game's content would be reused in Castlevania: Dracula X, a new game for the SNES in 1995.[24] Castlevania: Bloodlines (1994) was the first Castlevania entry produced for a Sega console, the Genesis, and was not re-released until 2019 on the multi-platform Castlevania Anniversary Collection.[26][27]

In 1997, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Castlevania Legends were launched for the PlayStation and Game Boy, respectively.[15] Symphony of the Night introduced a major change to the gameplay, incorporating RPG elements and a non-linear map that the player could freely explore, which was previously seen in Simon's Quest and Nintendo's Metroid series.[19][28] This would be the gameplay for several future titles, beginning with the Game Boy Advance entries Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow, which were released from 2001 to 2003.[15] Aria of Sorrow received a 2005 sequel for the Nintendo DS, which was later followed by Portrait of Ruin (2006) and Order of Ecclesia (2008).[15]

Under the development of Konami's Kobe branch, the first game in the series to employ 3D graphics was Castlevania for Nintendo 64 in 1999, and it soon received an expansion called Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness later that year.[25] In 2003, the next 3D Castlevania title, Lament of Innocence debuted for the PlayStation 2 with combat-oriented hack and slash gameplay that drew comparisons to Devil May Cry and God of War.[29][30] It was followed two years later by another PlayStation 2 title, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness.[15] A reboot of the Castlevania series premiered with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (2010), a multi-platform 3D action title developed by MercurySteam and co-produced by Metal Gear's Hideo Kojima.[11] Two sequels, Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (2013) and Lords of Shadow 2 (2014) have also both received multi-platform releases.[15]

Spin-offs[edit]

Castlevania has spawned numerous spin-offs, the first being the 1990 platformer, Kid Dracula for the Famicom, a parody which stars the titular character.[31] It was also re-released for the Castlevania Anniversary Collection (2019) for the first time in English.[27] The game later received a sequel in for the Game Boy, also titled Kid Dracula.[5] Castlevania's first multiplayer online fighting game, Castlevania Judgment debuted for the Wii in 2008 and was developed by Eighting.[15] Another multiplayer online title, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, was available cross-platform in 2010, where players could play as past Castlevania characters and explore stages.[32] A new game for iOS called Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls was announced by Konami on 17 April 2018, a multiplayer title starring previous Castlevania cast members.[33]

Arcade and slot machines have been produced for the series. Castlevania: The Arcade (2009), a light gun shooter utilizing an LED remote, has only been released in Japan and Europe.[34] The Japanese spin-off series, Pachislot Akumajō Dracula, is a Pachislot line of Castlevania titles released between 2009 and 2017.[35] The first three are based on the video game Dracula's Curse, while a fourth game based on the Lords of Shadow reboot, Pachislot Akumajō Dracula: Lords of Shadow, was made available in 2017.[36]

Castlevania characters and elements have also appeared in crossovers and other titles such as Konami Wai Wai World, Contra: Hard Corps, Konami Krazy Racers, DreamMix TV World Fighters, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.[37]

Common elements[edit]

Gameplay[edit]

Screenshot of Castlevania on the NES.

Castlevania, released for the NES in 1986 is a typical platform game in which the player takes the role of Simon Belmont, a descendant of the Belmont clan, a family of vampire hunters. He travels to Dracula's demonic castle, Castlevania, and fights his way through the castle annihilating Dracula himself and the castle. Belmont's main weapon is a whip called "Vampire Killer", while the secondary weapons are powered by Hearts, collected by destroying candles and killing monsters. Secondary weapons available are Daggers, Holy Water (Fire Bomb), Flying Axe, Stop Watch and the Cross (Boomerang). Hidden items such as power-ups and food (health replenishment) items are also found by attacking walls within the levels, a feature inspired by Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. with countless hidden items across the game's levels.

Vampire Killer, released in 1986 for the MSX computer, took a departure from the traditional platforming gameplay of Castlevania, instead introducing an open-ended form of gameplay. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest featured non-linear gameplay more open-ended than that of Vampire Killer and Metroid, with several exclusive elements such as a world map the player was free to explore and revisit. The player could also purchase supplies, equipment and weapon upgrades in several different towns, making it more like an action role-playing game. It also introduced a persistent world with its own day-night cycle that affects when certain NPCs appear in certain locations and offered three possible endings depending on the time it took to complete the game. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse for the NES has more in common with the original NES Castlevania, added new features, including non-linear elements such as alternate branching paths with different stages and alternate endings depending on the player's choices, as well as multiple player characters.

A turning point in the gameplay mechanics of the series was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Expanding on the open-ended style of gameplay previously used in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Symphony of the Night's style of gameplay has been termed "Metroidvania" due to its similarities with the non-linear and exploration-focused side-scrolling games of the Metroid series. It also used role-playing video game elements, such as collectible weapons, armor and hidden orbs. Many subsequent Castlevania games have since followed this template.

Plot and setting[edit]

Castlevania series fictional chronology
Original series

1094Lament of Innocence
1476Dracula's Curse
1479Curse of Darkness
1576The Adventure / The Adventure ReBirth
1591Belmont's Revenge
1691Castlevania / Vampire Killer / Haunted Castle / Super Castlevania IV / Chronicles
1698Simon's Quest
1748Harmony of Dissonance
1792Rondo of Blood / Dracula X / The Dracula X Chronicles
1797Symphony of the Night
1862Order of Ecclesia
1917Bloodlines
1944Portrait of Ruin
2035Aria of Sorrow
2036Dawn of Sorrow

Lords of Shadow series

1047Lords of Shadow
1073-1101Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate
1102–2057Lords of Shadow 2

Sources:[38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45]

The Castlevania franchise heavily references the iconic horror movies produced by Universal Pictures and Hammer Film Productions.[6] When doing research for the animated 2017 TV adaptation, author Warren Ellis called the series "a Japanese transposition of the Hammer Horror films I grew up with and loved".[46] Werewolves, mummies, Frankenstein's monster, and Count Dracula himself make recurring appearances.[6] Alucard, first introduced in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, is also a reference to the character of the same name from the 1943 film, Son of Dracula.[47] The games also include folklore and mythological monsters such as Medusa,[48] as well as direct references to literary horror.[49] Castlevania: Bloodlines explicitly incorporates the events of Bram Stoker's Dracula into the series,[50] and the recurring character Carmilla is based on the 1872 novel by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.[51]

Castlevania mainly takes place in the castle of Count Dracula,[6] who resurrects every hundred years to take over the world.[52] With the exception of some games, the players assume the role of the Belmonts, a clan of vampire hunters who have defeated Dracula for centuries with the Vampire Killer.[24] The Vampire Killer is a legendary whip that is passed down to their successors and can only be used by them.[24] In Castlevania: Bloodlines, the whip has been inherited by John Morris, the son of Quincey Morris, who is a distant descendant of the Belmonts.[50] Other recurring characters throughout the series include the dhampir Alucard, who sides with Trevor Belmont against his father Dracula in Dracula's Curse.[53] Trevor is also joined by Sypha Belnades, a vampire hunter who fights using magic and marries Trevor by the end of the game.[54] Descendants of the Belnades clan, such as Carrie Fernandez[55] and Yoko Belnades, would also make appearances as playable characters in later titles.[56]

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a reboot of the franchise, with its first game set during Southern Europe in the Middle Ages.[57] The main character, Gabriel Belmont, is a member of the Brotherhood of Light, an elite group of holy knights who defend people from supernatural creatures.[58] With a retractable chain whip called the Combat Cross, Gabriel fights a malevolent force known as the Lords of Shadow in order to obtain the God Mask, which he believes can bring back his deceased wife.[11] In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate, Gabriel stars as Dracula, the main antagonist of Simon and Trevor Belmont.[59] The sequel, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is set during modern times, where Dracula is now looking for a way to put an end to his immortality.[60]

In 2002, the games Castlevania Legends, Circle of the Moon and Castlevania (1999) were retconned from the official chronology by Koji Igarashi, a move that was met with some resistance by fans.[61] Igarashi noted the reason for Circle of the Moon's removal was not due to his non-involvement with the game, but instead the intention of the game's development team for Circle of the Moon to be a stand-alone title.[62] The "20th Anniversary Pre-order Bundle" for Portrait of Ruin in 2006 featured a poster with a timeline that re-included Circle of the Moon and Castlevania (1999),[63] but Konami still excluded them from the canon on their official website in 2007.[38]

Development[edit]

Art style[edit]

Ayami Kojima's art was introduced in Symphony of the Night, and has been featured in a few other titles. Years later, the first two Castlevania games for the Nintendo DS returned to the anime style used in the original Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, among other titles, in hopes of broadening the player demographic and discouraging slightly younger Nintendo DS owners from being put off by Kojima's art.[64] Dawn of Sorrow was the first game to do this, and the second DS release Portrait of Ruin followed with the same style.[65]

In 2007, Koji Igarashi stated that if The Dracula X Chronicles did well, the series may return to the more traditional style of the original games.[66]

Localization[edit]

In Japan, the series is known as Akumajō Dracula (悪魔城ドラキュラ, Akumajō Dorakyura, translated Demon Castle Dracula).[1] However, not every installment of the franchise had that title. For example, the first two installments for the Game Boy were released under the title Dracula Densetsu and the game known in North America as Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was originally released in Japan as Akumajō Densetsu. Castlevania: Bloodlines was also released as Vampire Killer in Japan. Starting with the release of Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance for the Game Boy Advance, the Japanese games adopted the Castlevania (キャッスルヴァニア, Kyassuruvania) name for a brief period. According to series producer Koji Igarashi, the developers chose to adopt the Castlevania title as a way to involve scenarios that do not solely revolve around Dracula himself.[67] After some demand from fans in Japan, Konami returned to the Akumajō Dracula title with the Japanese release of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. However, Konami chose not to use Akumajō Dracula on the Japanese title of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series for the lack of involvement of Dracula, though this was returned with the Japanese release of Lords of Shadow 2 where Dracula was portrayed as a central character.

The series is also known for the differences between the Japanese and English language versions. Particularly in earlier installments, the localization process usually censored a heavy share of violence, nudity and religious imagery. Removal of such material is prevalent in titles released for Nintendo platforms such as Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania: Dracula X, because of Nintendo of America's censorship policies at the time.[68][69] Castlevania: Bloodlines, for the Genesis, was retitled Castlevania: The New Generation for European and Australian releases to avoid the reference to blood used in the North American title.[70] In addition, blood was re-colored, the gore was removed and the death scene of a character was changed in the European version.[71]

Music[edit]

The music for the first Castlevania game was composed by Satoe Terashima and Kinuyo Yamashita,[72][73] of Konami's Kukeiha Club of composers, shortly after graduating from college. Yamashita was credited under the pseudonym James Banana for her work on the Disk System version of the game.[74]

Most of Castlevania's music changes from game to game, but some themes recur often. These include "Vampire Killer", composed by Terashima, "Bloody Tears" (血の涙, Chi no Namida), first composed by Kenichi Matsubara, and "Beginning" by Jun Funahashi. These three tracks first appeared in Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest and Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse respectively. Several songs, including "Vampire Killer" and "Bloody Tears", were also featured in the soundtracks of other Konami games, including Konami Wai Wai World, Contra: Hard Corps and Konami Krazy Racers, and inter-company crossovers such as DreamMix TV World Fighters and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Rap group Army of the Pharaohs also used a sample of the song as a background for their song, also called "Bloody Tears".[75]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Aggregate review scores
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Castlevania
70.92% (GBA)[76]
Simon's Quest
The Adventure
55.07%[77]
Dracula's Curse
Belmont's Revenge
83.50%[78]
Super Castlevania IV
82.06%[79]
Bloodlines
83.50%[80]
Dracula X
71%[81]
Symphony of the Night
93.03%[82]
93 [83]
Legends
52.88%[84]
Castlevania 64
72.71%[85]
78 [86]
Legacy of Darkness
63.80%[87]
Circle of the Moon
88.32%[88]
91 [89]
Chronicles
73.53%[90]
69 [91]
Harmony of Dissonance
85.12%[92]
87 [93]
Aria of Sorrow
87.86%[94]
91 [95]
Lament of Innocence
78.72%[96]
79 [97]
Dawn of Sorrow
90.35%[98]
89 [99]
Curse of Darkness
70.37% (PS2)[100]
70 (PS2)[101]
Portrait of Ruin
84.98%[102]
85 [103]
The Dracula X Chronicles
81.40%[104]
80[105]
Judgment
51.59%[106]
49 [107]
Order of Ecclesia
85.67%[108]
85 [109]
The Adventure ReBirth
81.10%[110]
82 [111]
Encore of the Night
74.88% (iOS)[112]
80 (iOS)[113]
Harmony of Despair
70.96% (Xbox 360)[114]
66.88% (PS3)[115]
68 (PS3)[116]
67 (Xbox 360)[117]
Lords of Shadow
82.70% (Xbox 360)[118]
83.33% (PS3)[119]
77.40% (PC)[120]
85 (PS3)[121]
83 (Xbox 360)[122]
81 (PC)[123]
Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate
71.81% (3DS)[124]
74.00% (Xbox 360)[125]
63.75% (PS3)[126]
72 (3DS) [127]
73 (Xbox 360)[128]
70 (PS3)[129]
Lords of Shadow 2
71.00% (Xbox 360)[130]
63.12% (PS3) [131]
58.10% (PC)[132]
70 (Xbox 360)[133]
63 (PS3)[134]
60 (PC)[135]

The Castlevania franchise had sold over 20 million copies woldwide as of 2006.[136] The franchise has received mostly positive reviews, with the most acclaimed game being Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation and the most panned being Judgment, with aggregate scores of 93 and 49, respectively, on Metacritic and 93.38% and 52.71%, respectively, on GameRankings.

Many of the games have appeared on lists of "best games ever". Symphony of the Night appeared at #16 on IGN "Top 100 games" and was one of the first to be introduced on the GameSpot "The Greatest Games of All Time". Both acclaimed the game to successfully making a game in 2D while the industry was moving to 3D.[137][138] Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was named the 9th best 8-bit game by GameTrailers.[139] Super Castlevania IV was named the 11th best game of the SNES by ScrewAttack on their "Top 20 SNES Games".[140] The series as a whole was also named one the 4th best franchises in game ever by IGN, behind only Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda and Mario, and citing Super Castlevania IV and Symphony of the Night as highlights.[141] Aria of Sorrow was also named the 2nd best game on the Game Boy Advance and one of the must buys for the system, according to the same website.[142][143] Castlevania and Circle of the Moon appeared on Nintendo Power's "Top 200 Games" list.[citation needed] Trivia about the series has also been mentioned in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008.[144][145]

In other media[edit]

Simon Belmont was one of the stars in the animated series Captain N: The Game Master.[146] He was a member of the N-Team, a group of mostly video game characters who defended Videoland against the antagonist Mother Brain from Metroid. Dracula, referred to only as "the Count", also appeared as a villain in Captain N. Alucard appeared in one episode, though he was portrayed as a rebellious skateboarding teenager. Several other Castlevania monsters had minor roles, including Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, and the Skull Knight. Simon is portrayed as egotistical on the show and his physical appearance differs from his design in the video game series.

Plans to make a film based on Castlevania had been in production for several years. However, in December 2007, Rogue Pictures halted active development of Castlevania due to the writers' strike and, later, the sale of the studio to Relativity Media and possibility of a screen actors' guild strike.[147] On May 27, 2009, the Castlevania film was reported as officially canceled.[148]

In 2005 IDW Publishing released a comic book adaptation, Castlevania: The Belmont Legacy, written by Marc Andreyko with art by E. J. Su. It was based on Castlevania: The Adventure.[4] In 2008, a graphic novel adaption of Curse of Darkness was released by Tokyopop in English.[149]

The streaming service Netflix released an American animated series titled simply Castlevania as part of its original programming.[150] The show is being showrun by Adi Shankar,[151] who had previously teased plans for an animated mini-series based on Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse in 2015,[152][153] and is written by Warren Ellis.[154] Fred Seibert and Kevin Kolde also co-produce.[151] The series is animated by Seibert's Frederator Studios and Powerhouse Animation Studios,[151] under Michael Hirsh's Wow Unlimited Media company. The show's first season released on July 7, 2017 and ran for four episodes, while the second season premiered on October 26, 2018 and ran for eight episodes.[155][156][157] A ten-episode third season is currently in development.[158]

The franchise also has its own toy line manufactured by NECA which consists of six figures of Simon Belmont, Alucard, Dracula (available in two variants with one variant with its mouth closed and another one with its mouth open showing Dracula's vampire fangs), Succubus and a Pixel Simon mini figure which was exclusively available as a promotional item at Comic-Con 2007 where the figures were first shown in full form.[159][160]

The franchise also consists of a calendar of Lament of Innocence available with the limited edition of the game and containing seven illustrations[161] and another released as a promotion for Castlevania Judgment from April 2009 – March 2010 containing images of various Castlevania characters from the game.[162] Artbooks of many games[161] have also been released. The franchise also contains comics, prize collection artworks of Symphony of the Night and Judgment as part of its print media.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Known in Japan as Akumajō Dracula (悪魔城ドラキュラ, Akumajō Dorakyura, lit. Demon Castle Dracula)[1] and also as Castlevania (キャッスルヴァニア, Kyassuruvania)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Konami (2010-08-04). Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. Konami. Japanese: 歴代の「悪魔城ドラキュラ」シリーズから選ばれた登場キャラクターを操作して、仲間たちと悪魔城に乗り込み、宿敵ドラキュラ伯爵に立ち向かおう。 English translation: Take control of past protagonists from the Castlevania series to brave the Demon Castle alongside friends and defeat the ancient enemy Count Dracula.
  2. ^ "Windows Mobile – PocketGear.com: Mobile Apps, Software & Games for Windows Mobile, Symbian, Blackberry, Android, Palm and Java devices!". Classic.pocketgear.com. Archived from the original on 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
  3. ^ "Konami Mobile". Konami Mobile. Archived from the original on 2008-06-03. Retrieved 2010-08-11.
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External links[edit]