The State of Castlevania
Posted by Kris Randazzo on Oct 4th 2018
There aren’t many out there who would argue against Castlevania being one of the most revered names in all of gaming. It’s history is as varied as it is deep, but the franchise has found itself in a bit of a slump for the past few years. Things seem to be in motion over at Konami though, and we may be just around the corner from a proper series revival of some sort. Let’s take a look at where the series currently stands.
Castlevania hasn’t exactly been as dark as some other classic gaming brands. There was a rather impressive anime last year that kind of surprised everyone, and the mobile only multiplayer Grimoire of Souls made headlines for being, well, an odd choice for the brand. But more recently than that, Castlevania has made big headlines twice.
First and foremost is its long overdue inclusion in the Smash Bros. universe. Simon and Richter Belmont are playable characters (complete with classic-yet-updated designs), Alucard is an assist trophy, Dracula and various other classic bosses are stage hazards, there’s a Dracula’s Castle stage, and there’s about 857 Castlevania tracks on the game’s soundtrack. Even Death’s scythe is a regular item in the game! Freaking Jigglypuff can wield Death’s Scythe! Really, Konami’s flagship franchise should have been included back in Smash 4 when Capcom’s blue bomber made the roster, but hey, better late than never. And really, it’s hard to complain about it because the way they’ve incorporated Castlevania into Smash is so incredibly well done it’s almost unbelievable.
The second bit of Castlevania news is the slightly baffling Castlevania Requiem. This tidy little package is a mini bundle of the seminal Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the legendary Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. Those two games go together like peas in a coffin (I’m bad at metaphors) so the bundle makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make sense is its PlayStation 4 exclusivity. Xbox One, and especially Switch owners not having access to these games is so backwards it makes my head spin. SotN was available on Xbox 360, as was the online multiplayer Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. These games worked out pretty well for Xbox owners, so them not getting a chance to finally experience the criminally underplayed Rondo of Blood is a real shame. But that lapse in logic pales in comparison to the absurdity of this collection not being on Switch. Rondo of Blood is the story of Richter. You know, that new guy in Smash Bros. who all the younger fans are asking who he is? That’s his game! And unless you managed to pick up the Virtual Console release all the way back on the original Wii, or even the Wii U Virtual Console release of Castlevania: Dracula X, you’re likely in the dark as to why his inclusion in Smash is so cool. And symphony, that game has never been on a Nintendo platform before. The 3 GBA and 3 Nintendo DS Castlevania games are all follow-ups to SotN, and like Final Fantasy VII before it, Symphony just never made its way to Nintendo. Well, FF7 is finally on its way, and with Castlevania being such a big part of Smash Ultimate, easily Nintendo’s biggest game this year, it’s completely bananas to me that Konami wouldn’t want to pump at least a handful of classic releases onto the Switch to capitalize on the hype.
I’ve read that Sony was actually in some way responsible for Castlevania Requiem’s development, which is probably why the game is a PS4 exclusive, but that’s really part of the confusion here. Konami shouldn't need Sony to convince them to re-release these games, they should be doing it themselves, and they should be doing it across all platforms, just like Capcom did with Mega Man.
Look at where Mega Man is today. After several years of the brand laying low, Capcom put together the ultra popular Mega Man Legacy Collections, kicking off a reunion tour for the Blue Bomber. With his biggest games available once again for regular public consumption, now we have the stunning new Mega Man 11, a new animated series, a pair of collections for Mega Man’s most popular offshoot series, a live action movie deal announced, and who knows what else on the horizon. Mega Man is a healthy brand once again and it didn’t exactly take a ton of work on Capcom’s part. Konami and Castlevania should really follow suit, because a proper set of “Legacy Collections” for Castlevania could potentially be even more amazing than the Mega Man ones.
The Mega Man series absolutely features games in its library that the vast majority of gamers have never played. I’m still waiting on a third Legacy Collection that has the Game Boy games and Mega Man & Bass. (And a fourth one with Wily Wars, Game Gear, Soccer, etc.) But the Castlevania series has even more crazy awesome stuff in its history to offer, and if they were to put it all into some nice retro compilations, they could be sitting on quite a tidy profit. It’s honestly crazy to me that they haven’t really done it before. With the exception of the obscure Windows release Konami Collector’s Series: Castlevania & Contra, and that Xbox 360 compilation that put Symphony of the Night, Frogger, and something else weirdly together in one box, I can’t think of any other time where they’ve packaged their legacy content together in a proper collection. Dracula X Chronicles for PSP is the next closest thing, but Symphony and Rondo were more like bonus content for the shiny Rondo remake. Meanwhile, if you look at the fancy new Castlevania website Konami just launched, there’s this great timeline you can look at where you can even select different regions and see the exclusive stuff that hit Japan and Europe. It basically plays out like an ultimate wishlist for a set of collections. Let’s break it down, because hopelessly speculating on unannounced game collections is fun!
Volume 1 can cover th 8 and 16-bit games. Start with the NES trilogy, complete with the ability to play their Famicom incarnations for those sweet soundtracks and minor gameplay variances. Follow it up with Super Castlevania IV for SNES, and Bloodlines for Genesis, the first time that gem has been re-released anywhere. This would also make a great home for the Game Boy titles, including the super-rare Castlevania Legends. Then, for bonus content, hook us up with Vampire Killer for MSX, Kid Dracula for NES and Game Boy, and the arcade game Haunted Castle. And I guess the DOS game, since it’s listed on the website and probably takes up about 12k of memory.
Volume 2 can take us through the Metroidvania era, with Rondo of Blood kicking us off followed by Symphony of the Night. Then we get some nice “HD” versions of the GBA and DS trilogies. (HD in quotes because they don’t need to be remade, just a light remastering to make them look pretty on TV). Bonus content could be Dracula X for SNES and the Saturn version of SotN.
After that things get a little tricky, but if Konami were feeling particularly generous, they could probably fit the remaining games into Volume 3. Castlevania and Legacy of Darkness for Nintendo 64 aren’t exactly well-loved classics, but they have their merits, and should certainly be a part of this whole thing. Then they can hook us up with the good 3D Castlevanias with Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness for PS2. After that, all you’re left with are the oddities, which could really round this collection out. Castlevania Chronicles for PSX, that cool Rondo remake for PSP, Harmony of Despair complete with all the crazy online play, Encore of the Night for the puzzle fans, and finally, the WiiWare exclusive Castlevania: The Adventure REBIRTH, which is quite possibly the least-played Castlevania game, and one that’s well worth the time to enjoy. That does leave out Castlevania Judgment for Wii and that terrible mobile phone game Order of Shadows… but I’m okay with that.
Yeah, I can live without seeing these two ever again.
Then if they really wanted to, they could do a Volume 4 with the three Lords of Shadow games. They’re a different continuity, so I wouldn’t be terribly offended if they didn’t collect them together, but two of the three never saw release on Nintendo platforms before, so I’m sure Switch owners would eat them up, given the opportunity. (I know I would.)
How hard was that? If Capcom can put together Mega Man Legacy Collections on all three modern platforms, there's no reason Konami can’t do the same. Of course, with Castlevania Requiem coming out, a series of Legacy Collections is probably every possible flavor of unlikely, but hey, it’s fun to speculate, right? And really, how great would that be? To have the complete Castlevania collection, weirdo offshoots and all, collected and packaged for all major platforms to enjoy? The anime series on Netflix was fantastic, and season 2 has a ton of hype behind it. The Belmonts sitting pretty on the Smash Bros. roster is going to give the franchise unbelievable amounts of exposure, and Requiem, no matter how weird it is that it’s an exclusive, is already making plenty of waves. If Konami plays their cards right, the future of Castlevania could be very bright.
The launching of that new Castlevania website (and the apparent complete disregard for Grimoire of Souls) certainly makes it seem like Konami wants to follow in Capcom’s footsteps. With the right talent involved, a brand new modern Castlevania in the original mythology could be truly amazing, but the smart move would absolutely be to leverage the franchise’s history a little bit more. There’s real demand for older Castlevania titles, and there are so many out there that so few people have actually played, new collections could get some great games some of the exposure they deserve. Having faith that Konami will do right by the franchise isn’t the easiest thing to do, but maybe, just maybe, there will be many horrible nights to have a curse to come.