Castlevania : My Thoughts on 30 Years of Greatness

No Gravatarcastlevania

This week marked 30 years of the Castlevania series, a series near and dear to my heart. My first time playing this series was actually with Circle of the Moon on the GBA when I rented it while on vacation one year. It didn’t make a lasting impression on me, nor did Harmony of Dissonance some time later. The moment I became enthralled with Castlevania wasn’t actually when I played a game in the series. No, it began when I opened the pages of Gamepro one month and saw a preview of Castlevania Aria of Sorrow. I don’t know why, but once I saw those preview images I knew I had to play this game when it came out. And play it I did, becoming obsessed with finding every secret, getting every soul and so on. This was a game that hooked me and made me a fan of the series.

I did not own the original games on the NES or Super Castlevania IV on the SNES, but thanks to the virtual console, I have been able to play these classics. I think they still hold up well, to an extent. Castlevania 1 is punishingly hard, and 3 is even harder but added so much innovation. Simon’s Quest is of course the black sheep of the series but it did lay the groundwork for what would come later with Symphony of the Night. These are all amazing games on the NES, with the first game being an amazing homage to classic horror cinema, an aspect that while downplayed later on in the series, is still there even in recent entries.

Super Castlevania IV was where the series really got good. It was still hard, but now it was fair. Your failures were your own fault, and the bosses still a challenge but no longer unfair. The music was some of the best in the entire series and everything seemed on a greater scale than before. This continued with Rondo of Blood and Bloodlines. While some feel Bloodlines is not as good as IV, I think it is on equal ground. It had its own contribution to the story and helped make the novel by Bram Stoker canon with the games. It was the goriest entry in the series but also one of the best designed.

Rondo of Blood was the big transition in terms of storytelling. It didn’t just introduce cut scenes, it also introduced hidden stages which was a game changer for the series. It led directly into Castlevania SOTN as well. SOTN changed how the games were played, but it did so by combining what came before in Simon’s quest, Dracula’s Curse and Rondo of Blood, with elements of the Zelda series. It led to that style of games being called metroidvania, instead of just metroidlike.

The series has been put on hold by Konami, and with Koji Igarashi having left, it seems unlikely we will get a new entry. But we do have IGA’s upcoming game, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, to look forward to. Castlevania may have turned 30 this week, but the series still brings in new fans every day!

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