Thursday, July 25, 2024

What Was Awesome About Konami’s Castlevania?

July 20, 2020 by  
Filed under Gaming, Gaming Analysis, News, Platform

( I remember being at my older cousins’ house in the early 1990s and watching them play Skate or Die 2 on Nintendo at one house and Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis two houses down. When you were the youngest and didn’t have your own console or handheld to play, your chance of getting to play when the older kids were playing—pretty slim.

One cousin would play Castlevania which came out in 1986. Early Castlevania games were action platformers. Pretty much slash ‘em ups with a little more to them. I’d watch as he played the game and it was beyond me. I was still on a Super Mario Bros. level. Once I finally got my hands on the game, it opened my eyes to a more involved form of gameplay.

Castlevania’s Gameplay

The series runs with the same core gameplay that brought it to the dance in 1986. The main character arrives at a castle that is either held by Dracula or some other evil. You have to transverse the castle while being cautious of the various monsters and minions released. Then you have to defeat a few bosses before facing the main boss.

In the early games, you mainly jumped and attacked. There was no blocking or defending so your jumping and attacking had to be clutch. The flying Medusa heads and bats could give you trouble as would bosses that take up some of the screen and have far reaching attacks.

It’s a Konami signature if you’ve ever played Contra. Actually, these kinds of bosses were favorites in 80s and 90s gaming. The greatest boss in Konami games was the Konami Knock Back. This was when you would attempt to jump to a platform or ledge only for an attack or monster to not only hit you, doing damage but also knock you back.

This meant you either dropped to the level below but you’re not harmed further or you fall to your death.

In the series,  the main character usually had a whip if they were a Belmont. You also had one power up you could use such as holy water or crosses. Later games would expand this to include a menu and inventory once RPG elements were mixed in.

What I Liked: The Story

The series mainly follows the vampire-hunting family, The Belmonts with Simon being the first one you play as in the series. They wield the whip Vampire Killer which is especially effective against vampires, demons, and the undead. This whip could be upgraded into stronger forms such as the Morning Star.

Early games didn’t totally explain why the Belmonts specifically had to hunt vampires or what their ties were to Dracula. As other games in the series came out, more family members, allies, and foes are introduced. What I loved about the series was that there is a continuing storyline.

I’m big on story in a game and I’m even bigger on all the series existing in a shared universe with a timeline. Now, the future games would introduce more story even though some are set before the original to establish more of the story. This means the games weren’t released in canonical order which is a minor gripe.

Still, there’s always more to add to the series and there’s enough there to adapt it to other media—such as Netflix’s Castlevania. Basically, it’s Universal/Hammer Horror-style horror mixed with fantasy. It’s such a simple formula but Konami did a ton with it.

What I Loved: The Music and Art Style

The early games looked like most other iconic Nintendo games released in the 80s. As the series grew over the years, the graphics improved. Even Konami’s attempts on Nintendo 64—as questionable as they were quality-wise—looked good for the time. What really blew me away art-wise was the official artwork by Ayumi Kojima starting in 1997 with the epic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Her art really brought life to the characters beyond the game in the same way as Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork for the Final Fantasy series.

Another thing I loved was the music. The series always had awesome music and Konami usually had good composers on hand. Music plays a huge part in games but Castlevania is one of a few games I actually leave the music on. It really adds to the horror-fantasy theme going on here.

What were your favorite things about the series? Let us know in the comments as well as your favorite Castlevania game.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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