“Why do we remember Castlevania so fondly?”

During a past PSN Sale, I bought a few games for my PS Vita, Dracula X Chronicles and Symphony of the Night. Now, I have played Symphony of the Night on the old PS1, played it on my 360, and now have it again. That will always be a great game, deep, but great. Dracula X on the other hand? Damn is that game hard. I have been through the same area probably 30 times, stairs, flying skulls and spines, rolling boulders, little imp fuckers. AAAAAHHHHHHH! Castlevania has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts recently with the Netflix series (really well done, I might add), and it made me nostalgic. I figured, “Dracula X leads into Symphony of the Night, why not play them in order?” It’s not that it isn’t enjoyable, it’s just the controls feel wonky. The backflip has actually hurt me more than helped (double jumping would have been preferable), the enemies seem to fly in no discernible pattern, long story short, it’s aggravating.

Let’s get something straight, I am an old school Castlevania fan. From the NES, to the Gameboy, Advance, SNES, N64, even some of the Genesis games I have played damn near all of them. I liked Lords of Shadow, and feel it was a solid update. Anyone who has played Castlevania 3 recognizes the characters in the Netflix series. That really excited me, as I loved 3. My hands down favorite. Oddly enough, 3 was the only one I beat all the way through. 2 was a different story, that one, all you had to use was a password and follow the easy way out to beat it.

The Gameboy games were a different story. Way back when in the days of monochrome screens and no backlight, even the controls felt like they were against you. Extremely unforgiving jumps, enemies, etc. Resource/health management was more than vital. They also introduced a non-Simon (female) Belmont during the Gameboy days. This eventually became the norm, as Trevor, Richtor, and even non-Belmonts became the norm. Speaking of Non-Belmonts, don’t forget Alucard, the son of Dracula was a member of the Team in Castlevania 3, and the lead in Symphony of the Night.  He takes center stage in 1 of my 2 favorite games in this long running series. Coincidence? I’m not sure, but he definitely brings a different characterization. No whip, just a sword and shield or fireballs. He even turns into a bat or mist. So many new variations and options.


But back to my original question, why do we remember the games so fondly, when so many installments were garbage (N64 anyone)? It has to be the story in my mind. You take a revered family dedicated to fighting evil and protecting the innocent. A son who fights against his father and “birthright.” No to mention the rest of the members of “Team Wood Stake,” and you have a recipe for longevity. The story continues to evolve, and add new characters, environments, enemies and fun. Lords of Shadow was a fun game that added a lot of new features, (quicktime events, sprawling outdoor settings) and spawned a sequel. Not to mention the much needed move to the HD generation. The thing is, we still go back to the classics (NES, Sony consoles, etc).

In closing, I feel it’s the story that makes the game. Good story can forgive a lot, bad graphics, shit controls, high price. It has to draw us in, make us invest time and care into a character/characters. The eternal struggle against Dracula and the forces of darkness is a timeless tale; but that’s only the basis, or foundation. It’s what you build on that foundation that decides if it’s a castle or a shack. In my opinion, Konami has consistently given us more castles than shacks.

What’s your favorite Castlevania installment? Why? What would YOU do differently if you designed it?

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