Monday, March 17, 2014

What happened to Castlevania? (Part 1)

I have a confession to make (specially to those who don't know me in person)... I am a HUGE Castlevania fan.

I've started the series at a very young age, and it was one of the very first video games I ever played; along with Megaman, on my Nintendo Gameboy. (My very first Castlevania game being Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge on the Nintendo Gameboy)

This is the Japanese boxart, which is
far better than the US boxart of the game
Here's a short review of the game, with some gameplay footage for you guys to see how the game looks like on the Nintendo Gameboy. :)

For the record, I've played most, if not all of the Castlevania games that was released; from the classic old-school 2Dvanias, to the metroidvanias, to the 3Dvanias. I pride myself in being a very devoted long-time fan of the series. I feel quite fortunate to have witnessed the series' evolution over the years, from its humble origins as a 2D platformer, experimenting gameplay elements over the years, adding new elements while retaining its signature "feel", which is unmistakably "Castlevania". It's a familiar feeling to most fans of the series will know.

Then, after years of being handed off from one game development team to another, the series finally finds universal acclaim... and a face to carry the series forward. That face, was Koji Igarashi (fondly called by fans as IGA or IGA-san). And his claim to fame was the game that would forever place Castlevania in the minds of gamers around the world; Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

By fusing exploration elements and an interlocking map system from Nintendo's game "Metroid", basic RPG elements mostly found on JRPGs, and Castlevania's distinct look and feel, Symphony of the Night elevated the series from relative niche obscurity, into universal acclaim in the gaming world. Alot of gamers fondly remember the game, being their first Castlevania game that they played and cherished, having alot of fond memories with the said game. I mean most gamers (specially those who grew up in the Playstation era) remember this iconic exchange between Count Dracula and Richter Belmont:

The game became a classic and gamers rediscovered the series anew. Infact, the game was so popular, it basically created a game genre on its own; the "Metroidvania"or "Castleroid" genre. The series would enjoy immense popularity for quite sometime (and earning itself new fans) with IGA spearheading the series renaissance.

And under IGA's supervision, the series introduced for the first time a timeline that carefully recorded each game's exploit and wove it into a cohesive whole. This was another one of IGA's biggest contribution to the series. While carefully respecting the games that came before, he wove a timeline around what used to be seemingly unrelated set of sequels in the series, and told a large epic that spans centuries in the making.

IGA's Castlevania Timeline
(Click to enlarge)
One of the best things about the Castlevania games that came under IGA's supervision, was that each game was like a piece of a puzzle that helped fans of the series unlock the entire timeline, as each game filled-in the gaps within the timeline and helped flesh out the grand epic that is Castlevania. I remember back then where I wait in anticipation yearly for the latest installment of the series, wondering what point in the timeline will they unlock next and how does the new game's story fit in the overall timeline's narrative. It was an experience that was made even more special, as I literally grew up playing most of the games in the series and having known majority of the timeline's story by heart. Each game I played and finished felt like I was getting close to completing the grand story of the Belmont family's eternal battle with the Prince of Darkness; Count Dracula.

However, the tale would be left largely unfinished, as IGA suddenly finds himself losing the supervision duties of Castlevania. Konami (the publisher of the series), suddenly announces that the series will be turned over to a different development team.

Enter MercurySteam.

At first I was slightly nervous of the prospect of a new team handling the series. However, after a couple of really poor Castlevania games that was released by IGA on his last few days as supervisor of the series (Castlevania Judgement comes to mind), I became abit open-minded with the idea. I mean the series DID turn for the best after IGA came along, so I suppose it wouldn't hurt to see how the change would affect the series. However, what Mercurysteam would do next caught me off-guard. Little did I realize this was the beginning of the series' slow decline into a shadow of its former self.

Mercurysteam announced that the next Castlevania game would be a reboot of the existing Castlevania timeline. Quite frankly, I was enraged at the idea when I first heard about it. I literally spent YEARS trying to complete the series' timeline only to have a new team just throw everything out of the window like they didn't exist at all. By rebooting the series, I felt that Mercurysteam didn't just disrespect all the hardwork IGA put into the series, connecting all the games' narratives and making them into a cohesive whole, he also disrespected my personal history with the series. There were so many questions that I still have with the timeline that I had hoped Konami and Mercurysteam would fill in:

  • How did Mathias Cronqvist obtain his power to become the Prince of Darkness and re-emerge as Count Dracula?
  • What happened to Alucard at the end of Symphony of the Night till his re-emergence at Aria of Sorrow? What was he doing all that time?
  • After Richter Belmont's fall from grace at the end of Symphony of the Night, what happened to the Belmont clan?
  • Why were the Morris clan and the Lecarde clan suddenly the ones who fight Count Dracula in-between Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow? Where were the Belmonts?
  • Whatever happened to Shanoa after her exploits in Order of Ecclesia?
  • Where did the Lecarde family come from? Why are they tasked on defeating Count Dracula alongside the Morris clan?
  • What happens in the Battle of 1999, where Julius Belmont along with his companions finally succeed in sealing off Dracula for good? What was so special about Julius that he was able to accomplish what no other vampire hunter that came before him was able to do?
  • How come Dracula's castle was sealed inside an eclipse and why did the Vampire Killer end up being inside the castle?
  • How did Julius Belmont lose his memories and why was he inside the eclipse in Aria of Sorrow?

Now I will never find out what happens in the end, nor will I find closure with the series. I will never have a definitive answer to the lingering questions I still have with the series. Because aside from the fact that Mercurysteam rebooted the timeline, IGA has recently left Konami (more on that on a later post) completely removing all hope of IGA's timeline ever becoming completed at all. However, the timeline being rebooted was just the tip of the iceberg of Mercurysteam's sins.


No comments:

Post a Comment