December 25th of 1989 was the day that I given a Nintendo Entertainment system as a gift. I didn't know much about the system or its selection of games because I was new to modern console gaming. So I was surprised by one of the first gifts I received following: It was the intriguingly named Castlevania in my hands. "That's Dracula," I said to myself as I looked over the box cover. "This has to be good." But when I set it in the NES and began to play, I didn't like it much; it was too difficult in its controls and crazy boss battles, and it got really annoying really fast because of those silly Medusa heads flying around everywhere. Any time I'd play Castlevania, I'd make it as far as Frankenstein and Igor, and then I'd turn the game off in frustration, usually swearing it off. This obviously threatened to be the limit of my exposure to the series.
Months later, my cousins introduced me to a little game called Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, and while I liked what I saw--as I was still fascinated by the series' concept rather than the way it played--I instantly remembered how much I disliked Castlevania, and, thus, I didn't even entertain the thought of actually buying it.
sometime in 1990, the magic day came: My brother was off to the electronics
store to pick up some NES games, and, on the way out, he stopped to ask me if
I had wanted anything. Having $40 set aside, I handed him the
money, almost uninterested, and told him to get anything. And wouldn't you know
it: He brought home Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. I quickly unwrapped
the game and placed in the NES, and I immediately groaned as it brought back
memories of how frustrated I was by the original. After a slow, hesitant start,
though, it quickly became addictive in a way I couldn't explain. It
was the atmosphere, I guess, and the way Konami presented it; there was an exuding
feeling that no other series could match, what with all of those mythological
creatures and monster-movie baddies teaming up in the most interesting of past
times. Hence, as I played it again and again, Castlevania
III: Dracula's Curse became my favorite game, and it alone renewed my interest
in the series. As a testament to its appeal, its excellence inspired me to make
a little cash (read: dig through the couch for loose change) and buy Castlevania:
The Adventure in the following days. Well, really, the less said about this
purchase the better. Even then, alone, the power of Dracula's Curse managed
to change my view of and appreciation for the original; contrary to my hatred
of it in the past, Castlevania also became one of my favorite titles
as its formula became one I could appreciate. As I played it more and more,
I grew to marvel at its ideas and its sense of challenge; as I mastered its
mechanics, I could clear it in record time, never tiring of the experience.
|But now there was a problem: I had never actually played Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, but I wanted it badly, since I was fierce collector (as you could gather by surfing this site). Unfortunately, by this period (late '91 / early '92), the game had been out of production for about two years. I searched many a store, endlessly, but was never able to find it. One day, luckily, I happened to track down the last copy in supply at a Caesar's Bay, on the building's second level in a poorly lit store, a veritable hole in the wall, buried deep in the corner. Its silver glow called to me like a chalice awaiting its holder (that's pushing it, yes). I hurried home in hopes of more of the same "Castlevania" action. To my surprise, though, the game was really different than what I remembered from my small sampling of it--similar to how Super Mario Bros. 2 and Zelda 2: Link's Adventure were different than their prequels. It encompassed even more atmosphere than I had hoped, thanks in large part to its appropriate decor, its dark tone and its inspired music. And because of its expansion of Castlevania's universe, it, too, became one of my favorites and propelled my love of the series past that of the previous placeholder, Mega Man.|
the following years, I purchased Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania
II: Belmont's Revenge for the classic Game Boy, and Castlevania: Dracula
X for the SNES. Foolishly, I thought that was it--I believed that I had
collected every series' game ever made. Then,
in 1997, I was introduced to a little thing called the Internet. Upon the discovery
of search engines, one of the first fan sites I stumbled upon was the Castlevania
Dungeon. Reading through the site, I was shocked by the number of titles that
I had missed through plain obliviousness. I mean, who had ever heard of Haunted
Castle, Vampire Killer, Rondo of Blood or Akumajou Dracula
X68000? Not me--and certainly not anyone that I knew. To experience these
lost titles, I had to resort to emulation, at least initially, and I therefore
became frustrated with Konami's questionable decision-making in regard to considering
the west as home to some of its better games. At the very minimum, they could
have least compiled the lost games onto a cart, a la Super Mario All-Stars,
and release it for our home consoles. After all: Why should we, the true Castlevania
fans who had laid out hard-earned money for years, miss out on the fun while
only a select group gets its fill?
|Inspired by this whole new history, now I wanted to try something. As I mention many times on this site, I have always had a keen interest in mythology, having spent years studying about the subject, and I've enjoyed reading about the tales that feature the atypical classic movie monsters. In my youth, I used to actually take little notepad-like paper and draw the Castlevania enemies, straight from out of the instruction booklets, to create my own "card series." In reality, I never stopped. When I began dabbling in web-building (on the lowest level), the Internet allowed me to expand upon these ideas. With that in mind, I began this site, a tribute to the Castlevania series, and thus "Mr. P's Castlevania Realm" was born. It wasn't turning out as I expected (as seen here) because I wasn't quite as knowledgeable about the process as I had thought, nor did I understand the concept of "web-building." There was only one solution: It was time to find and collect all of the games, at any cost, and make a real site. And so my journey began.|
Though, there would have to be comprises. If I were to truly get a hold of all of missing titles, I would have to contradict many an inborn principle. To start: In October of 1999, I purchased a PlayStation just for the sole purpose of playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which managed to turn up in so many search engine results during my successive searches that I got sick of hearing about it. So I had to know what all the fuss was about. As much as I liked the game, I hated having to buy a whole new system just to continue being a fan. That leads to another thing that has always bothered me about Konami's decision-making: Why bring these fantastic titles to only one system--like Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis--and not to another, like, say, the SNES? This mindset may be part of some twisted strategy, yes, but it only punishes us, the Castlevania-maniacs and gamers in general, who are forced to miss out on the fun because we don't own that system. This is not good business, and it only serves to wear away at fan loyalty. Still, in the end, I'm a sucker, so I spent a load of cash to track down old and new titles alike plus the systems on which they played. Now I was ready to get started with my site, though my progress saw one potential roadblock...
It was inevitable that the series would foray into the realm of 3D, and thus the future was at this point a giant question mark. I bought Castlevania 64 almost a year before I had even heard about Symphony of the Night. Before its release, I held out high hopes where others were condemning it from the start; "it was Mario with Castlevania graphics," they said. As history told, it failed to live up to any and all expectations, and this contributed to the preconceived notion that "Castlevania just doesn't work in 3D." This was sad not just because of the monetary woes the series would inherit from the N64 titles' failures but because I was so burned by this purchase that I was almost forced to promise myself that I would never purchase a future 3D-based iteration of my favorite game series. In addition to missing out on the continuing tale, this threatened to limit what I could do on the site. Rumblings of a newer, back-to-its-roots title for the GBA re-piqued my interest plus a much-improved Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness provided me a new glimmer of hope. From all of these experiences, there was a cold truth to accept: Castlevania was going to exist in some form on some system in one dimension or another, and there was pretty much nothing that I (or good sense) could do about it. I thus learned one other thing: No matter how much it cost to buy a new game and procure the means for producing material for it on my site, I was just crazy enough to take any painstaking measure.
I don't know what to expect for the future of this site or for the future of what I would like to always remember as one of my favorite game series. I'm in no way anti-3D, but I would like for Konami to stick to the formulas of 2D until it has a better understanding of why games like Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time and Metroid Prime work so well in three dimensions; that is, it's all about the feeling, the connection to our pasts and not about complex fighting systems and whatever the hell it was that the Forest of Silence presented (press a switch, open a gate--I really don't like that game). In general, I've enjoyed the majority of the series' titles, with Castlevania: Dracula X, Castlevania: The Adventure and Castlevania Legends slightly tipping the scales out of its favor. Others I've learned to tolerate: I initially disliked Castlevania: Bloodlines because I was so spoiled by Super Castlevania IV and its outstanding achievements. Though, it won me over much later because it at least showed appreciation for what worked in the past. I've played and finished every entry available, and while I have no plans to dredge through those that are relative (see Konami World on the cameo page), I do pay them homage. Others, like Kid Dracula and the alternate platform versions of the original Castlevania, have done their job well to make me question Konami's sanity; the sheer horror they fester makes the painstaking process of image-capturing seem tame, and maybe for that I should be thankful.
Is the future really that clouded? Recent efforts cast some sunlight. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon showed Konami's willingness to defer to old game-making methods and combine them with new ones to create a depth of gameplay when everyone else is too preoccupied with the "high polygon counts with superific framerates that collision-detect the flow in the dynaflow"--whatever that means. In a world where it's not about games anymore (and let's face it: the many monkeys that populate our demographic buy consoles only because of their names, their colors and their look, and these people are not going away anytime soon), it's a sign that maybe we're close to taking our industry back. Still, Konami is tainted by this economy; it's guilty of Mega Manizing its fine series. That is, it's intent on pumping out title after title in short periods of time, and the result is that conventions and ideas become second nature--they're thrown out the window in a constant attempt to capitalize on the series' aura while it still can instead of building it back up to greatness through actually thinking.
They've inadvertently linked my two favorite series, and not in a good way. "What's the rush?" I ask. There are too many games when it would serve the consumer well to spread their respective releases years apart. I'm not made of money, and that shouldn't mean that I'm not allowed to keep up. For video games to return to their roots, we need companies like Konami to spearhead such a movement. For the sake of the many developers--who will always be infinitely more important than the console suppliers--and especially this series, I hope that the loyal consumer learns to reject those companies that try to consolidate our entire industry and amalgamate it with others to turn video games into a hobby only for the rich. Now, I don't want to name names (Sony), so I'll just continue to have faith in people and hope that we'll one day return to the right path.
In the end, what can I say? Considering even is lowest points, nothing can suppress what is a terrific series filled with some of the most standout efforts of each respective era, and it should be experienced by all. What are you waiting for? There are plenty of lost titles out there, with the strongest of emphasis on the brilliant Rondo of Blood for the PC-Engine, that are just waiting to be discovered, and you shouldn't miss a single one. Many hope that Konami will one day compile the growing library of games onto a CD or cart for an anthologyy--preferably for all systems of comparable power so that the wrong audience doesn't get what it never wanted in the first place--to celebrate it as part of one of the greatest and longest-running series in video game history. This way, we can play all of our old favorites without ever having to spend a ton of cash to revive our old broken-down NESes and other consoles. Castlevania Chronicles is a very good start, but it leaves, oh, about twenty-plus titles that are waiting to be reborn. Maybe that wish will come true.
Konami--are you listening? I'll be waiting and ready, and my site will thrive, too.