It was Christmas of 1988 when I got the Nintendo Entertainment System as a gift. Though I knew a little bit about the system, my experiences with the machine were limited to whatever NES games my friends and cousins were currently playing. So I was surprised by one of the gifts I received in the following months: It was the intriguingly named Castlevania. "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 with its clunky controls and crazy boss battles, and things got really annoying when those Medusa heads started flying around everywhere. Any time I'd give it a go, I'd make it as far as Frankenstein and Igor before switching off in the NES in frustration, usually swearing it off. My future exposure to the series was certainly under threat.
Months later, my cousins introduced me to a little game called Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, which I had previously only heard about. I liked what I saw--as I was still fascinated by the series' concept rather than the way it played--but I instantly remembered how much I disliked Castlevania and thus 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 stopped to ask me if I
had wanted anything. Having set aside $40 with no particular future
purchases in mind, I handed him the money, almost uninterested, and told him
to just get anything. 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 with
the original. After a slow, hesitant start, though, it quickly became more and
more appealing, addictive in a way I couldn't explain. Maybe it was the atmosphere
it exuded or the masterful combination of its highly detailed, next-level graphics
and eerie musical aesthetics; it had just a certain feel that that no
other game-series could touch, what
with all of those mythological creatures and monster-movie baddies teaming up
in the most interesting of past times. I played through it many times, and it
became one of my favorite games. More importantly, it served to renew my interest
in the series. As a testament to
its excellence, I was 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 that one the better). Even then,
the power of Dracula's Curse managed to change my view of the original,
which I gave a second chance; contrary to my past dislike of it, Castlevania
also became a much-played favorite as I learned to appreciate its stage design
(particularly what lay beyond stage 4, which I'd never seen) and now-manageable
challenge-level. Thanks to many successive runs through it plus a whole lot
of time, 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. Unfortunately, by this period (late '91 / early '92), the game had been out of production for about two years. I searched many game and electronic stores with much fervor, but was never able to find it. One day, by a stroke of luck, I was wandering about the Caesar's Bay Bazaar mall, on the building's second level, when I found the last copy in supply at a poorly lit store mom-and-pop store, a veritable hole in the wall buried deep in the corner. The game's silver glow called to me like a chalice awaiting its holder (that's pushing it, I know). I hurried home in hope that my travails were worth it; after all--I'd seen the game briefly at my cousins' house, and I wasn't really sure what it was. Could it be that much different from the Castlevania games I already adored? While it was in fact a much different type of game, I was surprised by how much I liked it--how it was dissimilar to Castlevania and Dracula's Curse in terms of genre but retained their sense of spirit, like how Super Mario Bros. 2 and Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link changed things up but while preserving their predecessors' essential mechanics. It had unique aesthetic qualities, particularly a spooky open-world decor, a darker tone, and inspired music (even though its soundtrack was comparatively tiny). Quite simply: I liked it a lot, and it helped propel my love of the series past that of Mega Man, the previous champion.
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." Thanks to the discovery of
search engines, I stumbled upon a couple of fan sites, which included the Castlevania
Dungeon. Reading through the site, I was shocked by the number of titles
to which I oblivious. I mean, who had ever heard of Haunted Castle, Vampire
Killer, Rondo of Blood or Akumajou Dracula X68000? I hadn't,
nor did anyone else with whom I was in contact. I had to resort to emulation
to play most of these "new" titles, at least initially, which I felt
bad about even though it made grow frustrated with
Konami's questionable decision-making in regard to testing the waters of new
platforms while leaving all others behind. At
the very least, they could have least compiled these lost games into
a "Classics Collection," a la Super Mario All-Stars, and released
it for our home consoles, where they would have been appreciated. After all:
Why should great games bask in obscurity while we, the true Castlevania
fans, are waiting with great anticipation and our wallets open? No game should
|Inspired by this whole new history, now I wanted to try something. As I've mentioned many times on this site: I've have always had a keen interest in mythology, having spent years studying about the subject, and I always enjoyed reading about the tales that served as origin for classic movie monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster. In my youth, I used to actually take little notepad-like paper and draw the Castlevania enemies, as taken straight from out of the manuals, 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 myself 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. For instance: In October of 1999, I purchased a PlayStation just for the sole purpose of playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, of which I had limited knowledge even though it was turning up every search engine result for "Castlevania" to the point that I got sick of hearing about it. So I had to know what all the fuss was about. Though it turned out to be a superior game, I wasn't fond of having to buy a whole new system for one game if I hoped to continue being a fan. I didn't like the idea that great titles were being sent out to die on systems that didn't have a chance or didn't have the audience for Castlevania-like games. I've since softened my stance on the issue--since the age of multiplatformism has all but destroyed the console market, reducing it to a redundant, repellent PC-lite--but I do continue to wonder why Konami doesn't know who its audience is (hint: They're not 25-year-old males who only play shooters). Still, in the end, I'm a sucker for these things, so I of course 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. Unfortunately, Konami produced a average-but-flawed game that failed to live up to any and all expectations,which contributed to the preconceived notion that "Castlevania just doesn't work in 3D." This was sad not just because of the hit in budget the series would suffer thanks to 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 for the future of the series' 3D entries. From all of ,u 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 influence it in a more-desired direction. Too, I 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 not in any 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 establishing new concepts of gameplay while maintaining the spirit of its predecessors and not about complex fighting systems and whatever the hell it was that the Forest of Silence was trying do (press a switch, open a gate, fall to your death--great fun, really). In general, I've enjoyed the majority of the series' titles, with Castlevania: Dracula X, Castlevania: The Adventure and Castlevania Legends the only duds. Others I've learned to appreciate over time: I initially disliked Castlevania: Bloodlines, for example, because I was so spoiled by Super Castlevania IV and its trademarked style of slick-looking, room-turning, whip-swinging action. Once I'd given the Bloodlines proper attention, it revealed itself to me as a super-fun action game that was certainly aware of and did proud the series' heritage. Furthermore, I've played through and am now knowledgeable about every available entry, 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. Though, other titles 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? No--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 graphical stylings, and these people are not going away anytime soon), it's a sign that maybe we, those who are truly enthusiastic about all things video games, are 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 new conventions and ideas become second nature--they're thrown out the window for instead a constant attempt to capitalize on the series' reputation while it still can instead of building it back up to a level of greatness through actual creative effort.
They've inadvertently linked two of my 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 for Konami spread their respective releases years apart and focus on surprising them with something genuinely new. For video games to return to their roots, we need Konami and its contemporaries 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 certain demographics and inevitably only 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.
What can I say in closing? Considering even is lowest points, nothing can suppress what is a terrific series filled with many standout efforts representing each respective generation of games. Classic Castlevania titles, I say, should be experienced by anyone willing to pick up a controller. So what are you waiting for? There are titles old (like the brilliant Rondo of Blood for the PC-Engine) and new hoping to be discovered, and it's worth playing every one. Thanks to the digital age, in which we're now firmly entrenched, you can easily access to many of these games and hopefully enjoy each piece of one of the greatest, longest-running series in video game history. So what's next? An anthology? More older titles getting the Chronicles treatment? Perhaps more retro-style Rebirth games? Whatever the case, I'll anxiously be awaiting the next Castlevania's arrival, hoping it will be the one that lifts the series back up to the top tier, created with ambition, respect and creativity the developers' tools of choice.
Konami--are you listening? I'll be waiting and ready, and my site will continue to thrive, too.