Frequently Asked Questions
What does it take to run a website? How many hours of work are put into it? Where do you get your information? Are you crazy? These are questions that you may have always wanted to ask but were afraid to do so. Most of my site's visitors have gone as far to e-mail me and bluntly prosecute me, quite thoroughly, with their gripes about my way of doing things. Conversely, there have always been issues that I've wanted to address--those that lurk within the realm of the Castlevania series and its many games, and others that pertain to the Internet community. Now that I have the proper forum, I'm ready to face the Castlenation. Feel free to scroll down the list and view the many topics, or simply click the available links to zip down to your area of interest.
Have a question you'd like answered publicly? E-mail me at MrPerfectn@aol.com.
Well, when I first got onto the 'net using AOL, I was presented with 50MBs of server space that could be potentially used to create my own personal home page. I didn't know what to do with it, so I of course made a single HTML file populated by huge table that had nothing but the names of all of the Castlevania enemies that I had known from my then-limited knowledge of the series--the ill-fated "Enemy Index" that was once a section of this page before being shipped to the CV Library and deleted soon after. And that was the extent of my web-building abilities. Soon after, I became familiar with the 'net's many Castlevania sites, most prominently Dracula's Curse the Page which led me to the Castlevania Dungeon. So, like an idiot, I thefted (an old high school term) some of their boss images and put them in a table with their names next to them (and I for some reason had Zeromus from Final Fantasy II on the list. Don't ask). I wasn't content with this blatant mediocrity, so I began making what I hoped would be "the ultimate resource for Castlevania characters." But, as per my nature, I can never leave things incomplete, and that's what a character-specific site would be. So I expanded the effort by moving my site off of AOL's server and onto Xoom (which became NBCi before going kaput). My goal was then simply to do whatever it took to create the most thorough site I could possibly muster. If I've failed to do that, as I'll know in time, then I'll just double and triple my efforts--no doubt with the help of the many contributors who made this site a monster and kept it alive during the tough times.
This has been an ongoing project since 1999. Over the decade-plus, countless hours have gone into the thought-processes behind design aspects, maintaining the site, write-ups, and, by far, the creation of images, character sprites and screen captures. True, there may be better ways to spend time, but Castlevania fits in very well with my favorite hobby of studying mythology, history and human nature, so I make it a habit to devote a few hours a week to the cause--and sometimes more than that when I get into it (when a new game is released, for instance, or when I come up with what I think is a great idea for a new page/table design).
As far as staffing goes, this has primarily been a one-man show. Of course, there would be no Mr. P's Castlevania Realm were it not for servers like Xoom and AOL, which gave me the space to work with, nor would the site exist in its current incarnation Mek, the owner of the world-conquering Video Game Museum, who picked up the site as my host and put me on a competent server with none in the way of limitations. I also owe a lot to the previously mentioned contributors, who have supplied me with many of the items and assets (mostly Japanese- and European- specific goodies plus collectibles ranging from obscure to super rare) that I could never have gotten a hold of myself; I consider the these contributors' efforts the major reason why this site appears on lists such as "1UP.com's Favorite Sites" and others. And, of course, I can't forget the few people who frequent the site every day and give me a reason to keep doing this.
As I said: I was very limited in what I could do early on; all I knew is what I saw. Since many of the Castlevania sites I visited had a similar look, I studied their page designs using AOL Press and formed the site's long-running look using that blueprint. In retrospect, I regret doing so, because it cost the site a bit of individuality. But since my years of work were already deeply based in that design, it was too late to change the layout, since the workload would be unimaginable. So what I've done since then is enhance what was there: I've made it so that every part of my site is crafted out of graphics from the games, themselves, which has been done to immerse the reader into the content. And that's all I care about--content. You can take your complicated animations, flash designs and interconnecting frames and throw them out the window. Would I use these things? Yes--but not as the crux of the design. I've broken the site into three categories: The Cast, Primary Information and Other Stuff, each of which is highly focused but hardly isolated, and I make it as un-restrictive as possible.
It works both ways: Whereas I had to learn web-building through others, I now have now become a beacon of sorts. I sure get grief for any idea that I've perceived to have "borrowed." But would you look at that--it seems that everyone now displays the games' "intros sequenences," where they once only cared about endings. Hmmmmm--I wonder where that idea came from? And I've noticed that some sites now have Castleography-like features, most even using my maps to illustrate the author's points. Do I complain? No--there's no reason to start Internet wars over something so trivial. I prefer to let people be guided by their own ethics; that's to ask, "Did you do the work on your own, or did you take the easy path and ape the information from established sites?" I hope the majority fits into the former category. Overall: I don't think it's a matter of trying to start trends; I do these things to keep my site unique.
It hasn't been a waste of time, except for time spent coming up with a few questionable "features" which either went nowhere or were quickly forgotten. It's because of this site that I've learned much web-building, which is important, since part of my business is web-based. I've gotten my name out there, and I've gotten many web-building jobs as a result. Does it pay off in any other way? No--it's tough to try be in a certain field--in this case the full-time job of covering Castlevania, it seems--and constantly be ignored in deference to established sites, especially when you feel that you've done enough to be superior or almost there. It's annoying to see your site listed on a "Links" page with the description "A pretty good site" or being lowballed when it comes to the enormous amount of content available; I feel more sorry for the contributors, who deserve way more credit for their monumental efforts. The lesson: It's probably a bad idea to form an emotional attachment to a hobby.
It's another thing I regret. I never really envisioned that I would take this site as far as I have. When I wanted to attach the site to the major search engines of the time (Yahoo!, Lycos, and the rest), as just something to do, I needed a name. Since I liked the word realm, I combined it with a shorthand for my AOL screen name (MrPerfectn) to create Mr. P's Castlevania Realm. While I'm not particularly fond of the moniker, it's much like the site design--too late to change. It doesn't really make a difference (and most "Links" pages list me as "Castlevania Lore," anyway, which is just the title of the front page), since the content, alone, is what's most important.
Well, on your normal Tuesday (or was it Thursday?) in an AOL private chat populated by Emperor Mek and other members of the legendary entity known as GX Entertainment, we were discussing the usual intellectual topics--professional wrestling, mainly--when the question was suddenly sprung upon me. The conversation went something like this:
"Do you want to be on VGMuseum?"
MekZhaoyun: "I'll make you a folder."
And that was it. "Mr. P's Castlevania Realm" went from being a forgettable, dinky NBCi scrapyard to, well, a forgettable, dinky subsidy of the Video Game Museum! That Mek--what a pal. I'm proud to be a part of the largest video game archive in the history of universe.
Leave me alone.
As I stated in the first question: I, myself, was guilty of "thefting" certain images when I started fooling around on the AOL server. When I attempted to enter the Castlevania Webring under those conditions, I was told very bluntly that what I did was wrong. I didn't know any better--hell, I was new to the web and actually thought that the sites I was visiting were Konami's properties. Why would they care? I learned the hard way. While I was vehement about it at first, I don't even care anymore--I now treat the site as a resource from which people can borrow content as they please (as long such doesn't entail plagiarizing the written content, which is my intellectual property).
I'll gladly help out people who need images if they're honest about their intention to celebrate the series rather than using ready-made content only to help snag a few more page-views and increased ad revenue. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to "new" sites which were just databases showcasing, oh, everything I spent years working on. While it's true that I don't own any of the series-related images showcased on this site, I do believe in ethics and giving other people credit for their work, even if it is ripping a character sprite from a captured screenshot.
True--there was for the longest times the lack of aural goodness (outside of a few MIDIs, which are product of the fans). I was never quite sure as to the legality surrounding ripped game music or MP3s, so I decided to avoid the issue entirely. Too, there was the issue of server-space limitations pre-Video Game Museum. Besides--there were plenty of sites out there willing to take the chance and make available entire OSTs for your listening pleasure. It wasn't until the Zappsoft Empire, contributor to many a Castlevania site, pushed me to add such content that I took the plunge and created the MP3 section--worrying each day that I was about to get a call from a lawyer. These fears were unfounded, since it turns out that Konami doesn't really care about such files being available for download outside of Japan, where they rarely release game-specific or special soundtracks.
As for why there are no ROMs: I think the simple answer is that I don't feel like going to prison at the moment. I can't tell you how dopey it is to make ROMs public on your website in an era where companies are cracking down and making examples of people whose "crime" is downloading a single NES game--this in place of snuffing out the real pirates, whose actions play right into the hands of the control freaks who run the video-game industry; they'll surely use piracy as the excuse to impose their digital-download-only plans and a "one-console world." Hell-- I'm not even sure if what I'm doing now is legal, no less posting roms. If you search the web, I'm sure you'll be able to find what you want but at your own risk--I want no part of it.
Nope. I'll never be happy with the site until it's perfect, which, as you may know, is an ever-fleeting outcome. I won't be pleased until I have every pixel of every game mapped out in some way. A complete site-redesign wouldn't hurt, but that's not currently on the radar.
I have a couple of different sources that I've used. Obviously, a large portion of the names comes from the games' manuals or, in the case of those more modern, their in-game enemy lists. The manuals are the most accessible to me, since I never throw any of this stuff away. (I'll never forgive myself, though, for cutting enemy images out of my old NES manuals and using them in art-class collages.) I've gotten a few others from the likes of Nintendo Power, to which I've been a subscriber since 1992; ol' NP was never much accurate in its name-choosing--like dubbing Medusa the "Sentinel Man" due to Nintendo of America's chest-reducing censorship--but there was little else to go on for older games.
I name most other characters for what they truly are. For example: They never tell you the name of what it is that Ortega morphs into, but I know just by looking at it (and from my studies) that it's a chimera. Whatever unnamed miscreants remain are assigned made-up names until something more official becomes available; if a character is like nothing I've ever seen, I'll just gaze at it and think to myself, "What does that look like?" If what lay before me is a pixelated mess, I'm likely to say, "Hmmmm--it looks like a minotaur augmented by a clear Shogun aura. I'll call it 'Ninjotaur'!" It's all very scientific, you see.
I get a lot of similar questions in the form of "Why aren't there any European endings or intros?" or "Why are the logos only shown for Bloodlines, Dracula X, etc.?" The reason is that the European games are often identical to those from the North American region--with occasionally a minor change, like the lack of blood in Bloodlines, which I'm sure to note. As such, the majority of games share the same translated text, endings, intros and logos. Listing these elements again under the "European" category would be redundant. If there are text or visual changes in endings, intros (as there are in Belmont's Revenge) or logos, special exceptions are made, and the appropriate pages are made/altered. So if the European category on a game's page is blank, it's understood that the game in question is identical to the American version, if it exists at all.
Its original purpose was to make use of boss sprites that I collected over time, most of which were useless to me under the present conditions. Instead, I'd put "Frankenstein" on the main boss list, and I'd be forced to list the characteristics for all of his multiple appearances and condense the character's entire history. So rather than put Franky's, say, Bloodlines sprite to rest via the recycle bin, I made a sub-section to list boss' appearances in successive games with individual descriptions for each; the image and description appearing on the main boss list would instead be recognized as a summation of the overall character. The reader could then go to the "Recurring Boss" subsection to see that boss' individual performances in however many games that boss has appeared. Mainly, a boss' appearance in two or more games--without being a recycled asset or a direct rip, like Rondo's characters as they appear in Castlevania: Dracula X--is grounds for the creation of a "Recurring Boss" page.
The more frequent questions ask why the Mirror Creature (Akumajou Dracula X68000) isn't on the Doppelganger page or why there isn't a page dedicated to the different Golem creatures. I try to keep a set of rules, but it's anything but simple: I want to limit the main boss list to the characters who represent the exact entity from game to game (like Franky, Death and Medusa) and to those with extremely similar ilk of the same name or characteristics (like Phantom Bat, Water Dragon and Bone Dragon King). At times, I have to break it down to the lowest level. So, as the process dictates, I decide that the Mirror Creature is just that--a creature made of glass--and not a doppelganger, which is an amoebae-like creature capable of changing shape. Plus I look for other justification: In this case, I'd like the main boss list to be represented, somewhat, by characters from lost titles, to add an international if not mysterious flavor. In the case of the many Golems, I could make a list for the big five--Koranot, Golem (Bloodlines), Iron Golem, Golem (Harmony) and Big Golem--but the Iron Golem and Big Golem wouldn't belong, because they're not like the others; their characteristics aren't the same, as they don't break down with damage or require the finding of an interior weak spot. The only solution is to leave them all on the main boss list until it becomes so flooded that I'm forced to reconsider my criteria.
That would be Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. As I said in my review of Castlevania for the NES: "...but this is in many ways the perfect prototype." If that is true, then Dracula's Curse took it to a new level, in gameplay, graphical presentation, and in music. It remains a highly impressive effort for what only the series' third true game, which still stands up to modern titles that have the luxury of being product of high-spec consoles and their creators' decades of experience.
The inclusion of the ally characters, their abilities unique, was a simple idea executed brilliantly; the quest, itself, was well-paced, the sense of dread/anxiety rising stage by stage as the terrain grew more cold and depressing and the music more sinister. The implementation of "alternate routes" only elevated the game-world's organic feel in addition to providing the player a large dose of replayability; combined with the use of allies, the possibilities were multiple, each worth exploring. Even using limited hardware, the developers really made you feel like you were alone and isolated on a quest whose outcome was in question. It has, too, what I consider the mark of a truly excellent game: The player's propensity to go back and discover new things even years later.
Even today I discover more about the game through playing its Japanese counterpart, Akumajou Denetsu, which has significant differences. What this level of greatness accomplished was to really lift the series up, quality-wise, to the level of franchises like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Mega Man--something Simon's Quest and even the original failed to do. Even though today--and it's a sad reality--the series is treated by its parent company as second tier when compared to your Zeldas, Marios and Metroids (which are superior series in terms of quality and sales because of their creators' dedication), Dracula's Curse, like Symphony of the Night, was one of those rare games that could carry the others on its shoulders and earn them the recognition they deserved. It's in that sense much like a star center on a struggling basketball team, standing tall, reminding us that his team has the potential to one day be a true force. While not my favorite game of all time (as I've given up having "favorites" were there are too many games to be enjoyed), I hold it in the highest regard.
Castlevania: Resurrection, in terms of series' canon, was going to be the follow-up to the N64 games, and it was slated to be released on Sega's ill-fated Dreamcast. News of the next 3D installment to the series arrived around early '99, and it was slated for release in early 2000. It quickly made waves for more than one reason. Mainly, it was going to be the story of Victor Belmont, the Tim Curry look-alike who sought to escape his vampire-hunting destiny. The catch? Sonia Belmont, star of Castlevania Legends, was somehow going to travel from the past into the present to keep him on the straight and narrow--to maintain some kind of Yin Yang order or something. Time travel. Great--just what the series needed. Whether or not both Victor and Sonia were going to be playable characters, I can't guess. Who knows?
The problem, of course, was that the N64 games, though not the disasters they were purported to be, pretty much torched the wells in terms of the idea of "Castlevania in 3D"--at least the minds of the fans. The demand for another adventure of the sort wasn't there, and the creators were apparently lacking in know-how; this looked to be true when reports insisted that Konami of Japan wasn't happy with the progress (or lack thereof) being made to correct what they perceived to be considerable flaws. So the game was delayed again and again, put perpetually on the backburner, until workforce on the title became so scarce that other people in the company began labeling it "CanceledVania." Too, the Dreamcast's prospects were becoming more and more dire, as Sega fell into financial peril and the ever-intolerable marketing of Sony began to damage its brand. It wasn't meant to be.
For more on Resurrection, click here.
This is a tough one. I know that I mention "origin of the series" in many places on this site, and it can get confusing. Vampire Killer, released in 1986 for the Japan-only MSX2, is most definitely the father of all Castlevania games. Since there were no plans for a "Vampire Killer" license, I presume, Konami instead chose to stick with game's Japanese moniker, Akumajou Dracula, and refocus its effort on Japan's hottest new platform, the Famicom Disk System, on which the series would be reborn in a form inspired by Vampire Killer but unique to its new host; being technically superior to the MSX2 in how it could process information, the NES could handle scrolling stages where Vampire Killer was limited to room-by-room exploration. The series' newer, more enduring formula was thus born.
Almost a year later, another of the company's division released an arcade game that was also called Akumajou Dracula, which was also a unique creation, having no relation to the Famicom title outside of starring its titular hero, Simon Belmont, who starred in many remakes/iterations recognized as "retellings." Due to crazy release schedules and games appearing in certain territories, out of order (something Europeans are familiar with), no one was able to figure it all out until years later, when Konami finally whipped up a handy webpage that listed the titles in order of release. In short: The MSX2 title was the first, followed by Famicom's re-envisioned work, which preceded the arcade retelling.
I don't want them to stop making games--I want them to slow down. I want the people who now control Castlevania's fate to realize and respect that they're at the helm of steering a ship who helped pioneer these waters, a series that has endured for over two decades and one that doesn't deserve to be wrung dry for every last penny that can be mustered at the expense of fan nostalgia for an age-old series--because it seems to be the "economically viable" thing to do.
I've praised many times what Koji Igarashi and his staff were able to accomplish--to take a series that was stagnating after Bloodlines and move it into a direction that peaked masterfully with Symphony of the Night. Between theirs and KCEK's contributions to the series thereafter, they've run the well dry by creating mere carbon copies of the same game, multiple times over, with only a new "system" thrown in to make it seem like anything but a rehash. In more simple terms: Repeated milking of the franchise has fragmented its audience to the point where interest has waned and the average title struggles to reach 200,000 in sales, which is already low for what's supposed to be a top-tier franchise. How can a game become something legendary when another just like it is already known to be on the way? The audience is aging, their tastes changing, so why isn't the series being adapted to this climate? Why are the games growing more and more complicated in an era where burgeoning are simple games reminiscent of more prosperous times?
Where's the innovation--the creative desire to elevate the series to greater heights? It's gone, deflated--like the series' budget, which has shrunk as a result of Konami's mishandling of the series. If the answer was either to slow down (revert back to the basics) or try something new, Konami chose option C--to let the series merely exist, as if its continued presence was something obligated rather than desired.
Someone recently asked me what I would do. First, I'd put the series on indefinite hiatus. After the next-generation consoles have started making their mark, I'd study the machines' capabilities and begin making plans for a new game with these studies in mind--just like how some unheralded team of people created a little thing called Super Castlevania IV. Naturally, by now, I'd have a concept, a set of ideas and a storyline, but I'd realize that all of these things are useless to me unless they're applied within the frame of what made the series memorable:
At the least, I'd move it away from the current formulas in which it remains trapped--the large areas with the "rooms," the RPG and weapon systems that take away all of the challenge, and that whole faux-new-age feel which they permeate. It's not "regressing back to past formulas"--it's building (not ignoring) on a foundation that was working strong until 1997, whence Legends directed the train towards Wacky Land. In short: Take what has always worked, elevate it to new levels, and make the game that everyone will be talking about for years to come before you even consider making another. Imagine how starved they'll be when they see a Castlevania game pushing a system to its limits rather than another tired retread, intentionally limited because its creator is shallow enough to believe that people won't buy it because its "too challenging" when it's instead too much of something we stopped caring about ten years ago.