Castlevania: Will Vlad Tepes Rise Again?

Having married a gamer and from spending time with other GiN writers, I’ve heard the term Metroidvania thrown around quite a bit. I’ve never had any experience with either Metroid Prime or Castlevania. In fact, it took me a while to understand that these were the two series that lent their names to this popular genre.

My first exposure to Castlevania was actually the Netflix series that ran from 2017 to 2021. The animation and storytelling were beyond remarkable, and I quickly became hooked. The Netflix Castlevania opens with the story of how Vlad Tepes, or Dracula, and Lisa Tepes, Dracula’s human wife, met. After the untimely fate of Lisa Tepes, Dracula plunges the world into darkness in pursuit of the ultimate revenge, to eliminate the entire human race. The main protagonists of the series are Alucard, Trevor Belmont, and Sypha Belnades. Some popular antagonists of the series, aside from Dracula of course, are Isaac and Hector, and the vampire sisters Camilla, Lenore, Striga, and Morana.

If you read my last column on Apple Arcade, you will know that one of the games I played was Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls. To say I’m obsessed with it is a understatement. I’ve been religiously playing it daily for hours on end. Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls features characters from across the Castlevania franchise, including Alucard, using the pseudonym Genya Arikado, Simon Belmont, Charlotte Aulin, Maria Renard, and Shanoa.

Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls is the most recent Castlevania game to be released. Despite being a mobile game, it still feels largely like a Castlevania game.

Primary game play consists of navigating 2-D platforms while avoiding traps and slaying various enemies. Grimoire of Souls does add several bells and whistles that are not found in the more traditional Castlevania games. There are a handful of mini-games that you can play to earn gold, XP, and upgrade gems. You can also use crystals to summon new weapons. This feature seems to be a remnant of the Canadian mobile game, but true to Apple Arcade’s promise, there are no micro-transactions. As a new Castlevania player, I really enjoy Grimoire of Souls. My husband, however, as a long time fan of the series, thinks Grimoire of Souls falls into too many of the traps of modern mobile gaming.

For anyone looking to experience the older Castlevania titles, Konami released three separate game bundles recently. The first is Castlevania Requiem, a two game collection released in 2018. The Requiem bundle contains Rondo of Blood (1993) and it’s sequel Symphony of the Night (1997). Both games follow the story of Richter Belmont and feature Alucard. This collection is only available on the PlayStation 4.

The second bundle is Castlevania Anniversary Collection, released in 2019. This collection includes several games originally released for the SNES and Game Boy, including the original series trilogy: Castlevania (1986), Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (1987), and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (1989). The other titles include Super Castlevania IV (1991), Castlevania: The Adventure (1989), Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge (1991), Castlevania: Bloodlines (1994), and Kid Dracula (1993). In several titles in this bundle you play as Simon Belmont or Trevor Belmont. With eight games in total, this bundle packs a punch. It is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and the Nintendo Switch.

The most recent bundle is Castlevania Advance Collection, which we reviewed with it released in 2021. This bundle includes Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (2001), Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (2002), Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2003), and Castlevania: Dracula X (1995). These games feature Richter Belmont and Maria Renard, as well as Genya Arikado and Soma Cruz. Vincent Mahony has also covered a lot of these in his Save State column, which runs opposite mine right here on the GiN front page.

Each bundle is currently priced at $19.99 each. In writing this column, I told my husband he could choose one of these bundles for us to pay. Wanting to stick with more recent titles, he went with Castlevania Advance. I was able to play Aria of Sorrow for about 30 minutes before having to rush back to finish this column. It was great to see several enemies I had encountered in Grimoire of Souls. I’m also excited to learn more of Soma Cruz’s story, having been only briefly mentioned in Grimoire of Souls, at least up to the farthest I’ve gotten in the game.

Unfortunately, several of the main characters in the Castlevania Netflix series are minor actors in the entirety of the Castlevania series. Sypha Belnades is primarily seen in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, and this is the only game where she is a playable character. Circle of the Moon features Camilla in her only in-game appearance. Her other sisters, Lenore, Striga  and Morana, are unfortunately not featured in any of the Castlevania games.. If you want to see Hector and Isaac in the Castlevania games you’ll have to find a PlayStation 2 or Xbox and a copy of the 2005 Castlevania: Curse of Darkness.

It has been eight long years since the last Castlevania game, aside from Grimoire of Souls. With 35 total  games released from 1986 to 2014, Konami was averaging a game every 10 months. The Castlevania Netflix show created a lot of attention for the series, drawing in hordes of new fans. It’s surprising that the only thing Konami has done to capitalize on this increased popularity is rerelease old games.

There are rumors that Konami is working on a new Castlevania game. Even though it might be too late to cash in on the hype surrounding the Netflix cast of characters, I would love to see Isaac and Hector or Camilla and her sisters featured in the new game. The Netflix spin-off series Nocturne was recently confirmed to be in production. The new series follows Richter Belmont, so it’s possible Konami will make Richter the main protagonist of the new game. I would prefer to play as Sypha Belnades, because she is a highly underused character in the series.

With the wide range in game mechanics and play styles, it will be interesting to see how Konami proceeds with the new game. Will they return to the nostalgic metroidvania style, or continue to adopt more modern game mechanics? With such a long gap between games, the success of this new game could determine if Konami continues to make Castlevania games, or if the series will die out.

Until the next time, stay cool, be you. Bye!

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