The History of Castlevania

“The History Of Castlevania” by Liquidcross

You know, with the recent resurgence of classic horror films, zombie flicks, and the like, one thing has always made me laugh: no one’s using a whip. If I’ve learned anything from video games, I’ve learned that the most effective way to make the undead burst into flames is with a magical whip. I have Konami’s almighty Castlevania series to thank for that.

Castlevania as a whole has been around for almost twenty years now, and even though the piles of titles have plenty of variety, they revolve around a central theme: hero needs to destroy vampire (usually Dracula) to prevent the downfall of mankind. To prevent this concept from contradicting itself, Dracula himself resurrects every hundred years or so. Evil never truly dies, after all. A few games have featured protagonists other than Dracula, but he’s generally the main bad guy in one form or another. But to get to him, you’ve got to get past his minions: classic monsters such as the Wolf Man, mummies, Frankenstein’s monster, Medusa, skeletons, Death, your mom, and more.

The Castlevania timeline is indeed a confusing one. Chronologically, the games are all over the place, spanning over a thousand years of continuity. There’s very few titles that are direct sequels, and even though Konami’s rewritten the starting point of the vampire-hunting Belmont family at least twice, gamers can often jump right into a Castlevania title without too much trouble. Plus, some games are retellings of the same story. For example, Super Castlevania IV and the Haunted Castle arcade game are both the same tale as the first Castlevania, and both Dracula X titles are considered to be the same. Trust me, it all fits into continuity better this way. Confused? Don’t worry, I’ll clear things up as we go. At any rate, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter from a legendary family of hunters, set out to destroy the all-powerful Count Dracula in the series’ first installment, obviously titled Castlevania. (The title comes from the name of Dracula’s castle.) This was released on the NES and Famicom in 1987, and a version for the MSX computer platform was also released (called Vampire Killer; it was strictly a Japanese and European release, and had some differences from its console counterpart). Gamers were introduced to a new kind of pain, as the game was quite difficult, and the term “Castlevania Frustration Syndrome” was soon coined. No passwords, no save system, nothing. Get through it in one sitting, or don’t get through it at all!

The game sold quite well, and a sequel soon followed, again on the NES…Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. This was a bit of a departure from its predecessor, as it featured a nonlinear quest, some RPG-esque elements, and a cool day/night system. Arcades got Haunted Castle, which was a strange remake of the original Castlevania game, albeit with plenty of changes, and some serious balance issues.

Simon’s great-grandfather Christopher showed up on the Game Boy in Castlevania Adventure and Castlevania Adventure II: Belmont’s Revenge, while further back along the Belmont line, we’ve got Christopher’s great-grandfather Trevor. He took care of business in the amazing NES title Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, along with three other playable characters. The branching paths and different abilities utilized by each character made the third Castlevania installment a true work of genius.

Moving up to the Super Nintendo, we got Super Castlevania IV, a retelling of the classic Simon Belmont tale. Next up was the fantastic PC Engine Duo game Dracula X: The Rondo of Blood starring Richter Belmont, which we unfortunately didn’t get in the US (note: the PC Engine Duo is the Japanese name for the Turbo Duo). What we did get was an SNES port known as Castlevania: Dracula X, featuring different levels and bosses. Sadly, it’s far inferior to the Duo version, which is hailed as the greatest “traditional” Castlevania game, as later titles featured gameplay that was closer to that of the Metroid series.

Remember that MSX computer I talked about? Another popular computer system in Japan was the Sharp X68000. And as you may have guessed, that system got a Castlevania title too…Akumajo Dracula, yet another remake of the original game. This game was noted for being rather unbalanced, but still had its golden moments.

Sega fans weren’t left wanting; Castlevania Bloodlines was a Genesis exclusive. If you’re a fan of the Dracula novel, the you’ll love this, because it spins directly out of events therein. This game dealt with the evil Countess Bathory trying to resurrect Dracula in the early 20th century. The son of Quincy Morris (the valiant American who perished in the novel) and a friend of his from Spain have to stop her. How does this tie in with the Belmonts? It seems the Morris family is directly related to the Belmont lineage. Convenient, isn’t it?

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