”The only true” Castlevania..
A lot happened at this year’s E3 from Castlevania’s perspective. No news was heard about IGA’s so far untitled Castlevania which is developed for next generation consoles. So far the only bit of information about the game is the brief teaser, assumably showing Alucard. But instead something else happened and it ewoke lots of reactions.
When at last year’s Games Convention a teaser, where a man kneeling in a chamber lit dimly by a cross-shaped window hole and dressed in an armor looking familiar to Castlevania fans (and especially to those who played Simon’s Quest) was shown, antennae sprung up. If this was not enough to catch one’s attention, things went from familiar to ”this has got to be CV” when the man used his weapon; a fiery whip hidden in a cross, anyone who played Castlevania expected to see the name to pop up at the end of the video. Instead only the text “Lords of Shadow” appeared.
I, like many others, nourished a tiny conspiracy theory inside the brain that leaving ”Castlevania” out of the title was part of the marketing, as this was only a short teaser. The game was obviously either Castlevania or its spiritual series successor or some sort of spinoff from the same developer. But it is doubtful anyone kept on speculating till a revelation was made about a week ago; the game was announced to be a Castlevania after all.
Unverified information circles around about the game’s original premise, but it would appear the game was originally meant to be its own separate title without connections to Castlevania. The switch that has been done can be compared to Silent Hill 4 or Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Both were meant to be their own entities, but ended up merged with established Konami series.
Lords of Shadow’s announcement is a strange experience to me for many reason, as it holds different contexts to myself. Before any sort of preview or even the announcement of production had come out, I had began an article about the canon of Castlevania. In it, I touch upon the Hideo Kojima’s way of producing game series (mainly Metal Gear) and compared that with, for example, Koji Igarashi’s canonical changes of Castlevania. Three weeks ago, strongly inspired by the new Star Trek movie, I started writing about altering or rewriting canon and how I would do it, if I could. I have for years also expressed my desire for a remake of Simon’s Quest and the similarities between my hopes and LoS have amused me. Hideo Kojima’s connection to the the article draft is rather clear, because he will be acting as executive producer for the game. Star Trek’s connection is a bit of a stretch. The veteran actor Patrick Stewart – perhaps best known as Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation – will work as a voice actor in the game (had to reach a bit for this, but like I said, these were contexts straight from my mind). But I will get back to those once I have finished the text in question.
In light of recent events I aim to complete the aforementioned article ASAP now that it has been in development for over a year. Incidentally, the article about CV canon is somewhat connected to a character profile that has been in the works since about the same time the canon article. I’ll try to put that in the same schedule too. What goes around comes around.
I divided this article in three sections. The original intention was to handle all in one text, but the length and relevance got out of hand.
..has its fans. What is a fan? A miserable little pile of secrets!
This topic may even cause some resentment, because I’m going to, inspired largely due to the start of LoS’s production and the subsequent discussion it ignited, ponder what makes a real fan. Because if anything’s clear, it is that the essential characteristics and types differ greatly among the Castlevania fanbase. While doing this, I’ve also tried mapping out the straight clique effect or polarization in opinions.
The opinion on Koji Igarashi seems decisive especially now that a different person is acting as producer. The current analyzing of LoS has varied between blind optimism to praising status quo, but almost every time IGA’s name pops up.
Both ”sides” consider the approach especially to IGA’s work decisive to declare the other one an untrue fan. It is also fairly amusing how some may even go as far as to declare themselves the true fans based on how they react to LoS at this point.
I did and extremely unscientific division between three Castlevania fan types, listing the mos common traits, based on forum discussions. If one acknowledges certain characteristics in themselves from these very limited examples, there is no need to light a fuse. I’m neither a scientist nor an authority. Just a fellow fan.
– have a burning yearning to return to the styles represented by the likes of CV, SCVIV and DC. The vast majority therefore naturally consider 2-D the only way for Castlevania to work
– about under half do not approve IGA’s canonical changes and want someone else to produce the series.
– clear majority originally liked SotN, but after the Metroidvanias have gone on for so long, they have, mostly because of this, began hoping for a turnaround
– consider SotN and Metroidvanias in general the best among Castlevanias. The majority consider IGA a capable producer and wish for him to continue his job.
– most accept the canonical changes by IGA
– most consider 2-D essential to Castlevania.
– do not believe a rigid choice between the original playability and Metroidvania is essential, but want to keep the most effective traits from both in future games, regardless of the area structures, level designs or the style of play.
– under half do not consider 2-D and essential part of CV, but do not necessarily think 3-D is needed to create a completely new kind of CV.
– many see the past IGA CV games as individual games and consider most mediocre, regardless of the style used. About half wish for someone else to produce Castlevania instead of IGA, but don’t usually condemn the canonical changes he made.
But enough talk. Have at you, true Castlevania!
LoS is supposed to be “a new beginning” for Castlevania. It is still unclear what this means exactly and it is one of the reasons may feelings are somewhere between optimistic and neutrally wishful, especially since LoS assumably started as its own separate project. With the name Castlevania, it is justified to expect it to live up to its name. I have for years hoped for some sort of a new beginning for Castlevania and I was able to form my own idea what I think are the things that need to live on even after the “rebirth”. I hope my own preferences will meet as often as possible with how LoS will turn out.
The diversity and, at times, fairly clear differentiation between the fans is likely do the age and changes – both in regards of the fans and the series itself. 2-D, for example is so important to so many that they don’t want to accept anything else. This, however, is not primarily dependant on the player’s age, though one might easily assume that the younger players in general would be in favor of 3-D. It may be that this has in part damaged the reception of 3-D Castlevanias even though the general quality of the games played a large hand, even without proportioning it to the possible meaning to a good Castlevania.
For years the importance of story has been debated in fan forum topics. It is impossible to clearly gather or categorize the opinions. Often one may hear one person damning IGA and his canon to the lowest hell while the other one says story is completely insignificant to Castlevania. Both may still welcome a whole series reboot with open arms.
Could it be therefore said that the story does mean something after all? Or is this the result of a feeling that CV has turned into something of a dinosaur among the increasingly cinematic modern gaming? Is it about the series’ image and the fan’s feelings on their own fandom, which they define by comparing the series to games of today? And because of this, do some of them blindly accept any kind of restart so willingly?
Either way, I think anyone identifying as a Castlevania fan should maybe think what made them like Castlevania in the first place and, deducing from that, think what they would want to keep in it or remove from it. There is no one true answer for all fans, but from one fan’s point of view, it is possible to justify your own. If you are able to. And if you’re not, step back to answer the first question. I am going to do so and approach LoS with an open mind, yet keeping these things in mind too.