It was the early summer of 2010. My sophomore year of high school was drawing to a close and I was looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation spent going for jogs in my neighborhood and playing videogames. My family lived out of town and had just recently gained access to highspeed internet in lieu of our barely functional dial-up, opening up a new, exciting world of movies and games for me. My twin brother and I dragged our CRT TV and our Xbox 360 out to the middle of the living room floor and hooked up our console to an Ethernet cable, browsing the long-denied realm of Xbox Live Marketplace. We watched trailers for upcoming games, argued over which DLC to get, and sampled the vast platter of downloadable demos for games that were out of our budget. One demo that caught my eye forever changed my life as a gamer.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is my favorite videogame. As soon as i played the demo I was pulled into and lost in its elegant world, mesmerized by everything about it. The gorgeous music. The beautiful, baroque environments. The huge, terrifying bosses, the endless winding corridors of the castle, the hidden secrets and treasures, the way your character leveled up and equipped more powerful weapons and armor, the laughably shitty voiceacting even, it all charmed me and I can hardly explain how. It was fun, yes, but the game had something that was so much greater than the sum of its parts: it had a soul, that feeling of wonder that only the very best videogames possess.
When I finally did beat the game, I felt legitimately depressed. I tried to find more like it, but even other entries from the Castlevania series didn’t quite seem to fill that void. I explored the depths of the internet for years afterwards, trying to catch some sort of hint of a possible sequel or spiritual successor, but the few leads I found ended up becoming pale imitations or something entirely different from what I expected. So, eventually, I accepted that SotN would be one of a kind, and that I would just have to move on and try different kinds of games.
By chance today, I got bored while on my lunch break, and started googling news for some games I was following. Don’t ask me why, but I remembered how I used to do the same thing while waiting for a Symphony of the Night sequel, and so, on a whim, I typed “Castlevania” into Google News.
On the second page, scattered amidst the various speedruns, retro reviews and “Why we still love this game, etc.” articles for SotN, this came up.
In case you cant make it out, the article’s headline reads “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is Castlevania reborn”.
Out of my mouth came the words, “You gotta be kidding me.”
A couple of hasty searches later led me to the Kickstarter page, and to a revelation that my deepest, most long held nerd fantasy was becoming a reality right before my very eyes.
This couldn’t be real, I kept thinking, there must be a catch. But good god, the game’s development is even being led by the man who was in charge of making Symphony of the Night itself, Koji Igarashi. He even has a little smartass caricature of himself down there, designed to resemble the clothing and pose of the portrait for SotN’s famous villain, Dracula. It is never flat-out is said so in the page, but what he is trying to accomplish is obvious: a legitimate spiritual successor to the universally beloved and acclaimed Castlevania game, my favorite game, of all time, something I’d wished for but had to let go of after years hoping in vain. Iga is even bringing back Michiru Yamane, the original composer for SotN’s soundtrack, and Ayami Kojima, who was responsible for the game’s art direction, is throwing in her contributions as well. The dream team is back together baby, to fulfill my darkest desires, and they have already surpassed their five hundred thousand dollar goal, having raked in over five and a half million dollars in contributions.
So the real question is, why didn’t someone tell me.
Games journalists everywhere don’t seem to shy away from proclaiming themselves loving fans of SotN. Just about every major gaming site has an article with somebody gushing about it, and it’s universal appreciation as a classic is right up there with the likes of Ocarina of Time and Metal Gear Solid. If you’ve played the game and didn’t think it was great, you’re in the minority, and beating the game is almost a rite of passage to obtain the persona of a serious retro gamer.
Which is why it doesn’t make any sense to me why Bloodstained seems to be such a well kept secret.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. The reason why Iga had to leave Konami and turn to Kickstarter in the firs place is because Konami, or any other major game publisher for that matter, would not have condoned sinking time and resources into such a project. Skyrims, Metal Gear Solids and Call of Dutys are the sorts of things that bring in money, and when your company swells to a big enough size, its main objective basically becomes to move as many units and make as much cash as possible. So lets be realistic here, and admit that a game replicating a classic that is more than ten years old is not going to rake in any mountainous amounts of revenue from the casual gaming masses. And if it isn’t going to be some mammoth blockbuster, then there isn’t a reason for the big sites to get in on the buzz. It just seemed to me that if so many people seemed to love this game as much as I do, that they would be equally as stoked to hear about the original team coming back together to make another game of its type.
But anyway, I don’t need anyone else’s validation to be super duper mega excited about this project. While watching the pitch below I became so happy I fell into a fit of unhinged man giggles.
The game itself seems promising in both definition and scope. The development team is planning on retaining the style and gameplay from Iga’s other Castlevania titles while intending to expand its size and depth of content. Besides guaranteeing that the game will have a larger map than ever before, a plethora of new modes (such as boss rush, extra-difficulty and versus) and coop are promised as well. It just seems too good to be true, but the impressions from those select few who played through the demo and were involved in beta testing all can attest to the title’s promise.
While Iga and his team are working to reproduce the soul of their previous creations, there are some changes being thrown into the mix. Gone is the pixellated 2D art style, instead replaced with a cell-shaded, 3D approach. While I’m not particularly thrilled about this, the look seems to mimic that of a hand-drawn game, something that the devs apparently put a lot of effort into by developing a special kind of shader. And i do admit that looking at the screenshots makes it hard to tell that the game *isn’t* 2D. Also featured are several additional gameplay elements, such as a crafting system. Defeated enemies will yield materials that can be used to make shiny new weapons and armor, which sounds like a great touch.
The only downside here is that the game intends to launch in 2017, which is far too long for me to wait. But, I am so glad to at last be able to see Castlevania coming back to it’s former glory — albeit under a different (but very similar) moniker.
I just cannot wait. I think I’m gonna go play some Castlevania to help me pass the time.