Castlevania entered my life via the Sega Genesis. I stared wide-eyed at that strangely mature wonder that is Bloodlines and wanted nothing more than to step into a world of monster-whipping and confused symbolism that many parents denied their children.
Though I entered late, my love is no less true. It is a love both profound and lingering, and a love that leaves me in an awkward position in light of the series’ next installment.
With yet another 3-D game claiming to be the rebirth of the series, I am left cautiously optimistic. That is until the usual response to the game’s mechanics is to liken it to God of War. Where I feel I should trust in the positive press, it will take a lot to convince me.
As passionate as I am, it is not impossible for me to understand the shaky position Castlevania is in. Japan-based yet astoundingly unpopular when compared to other established series, Castlevania has to do something to appeal to a broader audience if the series is to survive on anything more than a handheld. I accept this but cannot help being idealistic.
2-D is often seen as laziness rather than an element of design. I speak from experience with many average gamers, the sort that gobbles up flashy 3-D games on the grounds of their graphics. They are also the sorts that destroy the retro market with their abhorrence of grain and pixels.
What the hardcore, and the snobbish set I tend to interact with, forget in their call for a return to basics is that the hordes of consumers pushing for a bigger and better product ultimately have more sway over trends. The majority is what companies count on. Konami has identified their biggest trend and his name is Hideo Kojima.
A lot of Konami’s hope rests on the shoulders of Hideo Kojima. Not only is he an experimental force, his name alone sells games. Nearly everything he has ever touched is gobbled up by some group of gamer, and his lesser known titles sell for an upwards of $169 in collector circles. People love their Metal Gear. Using the power of Kojima’s name is an attempt to take back the ground Castlevania has lost and snare the people who will buy just about anything Kojima thinks about and the people who are ready to get behind what Kojima typically stands for – Cinematic style.
Putting Kojima Studios on the latest Castlevania console title is not shocking, it is a survival tactic. Every bit of what is changing makes sense but every bit that is changing takes the series away from what I would say is good about it. The games are formulaic and obtuse, the stories are ridiculous and non-linear and the recent titles revolve around an event that sounds like an amazing game we will never see.
I like these things, save the 1999 story arch I’ll never get to play, but the people who hate 2-D and hate pixels also hate complex (read completely ridiculous) stories without rewarding ends. Castlevania is a zombie. It shambles around and re-spawns, and for years you could come back to this same hall in Konamiland and there were plenty of zombies for you to hack through. If you know anything about zombies, they don’t smell that great, and eventually rot away.
I accept all of this but still believe another Symphony of the Night is possible. The problem is that the market is no longer there in Konami’s eyes. So we get a Devil May Cry/God of War-esque continuation with a star-studded cast that is backed in spirit by Hideo Kojima.
What a devoted fan of 2-D Castlevania can hope from here on is that re-launching the series on consoles will generate enough stir that the 2-D installments will not be removed from discussion and production. The Wii stands as a proper transition of a 2-D, or even 2.5-D, game back onto a home console.
Oh well, no matter what you say and hope for, it all comes back to what sells. When a single flop can break a promising studio, old developers know they really aren’t going to be spared in a financial crunch.