Castlevania (悪魔城ドラキュラ Akumajō Dorakyura?) is a series of horror-themed action-adventure video games created and developed by Konami, centered on the Belmont family, a clan of vampire hunters, and their seemingly eternal fight against the Dark Lord himself, Count Dracula.
The series debuted in Japan with the release of Demon Castle Dracula (悪魔城ドラキュラ Akumajō Dorakyura?) for the Famicom Disk System (FDS) and MSX 2 platforms in 1986. Even though the MSX 2 port (which was localized in Europe and Brazil under the title of Vampire Killer) was released first outside of Japan, the series did not receive worldwide attention until the FDS version was ported to cartridge format for the Nintendo Entertainment System and localized for North American and European release under the title of Castlevania in 1987. The series has since become a landmark in the gaming industry, as it was among the earliest video games to feature a Gothic horror storyline while at the same time abandoning the campy elements of similar games of the time, such as Ghosts 'n Goblins.
The Castlevania series is one of Konami's most famous franchises, and has seen titles released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sega Mega Drive, the PC Engine, the Sony PlayStation, the Sega Saturn, the Nintendo 64, the PlayStation 2, the Xbox, and the Nintendo Wii video game consoles. Several franchise titles have been released for handheld game consoles as well, including the Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance, and the Nintendo DS; and also for various personal computer platforms, including the MSX 2, the Commodore 64, the Sharp X68000, the Commodore Amiga, MS-DOS, and Microsoft Windows.
The Castlevania series is about an ongoing war between the enchanted family bloodline of the Belmonts and Dracula, the Lord of Darkness. Legend says that Dracula is resurrected at every 100 years, and it's up to the Belmonts to defeat him before he invokes his wrath on the entire world. The plot's main focus is Dracula, and he appeared in almost every Castlevania game. Most games in the series are set in Dracula's castle and the surrounding Transylvanian countryside, located in present day Romania, although some entries have been set in other areas.
The most notable Belmont is Simon Belmont, star of the first several Castlevania games. However, the games feature many other characters, including Belmonts, relatives and other people that the player can control. Included among the usable characters is Adrian Fahrenheit Ţepeş, also known as Alucard, the son of Dracula himself. Also, several female characters star in some of the later games. See Characters for more information about the characters of Castlevania.
The series is loosely based on the mythology of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. The series also incorporates a variety of other monsters from classic horror fiction, films, fantasy and mythology. These monsters serve to obstruct the path to Dracula but are rarely tied to the game's plot.
For a complete timeline of the events of the Castlevania series, take a look at the Castlevania Timeline.
The word "Castlevania" was created by Emil Heidkamp, Konami of America's senior vice president at the time, who believed the game's Japanese name was translated as "Dracula's Satanic Castle" and, therefore, choose to change it out of religious sensibilities. The word is something of a misnomer, presumably being a play on the word Transylvania (the home of Dracula in popular culture); however "Transylvania" comes from the Latin phrase "ultra silvam" meaning "beyond the forest". Therefore the inclusion of the English word "castle" coupled with the omission of "sil" or "syl" effectively makes "Castlevania" a nonsense word.
However, in the sense that the second syllable of the English word "ca-stle" ("stle") has a phonetic similarity to the "syl" of Transylvania, the word Castlevania could be translated to mean "forest castle" or "castle of the forest". While this might not necessarily be an accurate characterization of the many reincarnations of Dracula's castle in the games, it makes sense in that these castles are all presumably in Transylvania.
"Castlevania" could also mean "castle village", as the suffix "-vania" means village. This is further supported by the fact that the castle is oftentimes surrounded by a village, seen prominently in Super Castlevania IV.
Regional variations and localization
In Japan, the series is most commonly known as Demon Castle Dracula (悪魔城ドラキュラ Akumajō Dorakyura?). However, not every installment of the franchise has borne that title. For example, the first two installments for the Nintendo Game Boy were released under the title The Legend of Dracula (ドラキュラ伝説 Dorakyura Densetsu) and the game known in North America as Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was originally released in Japan as The Legend of the Demon Castle (悪魔城伝説 Akumajō Densetsu?). Starting with the release of Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance for the Game Boy Advance, the Japanese games adopted the "Castlevania" name for a brief period. According to series producer Koji Igarashi (or IGA, as he is commonly known), the developers chose to adopt the Castlevania moniker as a way to involve scenarios that do not solely revolve around Dracula himself. Later bowing to overwhelming fan demand, Konami returned to the "Demon Castle Dracula" branding for the Japanese release of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (悪魔城ドラキュラ 蒼月の十字架 Akumajō Dorakyura Sōgetsu no Jūjika?), lit. Demon Castle Dracula: Latin Cross of the Blue Moon).
The series is also known for the differences between the Japanese and English language versions. The localization process usually removes a heavy share of violent and religious imagery and references, particularly in earlier installments.
In addition, the English localizations have frequently been plagued by a number of omissions, errors and deliberate alterations from their original Japanese counterparts. Notable examples include the mistranslated character names (Soleiyu Belmont from Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge is a mistranslation of "Soleil", French for "sun", and the name of the protagonist of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was changed from "Ralph C. Belmondo" to "Trevor Belmont" for the English version).
Several games in the series have been produced in very limited quantities, in North America and Europe at least, and have thus greatly fallen short of demand. Most recently, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow have been sold on eBay for two to three times their original selling price, prompting the release of an officially-released "Double Pack" of both games in early 2006. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, considered by many Castlevania fans to be the "Holy Grail" of the series due to having been released solely on the Japanese PC Engine CD console, still easily sells for over a hundred dollars, as does the original Japanese version of the MSX installment, Vampire Killer. Other rare editions include the original Sharp X68000 (a Japanese home computer) remake of the first title in the series. Rondo of Blood has recently been released for both PSP (on the same disk as a 2.5D remake) as well as an unaltered port for download on the Wii as one of its Virtual Console titles, though this does not abate the rarity of the original.
Evolution of the games
- Main article: Games
The gameplay mechanics are fairly consistent among most of the earlier titles. These are typical platform games in which the player takes the role of a whip-wielding warrior from the Belmont family as he ventures inside Castlevania (Count Dracula's castle) and fights a variety of supernatural beasts on his way to defeat Dracula. The whip used by the Belmont clan is a relic named the Vampire Killer, which was blessed with the power to destroy vampires and other creatures of the night (no stake through the heart required). The games also feature secondary weapons that are powered by Hearts, all of which can be found by destroying candles. Common secondary weapons are the straight-flying dagger, the overhead-thrown axe, the ground-burning vial of Holy Water, a Holy Book that flies in a circular motion around the screen, and the Cross, which is wielded like a boomerang.
The first three games, as well as Vampire Killer, featured a film reel motif on the title screen, and in the case of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, the intro. This has largely been discontinued due to differing development teams taking over the franchise, although Castlevania: Bloodlines utilized the film reel motif in a manner similar to Dracula's Curse, and the game Castlevania Chronicles had its intro done to resemble old-fashioned film footage.
The general appearance of the characters in the games has also changed since the first installments. In the earlier games, the main characters were usually warriors sporting leather armor or similar garb. As new Castlevania games were released, the heroes' outfits evolved into more elegant, fancy vests. The modern look adopted for the characters in the newer games could be said to have been introduced by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the first game to feature the Japanese artist Ayami Kojima as the character designer. Another notable detail is the distinctive anime-style design of those characters, which is present in almost the entire series but is more prominent in Rondo of Blood and later titles.
A major turning point in the series was the ground-breaking Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. In addition to shaking off the stiff play controls that had plagued nearly every previous game in the series, Symphony adopted what is sometimes called a "metroidvania" style of gameplay due to its many similarities to the Metroid series (primarily Super Metroid), and combines this with the console RPG concepts of experience levels, hit points and equipment. Subsequent Castlevania games have followed this new style, with the replacement of the secondary weapons by complex magic systems in which spell components are collected from enemies or found in the castle. These systems use Hearts to replenish MP and often include most of the classic secondary weapons among the much larger variety of spells and attacks.
The first games in the series to employ 3D graphics were released for the Nintendo 64 in the late nineties and received a mixed reception from the fan base. The gameplay of subsequent 3D Castlevania games for the PlayStation 2 are often compared to Capcom's Devil May Cry.
- Main article: Castlevania Timeline
Prior to the release of Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, every game in the series was accepted as canon, with the original versions of certain games (such as the original Castlevania and Dracula X) usually accepted as the canonical interpretation of certain events. This was assumed even though there was no official unified direction to the series's storyline (other than conflicts against Dracula). However, when Koji Igarashi took over as producer for the series (starting with Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance), he revised the timeline and removed the following games from it: Castlevania Legends, Castlevania 64, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon.
Castlevania 64, Legacy of Darkness and Circle of the Moon were later acknowledged in a timeline released as a pre-order for Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin in North America. However, these games remain non-canonical on the official Japanese timeline.
In November 2005, news of a Castlevania movie surfaced. Crystal Sky Pictures acquired the movie rights for Castlevania from Konami and British filmmaker Paul W. S. Anderson had been announced as director. No cast was announced and production was expected to start in mid-2006.
Castlevania references in other media
- Main article: Castlevania (series)/References
Since the first title, released in 1986, the Castlevania series has been referenced in many forms of media, including video games, literature, music and TV series.
- Official websites
- Fan websites
- Other websites