The Return Of Belmont: Choosing The Next Castlevania Chronicles
October 31, 2007
Konami has taken the Castlevania series in a number of different directions over the years, producing games for popular and obscure hardware alike. 2001's Castlevania Chronicles and, more recently, Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles have made some of the dustier adventures of the Belmont clan available for contemporary audiences. Now that the coveted Rondo of Blood has been revived it may seem as though there are no more games left to be Chronicled. Don't be fooled; there are still plenty of fantastic games to remake and package with the original version on a single disc. Here are my five picks for future installments in the Castlevania Chronicles series.
5. Castlevania: Bloodlines
Originally released for the Sega Genesis in 1994, Bloodlines follows the adventures of John Morris and Eric Lecarde as they blaze across Europe just after World War I. Players can control either hero; Morris attacks with the legendary Vampire Killer whip, while Lecarde prefers his trusty spear. Despite being known for some amazing technical feats in its day (such as the boss battle atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa), the game's visuals paled in comparison to Super Castlevania IV for the Super NES, leaving it somewhat in the dust in the age of audiences frothing for bigger and better graphics. Curiously, there was a perfect opportunity to do something with this game last year, as Bloodlines leads into the events of 2006's Portrait of Ruin.
4. Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
This 1991 Nintendo Game Boy adventure follows from Castlevania: The Adventure as Christopher Belmont searches for his teenage son who has been brainwashed by Dracula. Revenge tried to be a little different from other games in the series by offering a level select, allowing players to choose the order in which they explore the region. Four different castles must be conquered before Dracula's homestead will appear to lead the way to the missing boy. Although painfully short by today's standards, Revenge could well be paired up with Adventure in a single package, although it's doubtful that anyone would want to play the rather limited predecessor today if a modern remake were available. Since all of the Castlevania games for the Game Boy have reappeared over the years for the Game Boy Color in some regions, why not include both variations along with the remake?
3. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
The final Castlevania for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this 1990 release is often regarded as the best of the original NES trilogy, and for good reason. Dracula's Curse takes just about all of the original game's high points and expands upon them, offering new playable characters Grant, Sypha, and Alucard that each come with their own unique abilities in addition to the resident Belmont (Trevor, this time). A branching level structure, varied environments, and a wickedly satisfying level of challenge make this game a natural for a modern revival. Although the original game forces players to choose only one ally character at a time, perhaps a bonus option in the remake would allow players to keep everyone accessible on demand as in Dawn of Sorrow's "Julius Mode" in which the game's three heroes are swapped out on demand with a push of a button.
2. Vampire Killer
Reach back to 1986 for this MSX adventure. Although it looks and plays a lot like the original Castlevania, it includes a few interesting tweaks to the formula. Allow me to quote from The Castlevania Dungeon:
While the game initially shares the same look as the first Castlevania game, the structure is very different. The game gives you a small area that you must explore in order to find the key for the exit. In addition to searching for said skeleton key, you also find a variety of treasure chests to be unlocked that provide some very useful power-ups. There are also merchants (sometimes hidden) that will sell you items in exchanges for hearts. Weapons such as daggers and axes take the place of your whip, and can be used as long as necessary (but you must catch the axe on its return.) You also get holy water, an hourglass to stop time, a map to take a look at your progress, and two varieties of shields. After making your way through three of the minor areas, you fight a boss and can proceed to the next stage.
Sounds a lot like Simon's Quest, doesn't it? And speak of the devil...
1. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
Here we have a solid gameplay idea stuck inside a game that has aged terribly. This 1988 NES game dabbles in the formula that would eventually evolve into Symphony of the Night years later by injecting a little RPG-like gameplay into familiar jump-whip-jump elements. Players must guide Simon Belmont through several haunted mansions in search of Dracula's remains. Talking to townsfolk offers up helpful (and sometimes unhelpful) clues as to what must be done next, but the problem is that the clues are, at best, completely baffling. Consider a supposedly useful clue like "Hit Deborah Cliff with your head to make a hole," meant to guide players into crouching at a specific dead end with a certain crystal equipped. Any remake of Simon's Quest must come with a complete retranslation of the original source material to correct these kinds of things, although the memorable lines "What a horrible night to have a curse" and "The morning sun has vanquished the horrible night" must remain intact.