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If I Were IGA-San: The Perfect Castlevania
-By Adam Pearson-
-Presented by DMG Ice.com-
-All Dracula's rib are prossess by us.-
I have been playing Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow since it came out. Not too much else actually, at least, I know nothing else has entered my DS. I did play a bit of Castlevania for the NES, just because I got a craving for some old school vampire killing. I actually saw it through to the end, but I was using the holy water trick on the bosses... and uh, save states. But, yeah, no shame in that right? I will get the GBA version someday and play it straight, I promise. In the meantime, I have Julius Mode in C:DoS (run, run DOS run) to complete, and that should keep me plenty challenged. I can not just throw my Mangradora bullet soul over and over until stuff dies anymore; but GOD that whip is so cool. And FREAKING ALUCARD DUDE, so I do not mind.
Anyway, this article is not about how bad I suck. I was just thinking about Castlevania as a series. The hardcore fans of Castlevania have probably become complacent with the usage of the terms "Metroidvania" or "Castleroid" to describe the last few entries to the series, enough that they do not realize how god-awful those both sound. What's more, they seem to talk about it like it is something new for Castlevania to borrow from Metroid.
Does anyone remember Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for the NES?
I guess it is considered the stepchild sequel of the series, much like The Adventure of Link was for Zelda. I'm just barely not old enough to remember, since I was introduced to it around the same time as the NES, but the American Super Mario Bros. 2 must have baffled most people expecting SMB Redux. Each of the three series I brought up have an interesting parallel: they each followed their instant classic with an experimental deviation from the original games formula, then seemed to mend the best of both into a phenomenal third entry that nearly overshadowed the original in every way. Castlevania III pushed the NES further than anyone thought possible, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past molded the archetype that all Zeldas still follow to this day, and I don't have to tell you how awesome Super Mario Bros. 3 is.
However, where Super Mario Bros. 2 and The Adventure of Link can still hold their own today (despite being a bit under-rated), I think Castlevania II deserves to be revisited. This, as the title above states, would be my perfect Castlevania.
Koji Igarashi is so freaking awesome. Take a look at him the next time you are presented with the opportunity to do so in your favorite gaming publication. He looks like he should be creating avant-noise metal, not video games. Nevertheless, thank God he is with us... or, you know, whoever. I do not care what people say about Lament of Innocence, he is doing fine with the handheld versions, and I am expecting Curse of Darkness to surprise a lot of people. Anyway, I wonder if IGA would like my idea. As you should know, he has basically inherited Castlevania and is considered to be THE guy controlling the series. He seems to be a fan of the original games, and has been a part of the Castlevania series in some form since Symphony of the Night. He even was quoted to say that he wanted to remake Castlevania III in 3D for the Curse of Darkness project, but got shot down. Maybe his team would like my idea better.
Here is the idea I would pitch to him: Take as much freedom as you want with the story and the level design of the original, adapting it into something that embraces the kind of gameplay people now expect from Castlevania games. I guess it could technically be an entry in the Castlevania Chronicles series, but I would rather see the game totally rehauled and retold. Add new characters, add stuff after where the original game ended, maybe Alucard shows up, who cares honestly, as long as it is cool. Think of Metroid Zero Mission. Nintendo decided to add a bit of "Metroid Gear Solid" (HA! I can make annoying buzz phrases, too) to the end of Samus's first adventure, while doing some tie-ins to more recent Metroid entries, and explaining more about her history by bringing in some references to the comic series. I was never that happy with the original Metroid to be honest... the overall mood and the feeling of exploration was there, but the password system was clunky, and facets of the level design almost demanded some kind of "break-every-brick" mentality that would have worked much better with a map system in place. It was a nice prototype for Super Metroid, but the technology just was not ready for such a game yet, at least, if you ask my opinion. Castlevania II could use this same treatment. The towns could be much more lively and the townspeople could be much more helpful. Maybe you could actually make some intelligible conversation with them. Hopefully, no more "prossesing" of Dracula's parts. Thoughtful exploration without all the guesswork, and much more precise control over Simon Belmont. No more awkward problems with climbing stairs, and who can forget the double jump that we take for granted these days... that is more like it.
But why look back? Why does this game deserve such a treatment? I can think of several reasons why we should take another look at this game, even after 18 years. (A release in 2007 would make a nice 20th anniversary for the game... just a thought, or maybe in 2006, for the 20th anniversary of the original Akumajo Dracula...)
No more being confined to a castle. Castlevania II had an overworld, as well as towns and each of the five mansions that held Dracula's body parts. Even Samus goes outside once in a while, but most action in the newer Castlevania games goes on inside a castle, which gets kind of predictable. I would hope that the overworld would be expanded so that we can see the kinds of locales we have wanted to in these games but could not (or have not for a while.) The mansions should probably be completely overhauled. Also, more side quests outside of conquering the mansions.
The day and night dynamic was brilliant and ahead of it's time.* It made the game positively creepy. If you got caught outside at night, the enemies were much stronger and even the towns were not safe. Playing this game as a kid scared me so much, as you could imagine. The world seemed to transform completely, and nightfall always crept up on you when you were not expecting it. Now most systems (including the DS) have an in-built clock that could control this. Maybe you could only get certain things at night, etc.. I am not so sure how that would work... I do not know, something to think about.
That addition to the gameplay made the game one of the few Castlevanias that was actually frightening and not just gory/dark. They should emphasize this in a remake. Much scarier music and moods would help, maybe some ambiance in certain parts. They should not do away with the original music, but it has been remixed to death and I think this would be a nice time to turn over a new leaf, balancing between the adrenaline rush of the current brand of Castlevania music, and adding some more somber, disturbing tunes, perhaps something akin to Silent Hill.
I thought this game had an excellent premise as far as it's story, enough that it deserves a second, closer look. You beat Dracula in the first one, only for him to curse you and the town. Now you have to reassemble him by gathering his body parts, and destroy him again. Crazy. I also like how near the beginning the townspeople heralded you as a legendary hero, but as the story goes on they begin to loathe you for bringing this on them.
Boss battles were not really an emphasis in the original; this gives IGA and his team an opportunity to make completely new, awesome bosses. Also, they should make this battle with Dracula one of the best yet. We still need that definitive Belmont vs. Dracula battle that we have all been waiting for, and this could be the time to do it.
Oh, and what system would it be on? The DS, obviously. Some new touch screen features would be nice but not necessary.
I guess that is all I can think of. If you have not played Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow yet, why not? Just wondering. Hopefully, someone important reads this, or better yet, something like this is already in the works. It would not surprise me since this game is begging for it, and with the success of adventure based Castlevania games recently, it would make a lot of sense to remind people of this gem.
-Editorial by Adam Pearson-
*Neat fact: Wayforward Technology borrowed the day/night concept, as well as the general lay-out of gameplay for their GBC title "Shantae" from Castlevania II.
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