A Brief History of Castlevania: Part One


Posted August 4, 2010 - By Kevin Kelly

A Brief History of Castlevania; Part One

It's hard to believe that we're coming up on 24 years of Castlevania, the franchise that keeps on putting the undead down. With Harmony of Despair coming out today, and Lords of Shadow spawning from the grave in October, it sounded like it was time for a history lesson that was all about Konami's vampire slaying series.

Akumajo Dracula (Devil's Castle Dracula) or Castlevania

A Brief History of Castlevania; Part One

The one that started it all in September of 1986 came out on the Famicom Disk System, and later a slightly different version appeared on the MSX 2 platform. The MSX 2 version was ported as Vampire Killer in Europe and Brazil, and eventually the FDS version was ported to cartridge form for Nintendo's popular Nintendo Entertainment System as Castlevania. This is what helped the game become popular both in and out of Japan, and thus a legend was born. It would later be ported to the Commodore 64, the Commodore Amiga, the PC, the Game Boy Advance, and the Wii via the Virtual Console.
In the game, you play Simon Belmont, a whip-swinging descendant of the vampire hunting Belmont clan. Your ultimate goal is to fight your way through and take on Dracula himself. Along the way, you pick up hearts, which powers your weapons, and also use holy water, a dagger, and an axe. Eventually you do destroy Dracula, but you'll soon find out that he's a really hard guy to keep down.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
A Brief History of Castlevania; Part One
This game takes place some time after the first one, and the story was actually fleshed out in the Japanese manual for the game. Simon visits his family's grave, ailing from an aching back after putting Dracula down. A girl appears to him in the mist and tells him that Dracula put a curse on him during their encounter, and that he doesn't have long to live. The curse can be lifted, but only by Dracula himself. So, Simon has to resurrect his foe by collecting his body parts in order to get the cure. The game had three unique endings ... and in two of them, Simon bites the dust!
Simon's Quest had many elements of a traditional, explorative RPG: you could level up and increase your maximum health, and there were merchants that you could trade with. Upgrading your weapons, especially your whip, was a key element of the game. The FDS version had a rudimentary save system, but the NES version required passwords to return you to levels in the game. The game was the first to have the famous Castlevania music track "Bloody Tears" in it, and was also novelized.
Haunted Castle
A Brief History of Castlevania Haunted Castle
In 1988, a Castlevania arcade game was released in both Japan and North America, and was a port of the original game with updated graphics and music. Not exactly an arcade smash-hit, the game was later ported to the PlayStation 2, but only in Japan. You have to wonder why they didn't just call the game Castlevania, or Kill Dracula.
Castlevania: The Adventure
A Brief History of Castlevania; Part One
The franchise first appeared on the Game Boy in 1988, and the Game Boy Color the following year. This game is set one hundred years before Castlevania, and the player takes control of Christopher Belmont in order to contront Dracula. The game had rudimentary controls and no secondary weapons, so you had to rely on your whip, which could be upgraded. However, taking any damage would dump your whip back a level, and you only had three lives. Although you could earn more lives every 20,000 points. Definitely not the best handheld Castlevania title.
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
A Brief History of Castlevania; Part One
Another prequel game, this one is set years before Castlevania, and follows the adventures of Trevor C. Belmont on his quest to kill Dracula. This time, you're joined by other playable characters. Sypha Belnades is a priestess with powerful magic spells, and Grant DaNasty is a pirate who can climb walls. But probably the coolest character of them all was Alucard, Dracula's son, who could toss fireballs and turn into a bat. Isn't Dracula a last name? That would make him a living palindrome, Alucard Dracula.
This was the final Castlevania title for the NES, and is supposedly being developed into a three-part animated film written by Warren Ellis. Of course, that was announced three years ago, so don't hold your breath.
Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
A Brief History of Castlevania; Part One
Begin the confusing naming schemes! This title was actually the second handheld version of Castlevania, and it came out in 1991 for the Game Boy. It's set 15 years after Castlevania: The Adventure, and in it Dracula kidnaps Christopher Belmont's son Soleiyu and turns him into a demon. Nice guy, that Dracula. In order to save his son, Christopher has to mount an attack on Dracula's rebuilt castle. 
Belmont's Revenge brought back the subweapons for the game that were missing from The Adventure, and it was one of the better titles for the Game Boy. 
Kid Dracula
 Kid Dracula
While this Game Boy and Famicom title was not exactly pure canon in the Castlevania universe, Kid Dracula's main antagonist Garamoth actually went on to appear in Symphony of the Night as Galamoth.
Castlevania IV
Super Castlevania IV 
This was the first in the series to appear on the Super Nintendo, and was basically a very expanded remake of the first game. Players had much more control over Simon, he could whip in 8 directions, use his whip to swing over obstacles, and featured Frankenstein and The Mummy among others as final bosses. The game also featured new and remixed music, including the new famous "Theme of Simon Belmont."
Castlevania Chronicles
Castlevania Chronicles
This was a remake of the first Castlevania game for the Sharp X68000 computer in Japan, but the game was later ported to the PlayStation in 2001, and the PSN in 2007 as a PSOne Classic. It has improved graphics and and music, and includes a prologue where you see Dracula being resurrected in 1691.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
In this game, 17-year-old Richter Belmont has to save his girlfriend Maria Renard, a nun named Terra, and the daughter of the local doctor, Iris, from the clutches of the dark priest Shaft who has resurrected Dracula. The player can control Richter or Terra (who controls animals), and they face off against Shaft, Dracula, and even Death.
This game got a little convoluted. Originally released only for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1993, it was later released for the Virtual Console in 2008, and as an import in early 2010. Castlevania: Dracula X was released for the SNES in 1995 (where Maria is no longer a playable character), and as part of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PlayStation Portable in 2007 with updated dialogue and new cutscenes. The original version of the game is also included as a bonus.
Castlevania: Bloodlines
 Castlevania Bloodlines
Castlevania hopped onto the Genesis in 1994, and this title was meant to serve as a gap-filler between the games and the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker. In this game, Texan Quincy Morris (a character from the Dracula novel who is meant to be a distant relative of the Belmont clan) has laid Dracula to eternal rest. But, as often happens, Dracula's niece Elizabeth Bartley revives her uncle, and brings badness back to the land.
You control either John Morris, Quincy's son, or Eric Lecarde, whose girlfriend was turned into a vampire by Elizabeth, as you travel throughout Europe to try and restore order. The game featured many special effects, was quite gory, and again you square off against Dracula. Shocking, right?
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
 Castlevania Symphony of the Night
This game is a direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, and in it the dark priest Shaft has been resurrected, and brings Richter Belmont under his control as the Lord of Castlevania. This awakens Alucard from his slumber, and brings Maria in search of her lover. Players control Alucard, although they encounter Maria several times, as he makes his way through Castlevania, which is revealed as an entity of chaos. Plus, it's sort of alive ... and creepy.
The game brought back the RPG elements from Simon's Quest and expanded on them. Released on the PlayStation in 1997, the Saturn in 1998, and later on XBLA and the PSN, the game is considered to be one of the best in the series, has a killer soundtrack, and was the first Castlevania game produced by Koji Igarashi.
Castlevania: Legends
 Castlevania Legends
This out-of-continuity Game Boy title has Sonia Belmont as the first Belmont to confront Dracula, which doesn't line up with the history presented by the other games. In it, Sonia and Alucard fight Dracula and she defeats him, and goes on to give birth to another Belmont who will fight Dracula when the need arises. Even Igarashi considers this game to be an embrassment.
Castlevania 64
 Castlevania Legends
Although the game is actually called Castlevania, most people call this Castlevania 64 so as not to confuse it with the first game. In this 3D title, a first for the series, Reinhardt Schneider, heir to the Belmont clan, and Carrie Fernandez, a heroine wielding magic powers, face off against ... you guessed it, Dracula. Although he's not presented as Dracula at first. Sound confusing? It is. Depending on how quickly you beat the game, you would see one of several endings, only one of which was considered to be in canon.
Igarashi said this game was removed from the official Castlevania timeline because it was considered to be a side project, but some recent timelines have restored it, and Iga himself has said that the different timelines were pulled together by magic. Or to keep people's heads from exploding.
Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness
 Castlevania Legacy of Darkness
This second foray onto the Nintendo 64 saw you playing as the werewolf-like Cornell who was trying to save his sister Ada from being a sacrifice to Count Dracula. Along the way, you do battle with another man-best, Ortega, and eventually have to give up your wolf powers in order to save Ada. However, it turns out that this was what the evil forces wanted all along, and this sacrifice resurrects Dracula at his full powers.
The game was pretty much just a continuation of the development from the previous 64 title, even though it is a prequel, and contains many of the same levels.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
 Castlevania Circle of the Moon
In this game, a woman named Camilla resurrects Dracula 10 years after he was put down by Morris Baldwin. Now, Morris comes back with his two sons Hugh and Nathan in tow, and the player controls Nathan throughout the game as he battles both the forces of Dracula, and his own brother who is being turned against him. In the end, Dracula is defeated, both brothers and the father are saved, and they continue their training in vampire ass-kicking.
Circle of the Moon had a unique control scheme that let players combine cards for different powers, and was a solid Game Boy Advance title. 
Stay tuned for Part Two! Plus, be sure to let us know what your favorite Castlevania game was.
A Brief History of Castlevania: Part One


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