My History with Castlevania

This article was published on 10/31/2018.

Castlevania is a series that I'm quite fond of, but it didn't start out that way. Most people who're into Castlevania will likely tell you the same old story; they got into the series when they were kids and have been fans ever since. That describes my relationship with many other popular franchises, such as Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, Sonic, and the list goes on. Castlevania is one of the few popular classic franchises that didn't follow this pattern for me, though. If it did, then I wouldn't be writing an article about it, because that would make for a very boring article. Well, this article is still probably going to be boring, but at least it'll be a little less boring. I hope so, anyway. What was I talking about, again? Oh yeah, Castlevania. In this article, I'll be going over my personal history with the Castlevania franchise.

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As a child, I missed out on all of the 8-bit and 16-bit Castlevania games. I did grow up back when those games were being released, but somehow, I never heard or saw anything about them. Considering how popular they were, I'm not sure how I missed the boat on such classics. It's possible I might have seen pictures of them in magazines or even saw them at stores, but because they were unfamiliar to me, I passed up on them. Back then, I only bought games that had characters I recognized, such as the aforementioned Mario, Sonic, and Mega Man. I also didn't have many ways to know what video games were out at the time, as I got my information exclusively from magazines, and I initially didn't get them very often. Whatever the case, I didn't play Castlevania for a good chunk of my childhood. However, I did play at least one Castlevania title as a child. Read the next paragraph for more info on that.

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It wasn't until Castlevania made the jump to 3-D that I finally got into the series. Yes, that's right; the very first Castlevania game I played was the infamous Castlevania 64, which originally came out on the Nintendo 64 in 1999. Around the time that game got released, I played it at a friend's house and was completely blown away by its presentation. The graphics looked great and the voiced cinematics seemed decent at the time. There was also something really cool about using a whip in 3-D. I can't recall if I later rented the game to play it on my own, but I also found it quite spooky. That spookiness was the reason I never made it past the first area, because I was too scared to play further. Despite that, I was impressed with the game. However, I found out as an adult that Castlevania 64 is awful. I probably would've realized that as a kid had I played past the first area.

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In the early 2000s, I decided to check out some of the Castlevania games that I missed in my youth. I think I started with the very first one on the NES, and I have to say, I wasn't a fan. The main reason was what I referred to as the dreaded "fixed jump," which is a jump of a fixed length that you have no degree of control over. This single aspect of the game totally ruined the experience for me. Most of the early Castlevania games featured this design quirk, causing me to immediately dismiss them. My motto back then was that I wouldn't play any game with fixed jumps, regardless of other factors. However, Super Castlevania IV on the SNES removed the fixed jump and added multidirectional attacks, so I ended up liking that one to some extent. I can't quite recall if I beat some of the NES games around this point in time, but I'm pretty sure I beat Super Castlevania IV.

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Besides Castlevania 64, some of the first Castlevania games I played back when they initially released were the 3-D ones on the PlayStation 2. These games weren't very good, but since I wasn't too familiar with the series by this point, I didn't have a frame of reference for their quality. As a result of that, I went into them with no expectations. That's good, because if I had high expectations, I would've been catastrophically disappointed. I remember being bored out of my mind as I played through Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. I'd go into greater detail, but I can't remember much about this game. I do remember beating it, though, because I have a silly motto of finishing whatever I start, even if it sucks. Maybe it's about time I abandoned that motto.

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Around 2005 or so, a friend of mine kept pestering me to play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which originally came out on the PlayStation in 1997. His case was that this is the best game in the whole series, and one of the best games of all time. I told him that I wasn't a terribly big fan of the series, but he insisted that I check this one out. Reluctantly, I did so, and ended up enjoying it quite a bit. From there, I went on to play through all of the "Metroidvania" styled Castlevania games that were modeled after Symphony of the Night. While I wasn't able to play the Game Boy Advance ones on release day, I did play all the DS ones as soon as they came out. At this point, I concluded that I liked the Metroidvania Castlevania games more than the classic linear ones.

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While I initially preferred the exploratory Castlevania games to the linear ones, I'm now of the opposite opinion. After having completed so many of the Metroidvania Castlevanias, I grew weary of them. I then went back to the classic Castlevania games on the NES and replayed them, tolerating the fixed jumps that I dreaded so much. For some reason, the fixed jumps didn't bother me so much this time around. Once I got past my mental block with fixed jumps, I found myself enjoying most of the classic Castlevania titles, even going so far as to preferring them over the newer ones. Their highly focused design, which I missed the first time I played them, really tickled my fancy. Right now, I would say my favorite game in the whole series is Super Castlevania IV, with Castlevania: Bloodlines and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood tying for second place.

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Fast forward to the present day, I've now completed nearly all of the Castlevania games and have become a huge fan of the series. I even reviewed a good portion of the series on this site. The only games I haven't played are some of the newest ones, like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. I hear that one's pretty bad anyway, so I don't think I'm missing much. So yeah, that's my history with Castlevania. It's pretty weird, but I'm pretty weird, so it fits.

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