WeeklyVania: Addressing the Castlevania fanbase concerning the 25th anniversary

This year’s E3 came and went without even a slight mention of Castlevania’s upcoming 25th anniversary from Konami. Which was quite disappointing since this was the first E3 I actually attended and I was met with an absence of any sort of ‘vania goodness. Let’s go back on track, though. Gamescom was up next which recently concluded with the same “no-show” results for ‘vania fans– aside from learning that the PSN port of Harmony of Despair will be hitting next month. Lastly, Konami held a press conference a few days ago in which they went over some of the titles they’ll have on-hand next month for TGS. Yes, as one would guess, Castlevania was sorely absent from the listing. So, what’s going on? Are we really getting the cold shoulder from Konami in regards to the series’ upcoming milestone?

Not exactly, at least in my opinion. Yes, Konami is being very quiet about their plans for the series’ upcoming anniversary, but this doesn’t exactly mean that there’s nothing in the works to acknowledge such an occasion. If you recall, not that long ago I got word from a Konami PR rep’ that the publisher is, in fact, working on a celebratory project and that it’s currently going through approval. When I broke the news I saw that waves of ‘vania fans were suddenly sparked with a newfound sense of hope, which, of course, brought a smile to my face– most notably in my good friend Jorge D. Fuente’s forum, Castlevania Dungeon.

Soon after we got a leaked listing of upcoming, unannounced, Playstation Vita titles. Amongst the games listed was one very striking inclusion, Castlevania: The Complete Chronicles. Instantly, we were even more excited than ever before, starting to speculate over how Konami would handle this next title in the “Chronicles” line of the series, if true, of course. Would it be a much-needed compilation collecting some of the series’ classic entries in one package? Or would it more akin to the other two actual Chronicles titles– Castlevania Chronicles and The Dracula X Chronicles– possibly giving the original game and its immediate successors a make-over? Well, we didn’t get to find out exactly or even get an official confirmation over this title’s existence as Gamescom came and went– thus leading to the presumption that it may have been fake all along.

Where does that leave us? Despite what was aforementioned, we could still get some form of reveal at next month’s TGS– which would be just in time for the 25h anniversary. One thing’s for sure: it’s quite possible that we won’t actually be getting a new ‘vania title this year, leaving only the PSN port of Harmony of Despair to suffice. Having said that, perhaps when Harmony of Despair hits PSN sometime next month, it’ll soon be followed– along with the original XBLA version– up with some special sort of anniversary DLC like character packs or maybe even new chapters based on the classic titles. Hey, it may end up happening.

Yeah, it’s true that Harmony of Despair wasn’t exactly one of the finest entries in the franchise, but that doesn’t take away from its addictive and entertaining nature. The game was truly a time-sucker, especially for those looking to max out every character and every last statistic. Those players found themselves playing for countless hours, going through the game’s maps time and time again, trying one last time to get that rare drop. One’s time with the game was then exponentially expanded with the introduction of new DLC that came in the form of new characters, music tracks and chapters. One significant pair of extra content was 8-bit Smon Belmont and Chapter 10: Origins.

“Origins” turned out being more than just a throwback stage to the series’ old-school roots. The stage actually ended up being one of the most “complete” amongst the game’s 11 chapters– 6 standard and 5 DLC. The reason for that being that the developers actually managed to successfully translate the whole of the original Castlevania’s castle into a singular, sprawling stage. Hell, they even opted to thankfully make the stage house all of the original bosses in their respective chambers, though Dracula was given quite an upgrade in terms of hit-points and attacks/attack patterns– good ol’ Drac’ is pure hell on a hard mode run. Even so, “Origins”  was a faithful melding of all the levels from the NES classic, making for one wholly fun and nostalgic good time, especially when running through it with 8-bit Simon Belmont.

Even with all that, would that really suffice for an anniversary acknowledgment (if it were to be intended as one)? How about some more stages and characters taken from the series’ NES trilogy? Stages from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Simon’s Quest would be quite awesome to have in Harmony of Despair, complemented by characters from both titles, most notably Trevor Belmont and Simon in his Simon’s Quest armor. With Harmony of Despair making its way to PSN, along with the addition of local co-op (which was missing from the original XBLA release), there could be a strong possibility that we could get a batch of DLC just in time for the anniversary next month– with a bigger, actual game release planned for sometime next year.

Now let’s shift gears to Mercury Steam. David Cox has gone on record stating that Mercury Steam has nothing at all planned for the series’ 25th anniversary this year, but we recently learned that the Lords of Shadow producer is actually working on two unannounced projects. What could they be? It’s a safe bet that one of them is, in fact, a sequel to Lords of Shadow– which recently concluded its story not too long ago with its final piece of DLC, Resurrection. Despite receiving commendable reviews, Lords of Shadows wasn’t exactly fully accepted by the entire ‘vania fanbase– as one would expect since this is a 3D ‘vania we’re talking about here and one that’s aiming to “reboot” the series. So, even if a Lords of Shadow sequel were to serve as an anniversary project, I’m quite sure it wouldn’t exactly be met with open arms.

What if said, potential, sequel plays things a bit more closer to the series’ classic staples than Lords of Shadow? Would that suffice? Yeah, Mercury Steam isn’t working on anything for release this year, in time for the anniversary, but what if they plan to acknowledge it next year with a new game? After the events of Lords of Shadow it’s safe to expect the sequel to be a bit more “Castlevania,” overall. Everything has been set in motion upon the conclusion of Lords of Shadow– and thus, Resurrection– so now we could get a more traditional Belmont vs. Dracula affair with the next game. If that’s Mercury Steam’s intentions, of course. It could even turn out being a sort of remake to the original Castlevania or maybe even Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse– a game which David Cox has shown great interest in revisiting. This is the anniversary of the original game we’re celebrating so a pseudo- remake of said NES classic would be more ideal. Speaking of which…

Remember this? Yeah, I’m sure you do. Not that long ago Mercury Steam showed off a trailer and some very early beta footage for Lords of Shadow. Both ended up getting fans quite excited over what they saw which was everything that makes a Castlevania game what it is. What’s funny, though is the fact that the actual castle we saw in this trailer– and its inner hall we saw in the gameplay footage– actually ended up being in the game we ultimately received. The way the trailer was presented, though is what made fans get a huge smile on their face. Oh, and the inclusion of Simon Belmont most likely had something to do with that as well, despite being an altered look for the iconic vampire hunter– an appearance similar to how Gabriel looks like.

This Simon Belmont beta footage ended up getting fans’ minds running wild with expectations, including yours truly. Could Mercury Steam be planning to release what we saw as a special form of commemorative DLC? Perhaps we could end up getting the Simon Belmont skin as DLC since the level he was seen in in the beta footage was one we already went through as Gabriel. This would give us an opportunity to play through Lords of Shadow’s entire epic journey as the most iconic protagonist in the series. Oh, and we’ll be able to whip the holy hell out of Satan with Simon Belmont. Just the thought of that is enough to warrant me a fresh pair of pants. Would this be acceptable, though? Like I said before when touching on Harmony of Despair’s upcoming PSN release, we may end up getting DLC of some form to celebrate next month’s anniversary, with a big game release planned for next year. Sure this may be met with a lot of disapproval by the hardcore fanbase, but hey, at least it’s something, right?

This brings us to what’s currently going in within the series’ fanbase. Quite simply: series loyalists have gotten together to formulate a group known as Operation Akumajo. Inspired by the actions and support that Operation Rainfall was met with, Operation Akumajo aims to make Konami aware of all the fans that feel like they’re being neglected by the publisher’s support for the Castlevania franchise, or lack thereof. The group is currently in no way up to the numbers Rainfall received, but that just goes to show you how the series isn’t as mainstream as it deserves to be. That’s sadly going to most likely result in Konami simply ignoring this group and their main goal, since the publisher will see that not many people are jumping onboard. We do have to commend fans for trying, though, but let’s also not get to the point of being demanding.

Yeah, I’m extremely aware of the overall feeling of despair and downright anger that may be flowing through many ‘vania fans, but we can’t simply cry foul at Konami because of it. Like I’ve been saying many times, we still have next month’s Tokyo Game Show left which I strongly feel will bring forth a revelation of what Konami plans to do for the anniversary. We can’t be demanding, though. Let’s just wait it out and see what happens. One thing’s for sure: Konami is in no way going to let the series’ 25th anniversary slip by without any sort of acknowledgement. Also going back to another point, Castlevania isn’t as mainstream as, say, Zelda or Resident Evil; two titles that are getting heavy amounts of support for their respective anniversaries. For comparison’s sake, Castlevania is like Metroid, though the only difference is that up until now there’s been absolutely no word at all regarding Nintendo’s plans for Metroid’s 25th which recently passed. Makes you wonder how that series’ fans can be so damn passive about it.

We’re less than a month away from Castlevania’s 25th anniversary and yet, we don’t have any actual release to look forward to. Though it may seem like it, hope isn’t completely lost just yet. We still have one last significant press event left next month in the form of TGS, which is the perfect place for such a reveal. We mustn’t forget that we’re most likely not going to get a game release this year, though. We could end up getting DLC of some form to help ease the wait till next year’s big significant release. I know another question that may arise from all this is: where’s Koji Igarashi? Could we end up getting a new, celebratory game from him? We can’t really rule that out yet and it’s another likely scenario despite the beloved producer being out of the spotlight nowadays. One thing’s for sure: we’re all going to be celebrating the series’ 25h anniversary ourselves regardless. We’ll be doing so by replaying some of the series’ finest games, including the one that started it all.

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