WeeklyVania: What type of direction could Castlevania 3DS take?

Today is quite an occasion, especially for all those 3DS owners out there, an audience which has seen a drastic boost in number thanks to the much-talked about price drop from not that long ago. The glasses-free, 3D handheld is now more marketable and financially feasible than ever– especially when compared to its original asking price. So, now what’s left to do for Nintendo is get some solid pieces of content on the system, specifically strong third-party support since we all know Nintendo is king when it comes to first-party software.

So, third-party for the purposes of this column translates to Konami, of course. The Castlevania series has been quite friendly to Nintendo’s previous handhelds, so it’s highly expected that the same will be said of the series and its presence on the 3DS once all’s said and done. But up until this point, Konami has been almost completely mute when it comes to their future plans for the soon-to-be 25 year old classic, vampire-slaying franchise. Surprisingly so, since the 25th anniversary happens to be in just a couple of weeks (on September 26).

This brings us to today’s special event which is Nintendo’s pre-TGS, 3DS-centric press conference. In it we’re expecting to see a full-blown reveal of the circle pad attachment for the handheld- in all its ugliness. We’re also expecting several big game announcements, one of which is Monster Hunter 3G (which, like the aforementioned attachment, has already been leaked via Famitsu). All eyes are on today’s proceedings, especially those belonging to Castlevania fans, wanting to know if the recent rumor of Castlevania 3DS being announced ends up being true. If it does, we still have the second part of said rumor to think (and possibly worry) about: how it’s going to make a large amount of fans unhappy upon seeing the direction this 3DS exclusive will take.

Long ago, I published a column in which I shared what I strong felt should be Castlevania 3DS. What I proposed was a full-on remake of the classic final entry in the NES trilogy: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. But now, after receiving the aforementioned rumor and word about how it’s going to upset a good number of fans, I’m starting to have second thoughts, naturally. The one question that’s been on my mind recently is: just how can Konami go on about developing a Castlevania title for the 3DS that will, reportedly, upset a good chunk of its loyal fanbase? Well, there’s several ways that could happen.

First and foremost, let’s recall Iga’s stance on the 3DS. It was reported long ago that he was quite interested in developing for the handheld and that a large part of that interest was due to the system’s integrated cameras. Now let’s sidetrack for a bit and go back to Dawn of Sorr0w and how it utilized the Nintendo DS’ big feature: the touch screen. Said sequel to Aria of Sorrow had quite a prominent implementation of the handheld’s then revolutionary touch screen, and, of course, its dual screens in general. Basically, you wouldn’t be able to successfully beat a boss without having to perform a touch-screen “finisher” if you will. These “nails in the coffin” had you drawing symbols on the screen, and only after doing so would you have completely defeated whatever boss was at your mercy (if you failed to do so then the boss would regenerate a good portion of health and the fight would continue.) But that was Dawn of Sorrow and its DS-exclusive features, now let’s talk about how this new entry in the franchise could make good use of the 3DS and its cameras, and at the same time indirectly aiming to anger some fans.

First-person Castlevania. Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Let’s just say that perhaps, Castlevania 3DS turns out to be a first-person oriented game, akin to Metroid Prime (hopefully). This would definitely lead to Iga and his team to be able to flex some creative muscles they haven’t even been aware of possessing prior to obtaining a 3DS dev-kit. Hell, we shouldn’t be too shocked since a first-person ‘vania actually already exists in the form of Castlevania: The Arcade: an entry which stayed true to its namesake and never saw release on any console, despite rumors of a Playstation Move-enabled port or a Wii release. Could Iga be cooking up something similar to this for 3DS owners?

If done right, it could end up being something unique and fun for the series, and visually pleasing as well what witha full 3D effect, but I do stress “if done right.” I never got a chance to play The Arcade so I can’t really share my personal thoughts on said game. But, for the 3DS and its functionality, I’m quite sure it would be tiring to constantly be swinging your arms around, performing whip attack motions to take down foes, and, of course, bosses. I don’t see that being the case with the 3DS if it does, in fact, take on a first-person approach, since I’m sure Konami would opt to utilize the system’s integrated circle pad for movements and attack motions. And I’m sure I’m not alone in actually wanting to see Castlevania given the Metroid Prime treatment. But maybe it’ll end up being an on-rails experiences. Or, in an even more “controversial” outcome, Castlevania 3DS might turn out to be a puzzle game, putting the system’s touch screen to good use.

If you’re not familiar with this mobile title, what you see above is a screenshot from Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night, which– as its name heavily implies– is tied with Symphony of the Night by being a sort of remake of said PSX classic. I’m not suggesting a 3DS port of this, surprisingly fun and addictive, puzzler. But I am suggesting that perhaps Iga and his team might go head-on with the system’s touch controls and give us a puzzle game which once again takes the tried-and-true matching colored tiles mechanics mixed with some Puzzle Quest features as well and call it a day. The anniversary is coming up so Konami could also opt to include some celebratory levels and characters in the game. This is all pure speculation on my part and, personally, I hope something like this doesn’t happen.

But you can’t completely reject the idea, especially when taking Encore of the Night into consideration. The game launched on the iPhone/iPod Touch (and later on Windows Phones) to a surprisingly positive reception. Critics and players alike praised its mix of classic puzzle mechanics and Puzzle Quest-like questing as you took Alucard through his father’s castle once more. Hell, I can attest to that, the game was truly addictive and downright fun. But it’s not something I would like to see on the 3DS.

Now, this next  possible route Konami might opt to take with Castlevania 3DS might make you cry foul at me, with pitchforks at the ready, but just take a moment to hear me out!

Ah, yes, Castlevania Judgement. It was a game that sort of sounds brutally awesome on paper, but when executed could turn out to be like the final product we received, exclusively on the Wii. This fighter took many of the series’ beloved characters and pit them in all-out fighting game antics with one another. Yeah, it was awesome to pit Simon against Trevor, but doing so meant we had to endure some clunky controls, alongside some rather light combo systems. It was still enjoyable to some degree, don’t get me wrong, but it could have been a much better product. Oh, and some of the character designs didn’t rub me the right way whatsoever (I’m looking at you, Grant).

If Iga does decide to once again turn Castlevania into a fighting affair, the 3DS would actually be quite a welcome platform, especially after seeing the sound success of Dead or Alive: Dimensions and Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition. Again, it’s not something I want to see, but it could turn out to be a decent offering, and could allow Iga the chance to fix the mistakes he made with Judgement. But at the end of the day, I know Castlevania Judgement 2 is the last Castlevania-related announcement fans would want to be met with. So, having said all that, let’s go on to a possible route Konami could take that could actually prove to be quite fruitful and successful: an RPG.

If there’s something that Castlevania fans have been quite accustomed to, on top of whipping the holy hell out of Dracula, it’s light RPG elements. These mechanics have been in play as early as with the launch of Simon’s Quest and even more prominently with Symphony of the Night. In the latter title- which sprouted multiple, handheld iterations in the same “metroidvania mold”- we got a non-linear experience full with leveling up and manipulating one’s stats, and item collection, of course. It was unlike any ‘vania before it and it turned out to be a flat-out masterpiece. So much so that, as aforementioned, Konami used the PSX classic as a template for future, portable ‘vania releases. And with each said release the RPG elements have been given quite a substantial amount of attention and importance.

So what if Konami decides to go full-blown RPG mode with Castlevania 3DS? I mean, it wouldn’t be completely unexpected, but it would be something that could alienate fans that just want to be pit, with whip in hand, in multiple gothic-themed stages littered with hordes of monsters, ultimately ending up in a battle with Dracula. A Castlevania RPG could actually divide the fanbase even further, but one thing’s for sure: it’ll definitely cater to those who absolutely adore and know the series mostly from its SOTN-styled offerings. But really, imagine how awesome it would be to be placed in a huge, sprawling overworld set within the Castlevania universe, with dozens upon dozens of quests (both main and secondary) to undertake. It could end up being just as brilliant as Symphony of the Night ended up being, a game which went on to become not only one of the best in its respective series, but also one of the finest games of all time.

We’re just a few hours away from Nintendo’s 3DS conference and all eyes will be on them to show off, what fans hope will be, the next big Castlevania to look forward to. Nintendo handhelds are quite synonymous with the Castlevania series, so it’s inevitable that we’ll be getting a 3DS offering at some point. Hell, we may just end up getting one announced tonight. If it does get revealed, then you know damn well what the next installment of WeeklyVania will be about. For now, though, “let us go out this evening for pleasure. The night is still young.”

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