The Castlevania series has taken on many forms and been on various platforms since it first began back in 1986. The very core of the series was 2D action platforming and has since evolved into the 3D action realm. Yet this evolution has not been for the better of the series, as most of the essence of what made Castlevania so fun to play was lost in the transition over the years.
With the last game developed by Mercury Steam underachieving to everyone’s expectations, it’s time for a much needed change. A change that can return the series back to its roots and reinvigorate the interest and hunger for an action packed Castlevania game. For such a task, we need a game developer that has the talent and credentials to deliver the Castlevania game we all need and deserve. That developer is Vanillaware.
Original known as Japanese gaming studio Puraguru back in 2002, until being renamed in 2004, Vanillaware has a great history of specializing in 2D sprite-based game design. Titles like Odin Sphere and GrimGrimoire helped show many nuances and studio staples that evolved into the developer’s first big game Muramasa: The Demon Blade on the Nintendo Wii in 2009. The game would later be released on the PlayStation Vita under the name Muramasa: Rebirth in 2013, after the release of Dragons Crown for PlayStation 3 and Vita. Through all their games, Vanillaware’s charm comes from the unique artistic design of characters and levels, all of which blend perfectly with fluid gameplay and interesting storylines. The visual style of Vanillaware is easily identifiable and unique amongst other studios in the industry, something that could be utilized very well for applying to a franchise such as Castlevania.
Castlevania games that played similar to Symphony of the Night, arguably the best title in the franchise, all have a few characteristics in common with one another. The environments and characters that populate them are visually dynamic and appealing, as well as ever changing and unique with each entry into the series. Within the industry currently there is no other game developer that can create visually interesting and unique 2D sprites the same way that Vanillaware can. While other titles like Guacamelee, Dust: An Elysian Tail, and BloodRayne: Betrayal all have art styles that are pleasing to look at as they are fun to play, Vanillaware’s work takes everything a step further. The level of attention to detail and theatricality that games like Muramasa: Rebirth and Dragon’s Crown present are superb and outclass all other previously mentioned games.
The action in a Vanillaware game is fast-paced, fluid, and constantly increasingly challenging and rewarding with exploration and advancement through a level. Most Castlevania games in the 2D metroid-vania style follow this same approach over the course of the entire experience. This is a match made in heaven as Vanillaware not only understands the necessity of fun gameplay, but the balance of challenge and reward for players that play through their titles. Not only is this a gameplay style that is highly requested for the series, but already proven to be done well by Vanillaware. Muramasa: Rebirth is a perfect example of how a modern day 2D Castlevania game created by Vanillaware can play like. Not only would enemies and boss characters present varying degrees of fun challenge, but also keep players engaged in the narrative and lore of the title, something Castlevania has plenty of history to pull from.
Yet the visual department is where Vanillaware shines above all others, and Catslevania would greatly benefit from their talent in being reimagined. The approach in Dragon’s Crown shows that Vanillaware can have a lot of fun and finesse creating a mythical Gothic or Medieval setting for a Castlevania game. Not only would the over-the-top character design mesh well with Castlevania lore and well-known characters, but can go even further than before and make for some truly awesome looking heroes and enemies. Much like BloodRayne: Betrayal totally revamped that series with a whole new look, Vanillaware can give Castlevania a new coat of paint that would become memorable and reestablish the series as visually unique among other titles in the industry.
The possibility of such a project happening is only as plausible as much as gamers ask for it. Those who have begged for a traditional style Castlevania game already find appeal in games like Muramasa: Rebirth, where some similarities are very apparent. It seems only right that a developer already with a pedigree of 2D game design and a unique art style be the one to deliver the Castlevania game we’ve all wanted. More discussion about this dream match needs to happen in order to get both Konami and Vanillaware on the same page, and even the same room, to make this a reality. Vanillaware is already a proven studio in what makes past Castlevania games such memorable and critically praised titles. All it takes now is for them to be given the freedom, and the chance, to give us another classic.
Do you think Vanillaware can make a great Castlevania game? Or is there another developer that you think can do a better job? Leave us a comment below and let us know where you stand.