After playing Bloodborne for some time, it finally hit me: “Holy shit, this is Castlevania.” I know that may sound odd, but after playing through Mergo’s Loft and especially Cainhurst Castle (which itself is an obvious nod to Castlevania), the Castlevania-ness of the game really started to scream out at me.
Upon this realization, I started thinking about the game as a whole and became even more convinced that this was essentially the Castlevania game fans of the series have been asking for.
Let’s break down some of what made Castlevania… Castlevania, and see how Bloodborne brings those elements forward.
Castlevania was one of the first games to fully embrace a horror vibe. While it was still an action game, its presentation was meant to instill terror into the hearts of gamers. The other aspect that contributed to this was the difficulty of the game. Every encounter made you fearful of death and having to replay entire sections after meeting an untimely demise.
Bloodborne captures this perfectly. Every inch of the game world permeates with dread, horror, and despair. Even during one of the game’s various endings where you see the sun finally shine, the world of Yharnam is still unsettling. The challenge of it all just amps up the horror because death can literally be around any corner.
One of the great things about Castlevania was the way the levels wrapped in on themselves. You may find doors and avenues in latter parts of the game which would bring you back to earlier parts. Levels were carefully designed and crafted with purpose.
Bloodborne shares this aspect with its deliberate level design as well. Each of Yharnam’s sectors have various shortcuts which can be unlocked, giving you access from the beginning of the level to the end. Going even further, some of the sectors themselves connect to each other, creating a giant cohesive world. Castlevania was one of the games (along with Metroid) to perfect this sort of level design and Bloodborne does so as well.
Monsters & Bosses
Vampires, Werewolves, the Undead, Castlevania had these and much more. Though the original enemies and bosses were inspired by classic movie monsters, they all had a unique look and feel to them. As you progressed further in the games, you were always treated to a new type of beast which was eager to end your life. The boss encounters were always a highlight as they usually presented you with a monstrosity which was much bigger than you but which you had to take out (somehow).
While not directly inspired by movie monsters, the creatures and foes in Bloodborne are no less frightening or distinctive. While the early parts of the game mostly have you fighting with werewolf-like creatures and bosses, the latter parts have you dealing with Lovecraftian cosmic horrors. This aspect diverges from Castlevania but the same sense of awe and dread that you feel during these encounters is felt. Facing a foe that looms over you and knowing it will take you several (correction: many) tries to figure out how to destroy it is pure Castlevania.
It’s interesting how a company which isn’t Konami created a Castlevania title in all but name. Many of the essential hallmarks of that classic series are present in Bloodborne. In an ideal world, Konami would ask From Software to help develop the next Castlevania and fans of the franchise could finally get the outstanding entry in the series that they deserve. This won’t happen of course, so if you don’t mind, I’ll just continue to play Bloodborne and pretend it’s Castlevania.