There are very few villains in all of pop culture that have stood the test of time with any significance and never lost their appeal. People still love the iconic villains like Darth Vader and the Joker, and itís hard to find anyone old enough to read that doesnít know who they are. When it comes to video games, I feel like I have special relationships with villains like Bowser, Albert Wesker, Liquid Snake/Ocelot, etc. But the one villain that Iíve always had the biggest gaming boner for is also the one that transcends video games. There have been several novels, films, and television series' based on the man Iím speaking of, and the best part about him is that heís based on a real person. He has many names: Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, Vlad Dracul, Vlad III of Wallachia, and so on. But the one name everyone knows is ďDracula.Ē
One of my favorite films of all-time is The Monster Squad. Yes, I understand itís not exactly Oscar quality, but itís one of those films much like The Wizard that I loved as a kid and still love today. The Monster Squad introduced me to all the classic monsters: Frankenstein, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, and of course, Dracula (even today I picture Duncan Regehr whenever I hear the name). I was only two years old when The Monster Squad was released, and from then on I was hooked. The following year, 1988, was the year my brother and I received an NES, and when I heard that there was a game that featured a lot of the same monsters from The Monster Squad, I knew I had to play it. That game, of course, was Castlevania. I never beat the game as a kid because I would get to Draculaís second form and be too scared to continue. In the years since, Iíve grown a pair and have gone back and beaten the game.
Every subsequent Castlevania game are among my favorites on their respective consoles. The NES trilogy are all classics to me, Super Castlevania IV on SNES is one of those games that I canít bring myself to ever get rid of, Symphony of the Night is one of my top 5 favorite games of all-time, and I still play it on a semi-regular basis, I feel Lament of Innocence is an underrated gem of the last generation, Aria of Sorrow is one of the best in the entire series despite being on a handheld (and doesnít actually feature Dracula, per se), and all three of the DS titles would make it into my top ten DS games, and even though you fight Satan and not Dracula, yes, I did love Lords of Shadow.
The concept of vampires these days elicit groans from several people (mostly guys) in my age demographic, as weíve witnessed one of the most badass monsters in history reduced (literally) to glitter. But I feel about vampires the same way I feel about zombies, they may be overplayed these days, but put them in a game and Iíll at least give it a shot.
Dracula is so terrifying that Death himself takes orders from him. Dracula is so powerful that there is an entire family whose sole purpose in life is to train to defeat him every 100 years when he is reincarnated. Also, did I mention he has a sweet castle? It has a clock tower and everything.
The only thing I donít like about Dracula is that he never wins. Considering the ending of Lords of Shadow, I wouldnít mind seeing Gabriel Belmont playing the role of antihero, much like Kratos in the God of War series. I think itís about time for Dracula to get his comeuppance.
My favorite part of any Castlevania is always the final showdown with the "Prince of Darkness". He always has more than one form, and each one is more difficult than the last. Maybe I just suck at video games, but I probably fought Dracula close to 30 times in the DS title Order of Ecclesia before finally taking him down. It was a similar experience in Portrait of Ruin, and Iíve still never beaten Castlevania III: Draculaís Curse. There are exceptions, of course. The only complaint Iíve ever had with Symphony of the Night is that by the time you come to the final showdown, Alucard is so powerful that Dracula is a cakewalk. Final boss notwithstanding, the game is a must play for any and everyone.
Dracula is more than just a character, he is a horror institution. The inspiration for the character is just as interesting. Any time Iíve spent doing research on Vlad the Impaler ultimately results in me spending 2 hours on Wikipedia and another 3 on Google doing searches for articles on the man. Dracula has not only provided me with hours and hours of fantastic gaming, but also several hours curled up with a book or on a couch with a bowl of popcorn. Whatever name you decide to call him, to me, there is no villain greater than Count Dracula.