To keep it short, I don't like the direction Konami has given to the franchise this (last?) generation of consoles. I could write a lot about the change from platforming to brawler combat, the tone shift towards drama, the change from a boasting Dracula towards a moping one... but isn't writing about things you don't like like, you know, giving them even more attention? So let's instead, celebrate all the cool things Castlevania has given us during it's 25 well aged years!
(For best results, please turn up the volume and chill out to this humble playlist)
1.- The opening cutscene, showing this generation’s Belmont ready to challenge Dracula.
While most games of the NES era (and a few of the first batch for the SNES) just threw the player directly into the first level after pressing start, Castlevania made a tradition of showing a short cutscene of the Belmont in turn standing in front of Dracula's Castle, contemplating with resolve the oncoming trial. Some even had a little animation!
2.- The defiant stride of the Belmont Clan (also known as Pimp Walk).
Sprite limits had a toll on old school animations, where it was needed to convey motions through many performance hurdles, and as a lucky result, the first Belmont's got a... peculiar way of walking. Also called power-walking, it has since become a series staple to have the vampire hunter in turn to make his way through the castle halls with a palpable determination and cadence.
3.- Losing half a life bar trying to dodge an Axe Armor hits while near some stairs….
Where to start here... Axe armors, for those new to the franchise, are a kind of resistent enemy that throws axes like boomerangs, mixing high attacks (which must be countered with a weapon hit or sometimes ducking) and low attacks (dodged by jumping). However, the controls for climbing stairs were the same as those for ducking or using a subweapon, so being close to stairs while facing these foes normally ended with our leather clad hero struck mid-step, fumbling to get down, and then getting hit again. Rage and verbal abuse ensued.
4.- …and regaining it by eating meat found on a wall!?
But then again, we are talking about a game where you use hearts to throw a dagger or wield an axe...
5.-Grabbing the end of level orb in a cool position.
For some reason, vanquishing an end of level boss has been known to make an orb appear from thin air, which must be grabbed in order for the game to tally your points and continue. However, grabbing it also froze time and animation, so of course it's become a must to grab it mid air in the coolest pose possible. Whipping downward, doing a backflip, mid-item crash, the sky is the limit!
6.- Braving the perilous clock tower, gear by gear.
On a more serious note, maybe the series best can be found via their Clock Tower stages. Great music, amazing spritewotk, challenging platforming, superb level design, all adding to an almost hypnotic sense of cadence. Almost always the level close to last, it is something each player is always looking up when trying a new Castlevania for the first time, and almost never has failed to deliver. The Tower of Dolls from Chronicles is also kinda cool, but is the gears that signify the high point of the game most of the time.
7.- Getting knocked off a platform by a Medusa head.
The Belmont Bane, Medusa Head's are the most vile spawn from the depths of hell, created with the sole purpose of pissing people off and making controllers seeing themselves being projected towards walls at high velocities. With an erratic behavior, tendency to spawn in the worst possible places, and highly susceptible to reappear from thin air if the screen scroll shuffles, they are never a welcome sight. Rumours say the Anor Londo archers work for the same guild as this gals.
8.- Facing Death itself on a one-on-one showndown.
What more can be said? Dracula's trusted lieutenant is always a joy to confront. From the top of Clock Towers, to ghost ship's masts, deep caverns and torture chambers, Death knows how to make a fight dramatic. It is also quite fond of transforming, and meddling with different combat styles from itineration to iteration, though never leaving it's trusty scythe. Holy crosses are it's bane, however.
9-. The solemn approach to the Castle’s Spire.
Another of the series staples, the final approach to Dracula's keep marks the climax of the journey, leaving a moment for reflection of the trials overcome, letting the player catch his/her breath, and bulding tension for the final confontation. Unless you ruin it grinding for hearths, of course. Anyway, most of the time a lot of care is put into this section's background, and is a memory that every Castlevania player should be fond of.
10- Facing Dracula at last.
Admit it! You are thinking of his teleporting laugh now! The Dance of Illusions suffers little change from game to game, but is nevertheless an exciting clash of wills. Asking the player to be on top of his game, and to make use of every trick learned during the journey (like how to hit three times with a single cross), Dracula makes from a memorable last boss on each of his appearances. Except for the one from Dracula X over bottomless pits. Screw that one.
11.- The end of the journey: watching Dracula’s Castle crumble from a ledge.
A simple end for simpler times, the sunset rising over the remains of Draculas Castle, facing the trials overcome far behind, is sure to make any player's heart full with pride and even a hint of melancholy for the good times had facing it's perils. Maybe, just maybe, Dracula rising again might not be such a bad thing after all. Thanks for reading!