Let Me Learn You About 3D Castlevania

Posted by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -

Let's get the obvious out of the way, it sucks. Okay, that's probably an exaggeration, but given how good the two-dimensional installments are and always have been... mostly (looking at you Simon's Quest), one can't help but feel underwhelmed by the series' transition into the third dimension.

Before I go any further I think I should talk about what it means to be a Castlevania game in the two-dimensional form.

The original on the NES was a linear affair where players assumed the role of Simon Belmont and were tasked with vanquishing Dracula. It was all about haunting atmosphere, catchy tunes, and whipping monsters. It featured excruciating levels and ruthless bosses. It was all about putting you to the test, and making sure you were worthy of the whip and title, "Vampire Killer".  

 
You Afraid? No? You should be 

Simon's Quest was a bit of a deviation. It featured the same great atmosphere and some great tunes, but a lot of the rest of the game feels lazy. It's the precursor to the Metroid style 2D Castlevania has adopted since the success of Symphony of the Night. It was more an RPG adventure than a 2D action game this time around. Though the core gameplay was basically the same as the original, the level design, enemy design, and most disappointingly the boss design were all at a level so far below that of the original. I'd like to  bring up the conversation aspect of the game for a point I'd like to make later on. Technically it was about as developed as other games at the time, but the characters spoke in riddles. There wasn't anything clear about what they'd say, and sometimes the NPCs would just straight up lie. Simon's Quest did however bring some notable additions to series. The exploration, shops, item collection, upgrades, and light leveling system all make their first appearance with this one, and it certainly can be praised for that.

Dracula's Curse was a return to the linear style and the same punishing difficulty of the original. It's generally considered the best of the NES trilogy. The most notable addition to the series was being able to play as different characters.

Super Castlevania IV was a remake of the original game with more levels, better graphics, and even more epic music and boss battles.

Putting the Vania in Metroidvania 

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the next major departure of the series and the blueprint of what the 2D side of the series has followed since. It borrowed the exploration, shops, item collection, upgrades, and a similar RPG leveling system from Simon's Quest, and added to it elements borrowed from Super Metroid, like the map and level/world design. The popular term for this exploration style gameplay is Metroidvania, on account of both Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night being excellent games featuring similar gameplay. And coupled with this style was the great Castlevania atmosphere, monster slaying, wonderful music, and epic bosses.


So, what does it mean to be Castlevania? With the games like the original, III, and IV being defining games of the series, challenging and satisfying gameplay is obvious. Symphony of the Night and to a lesser extent Simon's Quest, suggest that exploration, item management, and having a RPG leveling system are also important. And obviously the setting would ideally be consistent with that of medieval-fantasy.

The 3D games haven't necessarily been bad as far as games go, but as far as Castlevania games go, something is always off. The recent Lords of Shadow for instance, is an example of a decent game. However, it feels less like Castlevania and more like God of War. It has boss battles that could be described as epic, like the few that you must climb on top of a find weak spots similarly to Shadow of the Colossus. The problem with both of these characteristics is, that it simply doesn't play as well as the games it tries to emulate. Something always seems to get lost in translation with Castlevania's transition into 3D, and Lords of Shadow is just the most recent culprit.

It may seem like it'll never happen, like "the one" will never be released, but I have something to share with you. It's already here. 

    
Wait... You don't see it? It practically screams Castle's Souls! 

And it's been here since 2009 and it even has a spiritual successor that will be released later this year.

My friends look no further than Demon's Souls for your 3D Castlevania fix. Actually you probably should, because Dark Souls comes out in a few months as well.

Now I know you're probably thinking, "What does Demon's Souls have to do with anything? It's not even a Castlevania game, and it doesn't even have Dracula or his castle". I'd be inclined to agree with you on those points, but those points alone.

I'll ease you into it.

Medieval-Fantasy Setting 

This is probably the most obvious similarity between both games. Both series' cast you as warriors that use weapons like swords or magic spells. Both are rooted in more Western Mythology, but neither series finds themselves restricted to those confines. Both have magic systems, and both dip into Holy magic while also having some traditional magic. In Castlevania III there is a character that utilizes magic. In most Castlevania games there are magic weapons such as holy water and holy crosses. Demon's Souls feels like it evolved what Castlevania had with its own use of miracles that were separate from the more traditional "magic" spells like a fireball spell.

Epic Music

It's more of a subtle choice, but important all the same. It's not necessarily as memorable or catchy as Castlevania's classic tunes, but it certainly feels appropriately epic and haunting, which leads me to my next point.

Haunting, Dark, and Chilling Atmosphere

In the 8-bit and even 16-bit days Castlevania was all about atmosphere. Actually 2D Castlevania has always been about atmosphere, and it is amazing that it could pull it off so well within the confines of two dimensions. One of Demon's Souls' biggest strengths is also its atmosphere. It features dungeons, dark, dank corridors, dirty mines, and the ambient noise just ramps up the immersion. The aforementioned music also plays its role at all the right moments. Even the gameplay adds to the atmosphere, but that'll be discussed later on. All of it adds up to make Demon's Souls one of the most atmospheric games of not only this generation, but of all time.

It's even got candles! No... You can't whip them... 

Punishing Difficulty and Epic Boss Fights

The Castlevania series has always been known for the relentless challenge it offers, and why don't you ask yourself what Demon's Souls is known for? Its difficulty, of course. Once again Demon's Souls feels like the natural evolution Castlevania's challenge. It forces player's into abiding by the rules of the game and isn't very lenient about mistakes and doesn't hold your hand, very similarly to the classic Castlevania games.The boss battles in Castlevania no doubt contributed to a lot of its difficulty and that is also the case with Demon's Souls. Death, Frankenstein and Igor, Dracula, all of them are some of the most intense and challenging boss battles from the original game. Demon's Souls does more than just provide a challenge with its boss fights though. Each and every one is creative and offers a new challenge, but this time it doesn't feel like the evolution of just Castlevania boss battles, but boss battles as a whole. And just to toot Demon's Souls horn a little bit more, there is even a boss battle in which you must engage another player, and you could even be that player. You can actually be a boss in Demon's Souls.

Story Takes a Backseat

The post-Symphony of the Night Castlevanias seem to be developing more and more of a story, but like most older franchises, the story is generally little more than something to keep the game moving. The same can be said of Demon's Souls.

Multiple Characters and RPG Elements

Some Castlevania games allow for players to play as different characters, and an easy comparison Demon's Souls class system can be made. Eventually players in Demon's Souls can gain all the abilities and strength and weaknesses of any other class, but for a one time playthrough people are going to play the game differently. Some people liked playing through Dracula's Curse as Alucard, some will play as Trevor, and the same goes for Demon's Souls with some people liking to play as a Mage, while others like being a Knight. Now, Demon's Souls goes deeper with its RPG aspects more than Castlevania ever has, but once again it feels like a logical evolution the series could have made, rather than keeping the basically fixed stat increases of level ups from Symphony of the Night. Then of course Demon's Souls has shops like Symphony of the Night and Simon's Quest, and like Simon's Quest you don't buy equipment with money, but with souls which are fairly similar to hearts, no? Demon's Souls goes deeper with its shops and adds a pretty deep weapon upgrade system. It all seems like stuff Castlevania could have eventually done.

Metroidvania

This is arguably the most important part of my argument. To the casual fan of Demon's Souls this might seem a little out of place, but I assure you Demon's Souls has all the ingredients of Metroidvania. What's most interesting about it though is that it strikes a balance in being a straight up linear game, but also giving you the option to go back and play any level in search of better loot. It is almost as if they catered to both sets of Castlevania fans at the same time, the Super Castlevania IV linear style fans and the non-linear Symphony of the Night fans. You can do what most players probably did, which is just work your way through each of the worlds in a straight line, but there was always the option to explore. There are all sorts of paths you can take to reach the end of each level, and each path has its own branching paths to undiscovered secret areas and powerful weapons, rings, armor, or challenges. The messages on the ground from veterans will help newcomers understand what is needed to even be able to access certain areas of a level, and the message system as a whole is reminiscent of Simon's Quest's NPCs (or even old school NPCs in general, since a message will never say something new). You don't really ever know if a message is truthful or not until you find out for yourself, and they can be easily misinterpreted, vague, or even just a simple message put there to be fun. There are actual characters you meet in the game that are liars like there were in Simon's Quest as well. There are also some that aren't, and meeting all of the characters requires quite a bit of backtracking and puzzle solving.  There is so much depth to Demon's Souls that so many players barely scratched the surface of and missed out on, and it's mostly regarding this, ever so praised when used in other games, Metroidvania gameplay.

Conclusion

You and I both know you didn't find that armor, or that weapon. 

It's probably unfair to call Demon's Souls "Castlevania 3D", because it is a game that can easily stand on its own. I just believe many of Demon's Souls better qualities to be overlooked, and by making these comparisons, perhaps they'll be easier to see. It's already forever made its mark with its innovative online features, such as invading others' worlds and the messages, which dare I say again, could have (but probably not) been something the Castlevania franchise contributed to gaming in order to stay relevant. Obviously Demon's Souls isn't a Castlevania game. It is much more an RPG than Castlevania ever has been, and because the story is irrelevant to Castlevania without Dracula or his Castle (though after Lords of Shadow who knows?) it is clearly not Castlevania 3D. Once again, From Software brought us gamers something truly magical, maybe even mystical, in Demon's Souls, and because it is strong enough to stand on its own two feet, it should. Still, Demon's Souls is very much what Konami should be looking at considering the future of its own famous franchise, not God of War.

#1 Edited by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -

Let's get the obvious out of the way, it sucks. Okay, that's probably an exaggeration, but given how good the two-dimensional installments are and always have been... mostly (looking at you Simon's Quest), one can't help but feel underwhelmed by the series' transition into the third dimension.

Before I go any further I think I should talk about what it means to be a Castlevania game in the two-dimensional form.

The original on the NES was a linear affair where players assumed the role of Simon Belmont and were tasked with vanquishing Dracula. It was all about haunting atmosphere, catchy tunes, and whipping monsters. It featured excruciating levels and ruthless bosses. It was all about putting you to the test, and making sure you were worthy of the whip and title, "Vampire Killer".  

 
You Afraid? No? You should be 

Simon's Quest was a bit of a deviation. It featured the same great atmosphere and some great tunes, but a lot of the rest of the game feels lazy. It's the precursor to the Metroid style 2D Castlevania has adopted since the success of Symphony of the Night. It was more an RPG adventure than a 2D action game this time around. Though the core gameplay was basically the same as the original, the level design, enemy design, and most disappointingly the boss design were all at a level so far below that of the original. I'd like to  bring up the conversation aspect of the game for a point I'd like to make later on. Technically it was about as developed as other games at the time, but the characters spoke in riddles. There wasn't anything clear about what they'd say, and sometimes the NPCs would just straight up lie. Simon's Quest did however bring some notable additions to series. The exploration, shops, item collection, upgrades, and light leveling system all make their first appearance with this one, and it certainly can be praised for that.

Dracula's Curse was a return to the linear style and the same punishing difficulty of the original. It's generally considered the best of the NES trilogy. The most notable addition to the series was being able to play as different characters.

Super Castlevania IV was a remake of the original game with more levels, better graphics, and even more epic music and boss battles.

Putting the Vania in Metroidvania 

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the next major departure of the series and the blueprint of what the 2D side of the series has followed since. It borrowed the exploration, shops, item collection, upgrades, and a similar RPG leveling system from Simon's Quest, and added to it elements borrowed from Super Metroid, like the map and level/world design. The popular term for this exploration style gameplay is Metroidvania, on account of both Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night being excellent games featuring similar gameplay. And coupled with this style was the great Castlevania atmosphere, monster slaying, wonderful music, and epic bosses.


So, what does it mean to be Castlevania? With the games like the original, III, and IV being defining games of the series, challenging and satisfying gameplay is obvious. Symphony of the Night and to a lesser extent Simon's Quest, suggest that exploration, item management, and having a RPG leveling system are also important. And obviously the setting would ideally be consistent with that of medieval-fantasy.

The 3D games haven't necessarily been bad as far as games go, but as far as Castlevania games go, something is always off. The recent Lords of Shadow for instance, is an example of a decent game. However, it feels less like Castlevania and more like God of War. It has boss battles that could be described as epic, like the few that you must climb on top of a find weak spots similarly to Shadow of the Colossus. The problem with both of these characteristics is, that it simply doesn't play as well as the games it tries to emulate. Something always seems to get lost in translation with Castlevania's transition into 3D, and Lords of Shadow is just the most recent culprit.

It may seem like it'll never happen, like "the one" will never be released, but I have something to share with you. It's already here. 

    
Wait... You don't see it? It practically screams Castle's Souls! 

And it's been here since 2009 and it even has a spiritual successor that will be released later this year.

My friends look no further than Demon's Souls for your 3D Castlevania fix. Actually you probably should, because Dark Souls comes out in a few months as well.

Now I know you're probably thinking, "What does Demon's Souls have to do with anything? It's not even a Castlevania game, and it doesn't even have Dracula or his castle". I'd be inclined to agree with you on those points, but those points alone.

I'll ease you into it.

Medieval-Fantasy Setting 

This is probably the most obvious similarity between both games. Both series' cast you as warriors that use weapons like swords or magic spells. Both are rooted in more Western Mythology, but neither series finds themselves restricted to those confines. Both have magic systems, and both dip into Holy magic while also having some traditional magic. In Castlevania III there is a character that utilizes magic. In most Castlevania games there are magic weapons such as holy water and holy crosses. Demon's Souls feels like it evolved what Castlevania had with its own use of miracles that were separate from the more traditional "magic" spells like a fireball spell.

Epic Music

It's more of a subtle choice, but important all the same. It's not necessarily as memorable or catchy as Castlevania's classic tunes, but it certainly feels appropriately epic and haunting, which leads me to my next point.

Haunting, Dark, and Chilling Atmosphere

In the 8-bit and even 16-bit days Castlevania was all about atmosphere. Actually 2D Castlevania has always been about atmosphere, and it is amazing that it could pull it off so well within the confines of two dimensions. One of Demon's Souls' biggest strengths is also its atmosphere. It features dungeons, dark, dank corridors, dirty mines, and the ambient noise just ramps up the immersion. The aforementioned music also plays its role at all the right moments. Even the gameplay adds to the atmosphere, but that'll be discussed later on. All of it adds up to make Demon's Souls one of the most atmospheric games of not only this generation, but of all time.

It's even got candles! No... You can't whip them... 

Punishing Difficulty and Epic Boss Fights

The Castlevania series has always been known for the relentless challenge it offers, and why don't you ask yourself what Demon's Souls is known for? Its difficulty, of course. Once again Demon's Souls feels like the natural evolution Castlevania's challenge. It forces player's into abiding by the rules of the game and isn't very lenient about mistakes and doesn't hold your hand, very similarly to the classic Castlevania games.The boss battles in Castlevania no doubt contributed to a lot of its difficulty and that is also the case with Demon's Souls. Death, Frankenstein and Igor, Dracula, all of them are some of the most intense and challenging boss battles from the original game. Demon's Souls does more than just provide a challenge with its boss fights though. Each and every one is creative and offers a new challenge, but this time it doesn't feel like the evolution of just Castlevania boss battles, but boss battles as a whole. And just to toot Demon's Souls horn a little bit more, there is even a boss battle in which you must engage another player, and you could even be that player. You can actually be a boss in Demon's Souls.

Story Takes a Backseat

The post-Symphony of the Night Castlevanias seem to be developing more and more of a story, but like most older franchises, the story is generally little more than something to keep the game moving. The same can be said of Demon's Souls.

Multiple Characters and RPG Elements

Some Castlevania games allow for players to play as different characters, and an easy comparison Demon's Souls class system can be made. Eventually players in Demon's Souls can gain all the abilities and strength and weaknesses of any other class, but for a one time playthrough people are going to play the game differently. Some people liked playing through Dracula's Curse as Alucard, some will play as Trevor, and the same goes for Demon's Souls with some people liking to play as a Mage, while others like being a Knight. Now, Demon's Souls goes deeper with its RPG aspects more than Castlevania ever has, but once again it feels like a logical evolution the series could have made, rather than keeping the basically fixed stat increases of level ups from Symphony of the Night. Then of course Demon's Souls has shops like Symphony of the Night and Simon's Quest, and like Simon's Quest you don't buy equipment with money, but with souls which are fairly similar to hearts, no? Demon's Souls goes deeper with its shops and adds a pretty deep weapon upgrade system. It all seems like stuff Castlevania could have eventually done.

Metroidvania

This is arguably the most important part of my argument. To the casual fan of Demon's Souls this might seem a little out of place, but I assure you Demon's Souls has all the ingredients of Metroidvania. What's most interesting about it though is that it strikes a balance in being a straight up linear game, but also giving you the option to go back and play any level in search of better loot. It is almost as if they catered to both sets of Castlevania fans at the same time, the Super Castlevania IV linear style fans and the non-linear Symphony of the Night fans. You can do what most players probably did, which is just work your way through each of the worlds in a straight line, but there was always the option to explore. There are all sorts of paths you can take to reach the end of each level, and each path has its own branching paths to undiscovered secret areas and powerful weapons, rings, armor, or challenges. The messages on the ground from veterans will help newcomers understand what is needed to even be able to access certain areas of a level, and the message system as a whole is reminiscent of Simon's Quest's NPCs (or even old school NPCs in general, since a message will never say something new). You don't really ever know if a message is truthful or not until you find out for yourself, and they can be easily misinterpreted, vague, or even just a simple message put there to be fun. There are actual characters you meet in the game that are liars like there were in Simon's Quest as well. There are also some that aren't, and meeting all of the characters requires quite a bit of backtracking and puzzle solving.  There is so much depth to Demon's Souls that so many players barely scratched the surface of and missed out on, and it's mostly regarding this, ever so praised when used in other games, Metroidvania gameplay.

Conclusion

You and I both know you didn't find that armor, or that weapon. 

It's probably unfair to call Demon's Souls "Castlevania 3D", because it is a game that can easily stand on its own. I just believe many of Demon's Souls better qualities to be overlooked, and by making these comparisons, perhaps they'll be easier to see. It's already forever made its mark with its innovative online features, such as invading others' worlds and the messages, which dare I say again, could have (but probably not) been something the Castlevania franchise contributed to gaming in order to stay relevant. Obviously Demon's Souls isn't a Castlevania game. It is much more an RPG than Castlevania ever has been, and because the story is irrelevant to Castlevania without Dracula or his Castle (though after Lords of Shadow who knows?) it is clearly not Castlevania 3D. Once again, From Software brought us gamers something truly magical, maybe even mystical, in Demon's Souls, and because it is strong enough to stand on its own two feet, it should. Still, Demon's Souls is very much what Konami should be looking at considering the future of its own famous franchise, not God of War.

#2 Posted by Cincaid (2948 posts) -

Good write up, though I don't agree that Lords of Shadow was a "decent" game. I for one loved it! :)

#3 Posted by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -

It's good to know that people did like it. I certainly did at first, but parts of it started to wear on me and quicker than I would have liked.

#4 Posted by Cincaid (2948 posts) -

Yeah I see what you mean. I s-ranked it (except the DLC, which I'll do soon), and some levels on hardest difficulty was insane. Also the camera was really awful in some places, just like in every 3D Castlevania game. :P

#5 Posted by Emilio (3380 posts) -

I read about two or three sentences, and I thought this was about the N64 Castlevanias. 
 
I will read this tomorrow after I wake up.

#6 Posted by buft (3298 posts) -

I feel learned!

#7 Posted by imsh_pl (3295 posts) -
@buft said:
I feel learned!
#8 Posted by Beforet (2884 posts) -

I might actually go back and play that game now..

#9 Posted by xyzygy (9623 posts) -

Lords of Shadow was one of the best games released in 2010, but I do agree with comparing DS to a 3D version of the 2D Castlevanias. Both DS and Lords of Shadow were amazing. I haven't played any of the other 3D Castlevaia games though, I hear the ones for the PS2 were really good.

#10 Edited by SoldierG654342 (1681 posts) -

I still hold that Lament of Innocence was a unqualified good Castlevania game. While Lords of Shadow was a better action game, Lament of Innocence nailed so many points on the Castlevania checklist that Lords of Shadow missed completely; namely the atmosphere and soundtrack. Lament of Innocence as a fucking Amazing soundtrack. 

#11 Posted by Yanngc33 (4496 posts) -
@CrazyChris

Good write up, though I don't agree that Lords of Shadow was a "decent" game. I for one loved it! :)

Yay! Finally someone who agrees with me :D
I think Lords of Shadow is THE best game of 2010 and deserves more attention
#12 Posted by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -

I'm quite surprised by so many people thinking so highly of Lords of Shadow.  I mean it was solid, and I suppose my biggest issue was that I didn't feel that it represented Castlevania properly.  
 
I still haven't played Lament of Innocence, but I might have to try it, since it is probably the best received Castlevanias. 
 
And to those of you feeling learned and are thinking about playing Demon's Souls,  I'm happy to hear it!

#13 Edited by kingzetta (4307 posts) -

I completely disagree. 
Batman:AA is 3D Castlevania, not Demon's Souls.

#14 Posted by HarlequinRiot (1098 posts) -
Nice read. I know it wasn't your point but this makes me want to play SotN. I keep telling myself that I have to play it, everyone speaks so highly of it.  
 
I do think, like someone said, that Batman:AA seems to be a bit more a a direct 3D Castlevania than Demon's Souls, but I see the comparison for sure. 
#15 Posted by SuperfluousMoniker (2901 posts) -

Interesting take on Demon's Souls, I never really thought to compare it to Castlevania but now that you mention it, they do seem to have a lot in common. About all it's missing are whips and vampires, which are admittedly  essential to the Castlevania formula.

#16 Posted by Eujin (1293 posts) -

Nice write up, however I'm of the opinion that Lords of Shadow is the first real good translation of the CV1/3/SCV/Rondo of Blood style Castlevania game to 3d, where as Lament of Innocence/Curse of Darkness were trying to translate the Metroidvania style to 3d.

Lords of Shadow hits all the notes needed for it to feel like the old Castlevania games, Traversal(What 3D platforming has evolved into), good boss battles, interesting folklore turned into enemies/characters, and the Vampire Killer. While their take on the story was different, as an alternate take, it was quite great.

#17 Posted by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -

Batman AA has the atmosphere going for it for sure, but the combat and stealth cancel out any similarities to me, even though it does also have the metroidvania elements.  And HarlequinRiot, if I can persuade you to play good games you haven't yet, I think that's good enough, even if it wasn't the main point of posting this. :D
 
I think the folklore was well done in LoS. Some of the puzzles were pretty clever too, but everything else was just okay to me, felt like an average God of War clone most of the time. It does have the platforming aspects that can be expected of a Castlevania, which is the one gameplay element Demon's Souls lacks. I'm on board with it being the best translation (of the ones I've played), but even so, something felt like it was missing. And I liked the story up until the post credits scene, that kind of ruined it for me. 

#18 Posted by pdiddy1047 (20 posts) -

Funny I should come across this write-up.  I'm playing through LoS right now, probably almost halfway through. 
 
I'm enjoying it.  The story definitely seems like the biggest departure from the series so far.  It almost has more of a Lord of the Rings vibe going for it.  I agree with your God of War comments.  The games combat can be very fun, it just doesn't feel as smooth as GoW's.  The GoW games always felt kind of old school in the way they approached combat.  It's all about clearing the screen of enemies using the most efficient moves possible, especially on the harder settings.  You kind of get in a zone.  LoS hasn't quite got me there.  
 
The different environments so far have been great, it really is a great looking game.  Also, judging my progress based on the chapter select map, it seems like a long game that gives you a reason to go back and replay old stages.  I'm looking forward to finishing it, but it almost seems like they could have given it a whole different name and it would still work.  
 
Of your above Castlevania games, Super Castlevania IV was by far my favorite.  I played the hell out of that game when I was younger.  I remember being amazed by the graphics in the Chandelier stage, lol.  I too still need to play SotN.  As time goes on I kind of think I'll never end up playing it, and that would be a shame.

#19 Posted by Enigma777 (6047 posts) -

Uhhh... Lords of Shadow was one of the best games of 2010. Also it's much, much, much, much better than Demon's Souls.

#20 Posted by Vexed (313 posts) -

I agree that Demon's Souls is more Castlevania-esque than LoS, but it's still not a great game.  If you put Castlevania on the title screen, played as a Belmont, and fought Dracula at the end, Demon's Souls would still be a far inferior game to Symphony of the Night.  Here's hoping Dark Souls is a much better game, because while I loved a lot of the elements of Demon's Souls, I didn't find it particularly fun to play.

#21 Posted by me3639 (1607 posts) -

Glad to see there is a lot of love for LOS, thought i was one of the few.

#22 Edited by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -
Super Castlevania IV is my favorite Castlevania as well. I like SotN a lot too, so I recommend it as well. It's probably the most important CV game especially when trying to consider what Castlevania games can be and are these days. It's also why the whip isn't exactly essential to Castlevania, though Demon's Souls would've been better with a whip. :D
  
Enigma777 and Vexed, I had several points I was trying to make, and none of them were about which games were better at being better. I am trying to highlight Demon's Souls' better qualities by comparing it to Castlevania, while also suggesting a route Konami could go with future 3D Castlevania games. I personally believe Demon's Souls to be not only a good game, but great one and one of the best this generation and all time. I found it to be one of the most fun and rewarding games I've ever played. Although it may be implied, my point wasn't to say Demon's Souls is better than LoS or SotN. I do believe it to be better, but again, that isn't the point. Read the last paragraph again and you'll see that I believe some of Demon's Souls' characteristics to be overlooked and I would like Konami to draw more from it than other games when considering the future of 3D Castlevania. 
#23 Posted by Aetheldod (3335 posts) -
@morecowbell24:  I too when I first played Demon's Souls made the connection to what a 3D Castlevania should be like (it is actually in my review at gamespot ... not a well written one mind you) although I still know it doesn't qualifies because of the speed of the gameplay , DS is way more  methodical (which I like) than Castlevania.  
 
@Vexed@Enigma777:  I must disagree duders it plays perfectly , its an impeccable game (or rather its gameplay/atmosphere etc. suits more my tastes)
 
Can't wait for Dark Souls and I must add  , I dislike God of War .... very boring :\
#24 Posted by Vonocourt (2107 posts) -

All the comments have made me want to go back and pick up LoS again, got a few hours into it and just kind of shelved it. As for Demon's Souls...still don't have much interest in it.

#25 Posted by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -
AetheIdod, Glad I'm not the only one. I think the combat resembles Castlevania fine. Recalling the first game doing battle with Axe nights in particular always felt methodical. Even in SotN when you lose all your weapons at the beginning you have to be more methodical. In general though I agree, Demon's Souls tends to be a much slower affair
#26 Posted by Hizang (8534 posts) -

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is pretty great.

#27 Posted by Enigma777 (6047 posts) -

@Aetheldod said:

@morecowbell24: I too when I first played Demon's Souls made the connection to what a 3D Castlevania should be like (it is actually in my review at gamespot ... not a well written one mind you) although I still know it doesn't qualifies because of the speed of the gameplay , DS is way more methodical (which I like) than Castlevania.

@Vexed@Enigma777: I must disagree duders it plays perfectly , its an impeccable game (or rather its gameplay/atmosphere etc. suits more my tastes) Can't wait for Dark Souls and I must add , I dislike God of War .... very boring :\

I never said DS was bad. Hell I own a copy myself and I really enjoyed it. However LoS is on a completely different level of greatness imo.

#28 Posted by rawilliam (28 posts) -

Great comment bro! All though I enjoyed the latest Castlevania, it didn´t feel like the ruthless games of old.. Oh well.. We´ve got Demon´s Souls right? hehe

#29 Edited by JackSukeru (5816 posts) -

I...enjoyed LoS to a point, but it will never be very high on my list of Castlevania experiences because of the number of problems it had. Problems that are too many (or too small) for me to bother getting into counting up (again). Now, comparing it to Demon's Souls is something I just don't see, but if you're going to suggest that they make a "realistic" Castlevania in the mold of Demon's Souls, only with a jump button and keeping the whip and sub-weapons, I can get on board with that (but then again I would have been fine with Lords of Shadow had they just made it BETTER).

I've played both Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness, the latter more recently so with it being a lot fresher in my mind I can say that in a lot of ways it is just as good as the GBA and DS games. The problem with that being that those games were 2D GBA and DS games, while this was a 3D PS2 game. The bar is simply set much higher for something like that and "linear monster filled corridors without much verticality" just doesn't cut it.

Mostly though I was impressed by how well it emulated the same feel as the DS games, from the way the mostly unimportant story was presented, to the way you get new weapons that function mostly the same as the old weapons, but look different. I would even go as far as to say that if you have device that can play PS2 games and have an urge to play some classic 2D Castlevania/Metroidvania that just happens to be in 3D, this one is that.

The latter part of it sort of drags, sadly, and you don't get a lot of Metroidvania-esque abilities. It has pokemans though! (I got a cool skeleton knight as my main, yeaah!)

#30 Posted by CptBedlam (4438 posts) -

@CrazyChris said:

Good write up, though I don't agree that Lords of Shadow was a "decent" game. I for one loved it! :)

Same here. I think LoS was great.

#31 Edited by TerraMantis (283 posts) -

I always felt as though Demon's Souls was more of a spiritual successor to the first Diablo (not the second).
 
Here is my short review i wrote for Demon's Souls.
 
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 

Reminiscent of the first Diablo for a new generation of video games. A new age of Dungeon Crawling has begun...here. Demon's Souls rewards trial and error with a large emphasis on the error part. With layers upon layers of optional content, hidden items, and places to discover From Software has reinvented the action RPG wheel.

The reason i say it reminds me of the first Diablo is this. Firstly, you have your main "hub and or town" which is known as the Nexus in Demon's Souls. The "main base" Nexus houses your blacksmith, storage keeper, NPCs that can hint toward quests, and other important elements very much like Tristram did. Second, the game's character creation is totally "up-in-the-air" and it is not based off of any skill trees to choose from. Your character is finely tuned due to strictly attribute tweaking through things like; vitality, stamina, strength, magic, faith, luck, and so on. This lack of skill trees and a strictly attribute customization system is very suggestive of the first Diablo's character creation, as you can too choose from several archetype classes in the beginning but does not limit your character's final outcome. Also, it just feels like that game did back when i was twelve. It just feels like a dungeon crawl, not a loot hunt, with respects to the past but paving way for the future. If the first Diablo were made right now, having never been created, Demon's Souls is it in modern form.

I am going to get back to writing this review better on how Demon's Souls' immaculate level design and intensely satisfying game/play through combat, game mechanics, and deep deep character customization is a huge leap in the right direction for RPGs, but my guy is just standing in the Nexus right now and i should get back to dying my way to the end of the game.

If you meet these requirements; own a Playstation 3, like Action RPGs, and can handle a REAL challenge. Then go get this game. If you do...and don't have it, you're doing yourself a disservice. 
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 
So, i don't know about you but i have been counting down the days until October 4th. The tail-end of 2011 is a paramount time in RPG history. Dark Souls, LotR: War in the North, Deus Ex, Skyward Sword, Torchlight II, possibly Guildwars 2 and last, but not least, Skyrim. It is going to be an expensive couple of months.
 
Oh yeah, and as for your last picture and the comment. I definitely did NOT get that weapon, but i definitely got that armor.

#32 Posted by Brodehouse (9370 posts) -

Emulating the terrible control of games that 25 years old is not progressive, it's regressive. Insane enemy attack patterns that have more in common with bullet hell shooters are fine, but not when your character handles like a dead animal, can get locked in hitstun loops and goes flying back from every touch like he was took a shotgun blast to the chest.

Castlevania-style Castlevania/Demon's Souls; great in 1989, unacceptable in 2009.

#33 Posted by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -
@Brodehouse: What parts of this post did you even read? Yes, the first three Castlevanias control poorly, but IV and on's controls are sublime. I don't understand what's wrong with the control in Demon's Souls either, it controls as good as your typical Zelda, I think better. Were you wearing armor and expecting to be able to run at top speeds and roll around at will? There is such a thing known as balance, and it's important in games with PvP. Do you know about the Zelda esque lock on feature and that you can block? Demon's Souls wants to be hard, and not because of sticky or broken control. It punishes you for being reckless, ignorant and/or bad. It's not going to hold your hand like nearly every other game that has come out in the best decade. Demon's Souls doesn't adhere to the "metagame" of games these days, accessibility and hand-holding. Those hitstun loops and flying back are contradictory. The flying back will help you get away from the enemy, or give you time to block. SO BLOCK!!! OR BACK AWAY!!! And when you get struck with a sword or a spear goes through your chest, what do expect, not to be stunned or knocked back, because grenades and rockets don't stun you in Halo? It's okay that Demon's Souls isn't for you, but when you talk out your ass making up stupid excuses you sound more like a fanboy than a intellectual.
#34 Posted by Brodehouse (9370 posts) -

@morecowbell24: The entire idea of the thread was that Demon's Souls is a 3D successor to early Castlevania. And you know what, I agree, it is. But looking at those games from a modern standpoint, they're unacceptable. And there's no reason to look at Simon's Quest for ideas when building a game during the Obama administration. If you're saying it handles like IV (which is way more an action game) or has anything in common with post-Symphony Metroidvania ... then I'm not sure you understand the definition of Metroidvania. I can understand the argument for IV, although I disagree with the comparison because IV is fast, tight and responsive whereas Demon's Souls is way, way more methodical. And there's no way I can accept a comparison to anything post-Symphony that I've played, because D's S doesn't resemble it from a overarcing mechanical standpoint, the nature of the action, the nature of progression... all it has in common are the statistical RPG nuances.

Talking about the control issue in Demon's Souls, I have to state that it doesn't control as responsively as even a Zelda game from 13 years ago. I don't know if I was expecting to 'run at top speeds or roll', I think I was expecting to have a game where I use input to receive feedback, and most of the time in Demon's Souls you will receive nothing at all. You will begin to move when you press move, you will begin to block when you press block, but only if you didn't try to move a few seconds before. That isn't pacing, that's just unresponsive control (it actually reminds me of a blog by Kasavin referring to the balance between responsiveness and animation). Talking about balance? I play fighting games, those go down to counting frames to establish balance. I play bullet hell and masocore platformers, I know what challenge means, but Demon's Souls (and Castlevania, which I was discussing) approaches it in the exact wrong way. It is punishing, rather than challenging. No one quit Demon's Souls because they didn't have the reflexes for it, they quit because they were presented with a challenge with no feedback and punished when they didn't magically know exactly how to solve it. There's no reason why not understanding how to solve a problem an hour into a game should send you back to the beginning. That's just a way of padding time by having the player complete the same piece of content over and over again.

As for the spiel about 'handholding', you can rage against the darkness about how games used to be, but the simple truth is that games today want you to be able to play them. It's called learning curve, instructing upon the nature of play, elaborating on the ideal methods of play, and presenting the player with challenges germane to the instruction. Otherwise it is like setting a chess board in front of someone who has never played chess, and expecting them to know how to use the knight on the first turn. And then, each time they do something incorrect, you destroy the piece permanently. This was the past, it was fine in Castlevania. The abusive structure of those old, old games is actually explained extremely well by Mark Cerny at DICE this year. Of all the positive aspects of old game design, that is not what you want to be emulating.

The line about how flying back 'helps' the player is completely laughable. That is not genuine in any way, shape or form. The knockback (in early Castlevania titles, the ones this discussion was about) is designed to trap players into nearly impossible almost-bullet-hell scenarios where they have limited control and a single hit will throw them off the stage. It is not designed to 'help' the player, saying so is an absolute bald-faced lie. As for 'block or run away', I'd have to assume is referring to Demon's Souls. As I said before, I don't feel Demon's Souls is very responsive whatsoever, so neither of those are very reliable.

For the record, smashing your head against the wall until you finally discover through trial-and-error what the game wants from you is insane, when the game is fully capable of presenting this information to you. When was the last time trial-and-error was used in a positive light, and why do you think that is?

Lastly, I can tell that you got emotional and started scrunching up in anger by the tone of the last sentences. I have absolutely no idea what Halo has to do with this, or what grenade damage in that game would have to do with emulating 25 year old game design. Resorting to name calling (fanboy of what, exactly?) is just childish. My original post was mostly about how emulating NES-era Castlevania down to antiquated save mechanics, is something crazy people do. For the record, I didn't even know you could leave the ground in Demon's Souls, if it does have cheap flying knockback deaths and inescapable hitstuns like 25 year old Castlevania games did then... I don't even know what to say.

#35 Posted by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -
@Brodehouse:  I really don't think you understand the points I made at all, in either the post or my reply to your comment.   

" Insane enemy attack patterns that have more in common with bullet hell shooters are fine, but not when your character handles like a dead animal, can get locked in hitstun loops and goes flying back from every touch like he was took a shotgun blast to the chest."  
 
I also made the mistake in thinking you were talking about Demon's Souls with this statement, not Castlevania. No, you can't leave the ground, but when you get hit, you get stunned and/or pushed back, but are always able to recover by blocking or rolling away. The getting pushed back places more ground between you and your enemy giving the stun more time to wear off.   
 
Bringing up Kasavin, as someone we both seem to respect, is interesting to me. I don't see your argument against responsive control, and it would appear neither would he. http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/gregk/best-of-2009/46-21846/ 

I'm going to assume you can read moves of other fighters and react quite quickly in a game like Street Fighter. Well, what if I told you all of the enemies in Demon's Souls can be read and reacted to in the same way? It becomes quite easy to learn when to block and when to strike certain enemies. Just because fighting games have instant gratification, means all games have to? It takes time to wind up a sword or spear, get up from the ground with a suit of armor on, use an item and raise a shield. And besides, wouldn't a game that requires nothing but twitch reflexes be the most punishing kind of game of all? Just because a game plays slower than a fighter doesn't make it unresponsive.
 
"When was the last time trial-and-error was used in a positive light, and why do you think that is?" 
 
All. The. Time. How did you learn to play your fighting games? Did you just pick up the controller for the first time, and become the champion you are today? Have you played as one character ever when playing Street Fighter? You didn't ever try out Vega or Guile and to try and find out if they were better suited to your playstyle than Ryu? You have never tried a fight stick to see if that worked better for you? When you played Portal, did the solution to every puzzle come to you instantly? Ever play a Strategy game? Did you respond to a strategy you've never seen before in the correct way every time? Trial and error is everywhere. It's in everyday life. Ever try touching a burning stove? Guess you won't be doing that again, right? Trial and Error is in every game, Demon's Souls is just a little stricter.   
 
For the record I did get a little flustered. I didn't call you a fanboy though, I said you're acting like one, making up blind excuses in favor of your opinion. Regarding Halo, when a grenade goes off, you don't get stunned and just keep trucking. There is no penalty from a grenade aside from taking damage, Demon's Souls (and Castlevania) have penalties in addition to damage for taking hits. And the point of this post was definitely NOT to say Demon's Souls is 3D Castlevania. I was drawing comparisons between both series to highlight aspects of Demon's Souls many players missed, while also expressing my opinion that Konami should be looking at Demon's Souls rather than games like God of War for direction to take Castlevania 3D in the future.

Demon's Souls clearly isn't for you, and that's fine, but there are people out there that it is for, people like me. To say it's an unacceptable game is naive and selfish.  
#36 Edited by Brodehouse (9370 posts) -

@morecowbell24: So, I know Kasavin loves Demon's Souls. His blog brings it up often, especially the multiplayer aspect as part of a world-building narrative experience. But I haven't seen him praise it for controlling precisely, because I really don't know how someone makes that case beyond pure opinion.

Going into this comparison between fighting games and Demon's Souls, let me tell you that I will be the first out of everyone to tell you that fighting games have absolutely awful tutorials and almost no feedback to let the player understand 'what went wrong' with a certain move or fight. Unless you are already an experienced fighting game player, you might have to smash your head against the wall before you learn that you need to block low against Dog when she's using the fire tool, and to avoid projectiles and overheads. And that's not good design, it's what killed fighting games a decade ago, and it'll happen again if it keeps up. A cross-up is going to defeat a novice 100 times out of 100, and they will learn nothing about how to deal with it unless they start reading websites (a la Vinny with Demon's Souls). If you don't realize what it is you're doing wrong, there is no way for you to do what the game wants. And there's no reason for the game to not explain it.

Now as for Demon's Souls, here is where the kicker comes in. I'm aware every enemy has a certain thing that can be done to counter them, but the process of discovering this is incredibly opaque and needlessly obtuse. Furthermore, the penalty for not knowing (this trial-and-error gameplay) what it is is mind-bendingly incredible. In a fighting game if you pick the wrong move, you get hit and the fight continues... maybe in the more brutal fighting games, one mistake is all it takes to lose the match and you have to wait as much as 30 seconds to try again. Demon's Souls goes above and beyond and makes every mistake into huge amounts of time invested now bankrupt. I am an adult, and simply put, video games need to come up with a better punishment than wasting my time. Making me perform repetitive tasks or grind through the same content I've already done in order to try something different... I can't tolerate it. Like I said, masocore games are almost 95% error. But the 1600 times you'll die beating Super Meat Boy are more tolerable because you have complete control, you understand why what you did did not work, and you're back with a second chance within 2 seconds. Trial-and-error with no feedback is not acceptable. Any time you are playing a game and the thought "I don't understand what I did wrong" happens, the game isn't providing enough feedback.

Bringing up Portal 2, virtually all the puzzle rooms have all the interactable objects visible from a safe place, allowing you to scan the room, look at the goal and the tools you have available, and deduce how to use them correctly. If the game wanted to be opaque and punishing, it would give a timer for every room, and hide half of the necessary tools in hidden areas that you can only get to by testing every wall with the portal gun. Failure to know the right answer in time would start you back three levels before and cause the Portal gun to break until you jumped on a switch 50 times to power it back up. My complaint is that Demon's Souls does not provide feedback on what it wants me to do, not that I don't automatically know what to do. This was part of Vinny's quest to understand it, 30 hours later I'm not sure if he got to that point, he still felt as if he didn't get why it did things the way it did. I understand why, because From Software have half their design ethos kept about 5 years in the future, and the other half 20 years in the past. Every game they put out has one or two brilliant ideas and then handles like it doesn't want you to play it.

I can agree that there are elements of Demon's Souls that a modern Castlevania should add back to their game; specifically the gothic horror aesthetic. In the late 90s baroque art became a serious thing in Japan, and that's why Castlevania went from a game about horrific monsters trying to gut you on filthy stone blocks to a game about arcane sigils and incredibly intricate design in every piece of art. It needs the gothic horror aesthetic, and the strong behind-the-back view of Demon's Souls... but it absolutely cannot rely on the sluggish combat, the insane punishments and ridiculous expectations that it left behind in the NES era. Castlevania is as good as the whip is fast, in games where the whip feels like throwing a drunk man around you feel as if the game is not giving you the proper tools to play it (something Jeff says about old games).

(a bit on Lords of Shadows, I thought it was an interesting game, but it absolutely did not feel like Castlevania. But since Castlevania has been stagnant for a decade, I thought it was an acceptable try.)

I feel like ancient design philosophies need to be looked at for what they are, and left behind. The idea that death or failure should punish the player by erasing his time investment is about as vibrant an idea to me as death or failure should have a monetary value associated with it a la old arcade games. As someone who builds games myself, the goal is not to create a game that punishes failure, but makes success rewarding. If the only way you can achieve the latter is with the former, you need to go back to spec.

edit: also Christ sorry for the long post.

#37 Posted by morecowbell24 (94 posts) -
@Brodehouse:    I'm not saying Castlevania 3D should go back and have outdated gameplay mechanics like its stiff jump from the original trilogy. Part of the reason why I think IV is the best Castlevania game is because the challenge felt more real, because the control was so much better. Frankly, I'm amazed that it is the only Castlevania that allows whipping in 8 directions. I'm also not saying it should abide by the same difficulty rules as Demon's Souls, such as stern its checkpoints. It should however present a challenge that feels satisfying to conquer, similarly to the old games. I'm saying it should draw from everything SotN and prior, not just the NES trilogy. Demon's Souls seems to draw most of its elements from the original trilogy, but I'm not trying to say Castlevania has to. Demon's Souls to me just feels a lot more like Castlevania than any 3D Castlevania game I've played and seems like a better example of what it was meant to be in the third dimension.

" the goal is not to create a game that punishes failure, but makes success rewarding. If the only way you can achieve the latter is with the former, you need to go back to spec."  

It's quite rare for a game to not punish failure, and even rarer when that game feels rewarding. I suppose it's all perspective and our thresholds. But I actually  think Demon's Souls is rather brilliant in this regard.  Yes the punishing factor helps make it feel more rewarding, but it wasn't just that. Defeating every enemy feels like a victory in and of itself. Getting farther than ever always felt good. What a lot of people miss though, is the rewards of the learning process. If you want to take the easy road, then you can write off a death as the Demon's Souls wasting your time, and I could just as easily say that about any game (1600 deaths will add up in time "wasted", even in Super Meat Boy). This learning process does give you feedback. You learn what bad guys are where. You learn the best tactics to use against these bad guys. You find new paths and checkpoints, a different kind than we're used to, such as opening a locked door, turning on an elevator or killing a dragon, but they're checkpoints.  
 
Demon's Souls is not a game for everyone, and if you don't have time or patience to play through and learn about the levels, then obviously you're not going to like it much. I mean, if you're going to play an RPG, you've got to be going into it thinking, it's going to take some time to beat. It's just a different kind of time with Demon's Souls, and I understand how it can feel like a waste to a lot of people, especially those with busy lives. I personally feel insulted when someone just says Demon's Souls is a waste of time. I've put around 200 hours into it. I don't think I could do that if the combat was unresponsive or broken, and I certainly don't want people saying I've just wasted 200 hours of my life. I don't think I've played an action RPG or even medieval action game with better combat mechanics, and the amount of depth and multitude of options is great. During my first playthrough I don't recall ever getting angry, because the combat was so fresh, so unique, rewarding and responsive. It is still one of my favorite games to just sit down and play for fun, even if it is just for short bursts. I can beat most levels in under 20 minutes, and I can invade or help people. Demon's Souls requires a time investment not everybody can give it, but many of those that do, fall in love with it. Just like there are films for a niche audience, Demon's Souls is just that for gamers. It pays homage to the classics. You could call it neo-noir, but for games. Besides, why should every developer have the same goal when creating a game? As they say, variety is the spice of life, so why not for gaming as well?
 
About the length, it doesn't really bother me. I feel like we're both, well at least I am, gaining some perspective. 
#38 Posted by heatDrive88 (2172 posts) -

I liked Castlevania LoS just fine, but I totally understand your sentiments. It's a break from the Metroidvania concept, which to it's own downfall, makes it hard to digest as a Castlevania game on it's own. But to it's own merit, it's still not an awful game, but it is quite simply put, derivative.

But I won't lie, I still think Batman: Arkham Asylum is probably the best 3D Metroidvania game up to this point so far. The only thing it was missing was a few of the more RPG-ish elements like equipment/loot and a clear-cut leveling mechanic (even though yes, it had a subtle power upgrade system). Everything else about it however, fit the bill.

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