CASTLEVANIA FAN? GOOD. THERE SEEMS TO BE A BIT OF A CASTLEVANIA RESURGENCE IN THE WORKS.
Don’t believe me? A recent example would be the upcoming Castlevania show that is coming to Netflix this year. While there aren’t many details out there right now, just the idea of Netflix /Konami working together to bring a Castlevania show to the biggest digital streaming platform in the world is pretty exciting.
There is also a spiritual successor to Castlevania getting made by the ‘Father’ of Castlevania himself, Koji Igarashi. It’s called Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and is looking to be quite the impressive game.
He’s helming the project and working closely with some of the top talents from previous Castlevania games, such as original composers and artists. If the game interests you then check out our coverage of it by clicking here!
All this news is pretty pleasing to me. I adore the Castlevania games to bits, from Chronicles to Aria of Sorrow. I would often spend hours playing Castlevania: Harmony of Despair with my buddies on Xbox Live just trying to grind for the best items and to wait for new DLC levels and characters. (Trying to get two Valmanway+1’s for Soma or Speed Boots was a nightmare.) There is something for everyone in the Castlevania series.
Saying all of this, waiting for the next big Castlevania anything is going to take some time. With a vague release window of ‘2017’ for the Netflix show and Bloodstained even further away in the land of ‘2018’, it’s safe to say we won’t be playing anything official for some time. As painful as that feeling is, there are plenty of fantastic games out there that are very similar to Castlevania. Both old and new!
Given the lack of ‘vania we’ll be seeing for a bit, I’ve decided to shine a light on 5 Games Any Castlevania Fan Should Play!
The Legend of Getsu Fuma
This for you hardcore Castlevania fans. Remember how I mentioned Castlevania Harmony of Despair? Well, let me break it down a bit before we jump into Getsu Fuma and his Legend. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair was a big love letter to fans of the series that Konami had created.
It is a multiplayer Castlevania experience that draws upon the plethora of lore from the series. Letting you play as various characters from all sorts of Castlevania games from the past, and battle through levels from those games and face their iconic villains.The base game had six different stages, and they could be played using five different characters, each level had a hard mode version that offered better drops. So, the more game-breaking items could only be found on hard mode. For hardcore lovers of the series, it offered an excellent time if you grabbed a few of your fellow friends who loved the series and tried to get the best loot and beat all the levels.
Where Konami improved things was through the DLC they released afterwards. One of the coolest levels they released was a FULL recreation of the first Castlevania game. You could take Alucard from Symphony of the Night and play through the entire 8-bit game to fight Dracula. It was a fantastic piece of fanservice, and one of the best DLC’s I’ve ever purchased.
Another level they released is based on a game called Getsu Fuma Den, or The Legend of Getsu Fuma. Yup, we return full circle now to my suggestion. I had no idea what this game was when I played through it with my buddies at 2 AM on Xbox Live. I wanted to find out what it was since I enjoyed it to bits despite not having a clue what it was.
The Legend of Getsu Fuma is a Famicom game developed by Konami. Never released outside of Japan, so any translations will have to sourced online. (Unless someone does a fan patch, which is unlikely.) It’s a great little action adventure platformer with adventure elements much like Zelda 2. You can explore an overworld and speak with NPCs, traverse 3D dungeon levels, and battle through 2D action stages. It’s heavy on Japanese references much like Goemon or Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin; you’ll find floating demon heads and even cute references like a skeleton that wields a whip and has a name that is a pun based on ‘Simon’!
I still have yet to play the game through any means other than emulation. As it is a very challenging Famicom title to find, I’ve tried Japanese Sellers and asking for my friend to hunt through stores on their visits to Japan, with no success. It’s surprising considering Konami decided to just throw into a favourite online game with no explanation or release on a virtual console of any kind. In the end, it seems like Getsu Fuma is just one of those hardcore Japanese references that Konami wanted to revisit.
But it’s great since the game well worth a revisit. It’s got some tough gameplay that’ll keep you on your toes, and pretty impressive visuals.
Anyone who loves the Castlevania series should give this Konami classic a play!
Konami has a knack for having some of the best Castlevania like games under their umbrella, which is no surprise because they made Castlevania in the first place. Ninja Cop is one of those classics. I previously broke down Ninja Cop a few months back in one of my Retro Spotlight segments, which you can read about by clicking here.
Hudson made Ninja Cop. The folks behind Bomberman, and published by Konami. Why? Well, they probably sat down with the game for a few seconds and felt the controls and gave a big thumbs up! Ninja Cop, as silly as it may sound is a fantastic game to play. But nobody bought it. Was it the strange title? The box art? What? It was simply a lack of Marketing.
Nobody knew what Ninja Cop was and most are still unaware to very day. Konami justs shipped the game out one day, and weeks later across the world, it was taken off those shelves and sent back to Konami. (Thinking about a storage room full of Ninja Cop boxes makes me chuckle.)
It’s a shame because put bluntly. Ninja Cop is a mixture of Shinobi and Bionic Commando and darn fun to play. No seriously, I’ve not had as much fun just grappling around in a 2D space than I ever have with Ninja Cop. It’s a pure 2D action experience where you play Joe Osugi – Anti Terrorist Ninja. That title alone is one of the reasons I adore video games as an entertainment medium. No complex plot or anything, bad guys are up to no good, and you have to fight them down and bring their evil to justice using your Ninja skills.
It’s a must play for those Castlevania fans who love the level exploration of Castlevania games. As you’ll find yourself swinging around on your grappling hook from various points to get keys or use a new ability to reach a new part of the level that you were unable to before. I could go on a bit more about this game, but if you want a more in-depth breakdown, then check out my link from the start.
It’s a game that has to be experienced really, reading about it just won’t cut things. If you loved Castlevania, then I wholeheartedly suggest you check out Ninja Cop.
Shadow Complex shocked me when I was younger. Not in a bad way. I just mean that it came out of left field for me. I bought my 360 a bit later into its life cycle, so I didn’t have an in-depth knowledge of the games on the Xbox Live. I got it mostly to play Harmony of Despair at the time, so when my friends told me about this game called ‘Shadow Complex’, I shrugged it off. It sounded like a game I would never play! Probably some sort of gritty war shooter with an awful story. I could not have been more wrong in my judgement.
Shadow Complex puts you in the shoes of Jason. Typical average Joe. He’s hiking around some words with his lady love, and on that adventure, you just happen to find a secret underground facility. The usual. His gal gets kidnapped upon discovery of this secret base. It turns out Jason isn’t all that average either. He’s got a dad who was in the military and can kick some butt. The game does not go down the Green Room route either, where military chops mean nothing and Jason ends up fed to the hounds. No no, it’s a full on adventure through this place to save his girlfriend.
Not the strongest story around, but the gameplay is what matters here. It’s a bit like Ninja Cop. But Shadow Complex is more grandiose in scale than Ninja Cop. Jason at the start of things is woefully unprepared to save his girlfriend. He’s pretty much got the combat skills of Frank from Always Sunny when you start out. He could break up a decent bar fight, but in no way could he handle the power armour wearing baddies roaming around the secret base his girlfriend is.
So he sets out to build upon his arsenal so he can take out the people in his way. That’s where the meat of the game is. You are ALWAYS finding something new. It starts off slow, with Jason getting boots, gloves, and more that give him unique abilities he didn’t have before. By the end of his adventure, he is sporting some pretty nice armour that has him using abilities like Iron Man. It’s an empowering feel and most of all – fun.
Mechanically it’s a sound game that seems like it works well, despite the odd hiccup. Shadow Complex was even recently ‘remastered’ for the modern age, so if you don’t feel like grabbing an old Xbox 360 and powering it up for the one game. Consider grabbing Shadow Complex Remastered for the PS4, Xbox One, or PC. It might seem a bit dated at first, but give it a chance. You won’t regret it.
Unrelated – But speaking of remasters, when are they going to do a re-release of Spec Ops: The Line already? I know I’m not the only one who loved that game.
Mark of the Ninja
A lot of gamers know Klei Entertainment for their game, Don’t Starve. A great little title and a blast to play. But I was introduced to the company through the Shank series, a hyper-violent 2D action game with some serious charm.
Made by a group of people who appreciate good game design and style above making an easy paycheck. But it was their game, Mark of the Ninja that pulled me in as a fan of their work. (First Ninja Cop, now Mark of The Ninja.) As a fan of stealth games like Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, I was a bit unsure how I would take to the idea of a 2D Stealth Game.
It works so well. So darn well. One of my main gripes with the portrayal of Ninjas in games is that they are these modern combat warriors that could easily fell an army with the right moves. That is not the case whatsoever. They weren’t these one man frontward facing killing machines, or an orange jumpsuit wearing kid with a loud mouth. That’s just not what a Ninja is. They strived in in the shadows and used some pretty dirty and downright nasty tactics to take out their prey. Personally, I prefer a Tenchu like experience over Ninja Gaiden.
Klei Entertainment understands that in spades and lets you have fun with being a creature of the night and stalking those around you. The bad guys had vision cones that signalled how close you could get to them before being seen, as well as using fear factor elements straight out of the Arkham games, like breaking street lamps to terrify the baddies around you. It’s not a run and gun action game where you can just cut down the enemies with relative ease; you’ll need to properly plan out your next course of action and be ready for any eventuality such as a sudden guard turning his head and the like.
My big gripe at the time of release was the lack of non-lethal takedowns. Being stealthy and then suddenly slitting a guy’s throat was a bit offputting and could break the immersion for me, and I was nowhere skilled enough to go through the game without having to take out the odd enemy. But thankfully for only about fifteen pounds, you can grab the special edition which includes a DLC pack, added non-lethal takedowns, and loads of extra goodies.
Trudging along in the years now, Mark of the Ninja is one of those games that won’t lose its adventure flavour that sees you exploring in the same vein of Castlevania games.
As some of you might have guessed by my last name, I’m Latino. So I love when media represent my culture, and not just represent it, but centre around it. The Book of Life is a good film example of this, using the culture but not painting it a bad light or making it some joke. So when Guacamelee got announced, I was a bit sceptical.
A Lucha themed Castlevania-like title? It could work, but my main worry would be if it were too silly. Would I be playing the Nacho Libre or Mucha Lucha of Castlevania clones? I’ve never been more happy to be proven wrong in my doubts. Guacamelee is such a fantastic game that I cannot express just how good it is in one article. It has one of those things that is often hard to get in games today, which is personality.
You can have the best gameplay mechanics in the world, and if you don’t have heart and soul behind the project, it just won’t resonate. Guacamelee ticks all the right boxes, it is light hearted with it’s writing when needed, but also takes itself seriously enough to keep you invested in moving forward in the story.
You play as Juan, just your average farmer who is in love with a girl. However, terror strikes his home one day, and that girl he loves gets kidnapped. You’ve got to save the girl, but things aren’t as simple as they were for Jason from Shadow Complex. Juan’s adventure is filled with much more supernatural elements and lots of chaos that I won’t spoil for you. Gameplay is where Guacamelee shines.
It’s a pretty lengthy adventure, full of collectables, special abilities, and some of the funniest boss battles I’ve played in quite some time. The battle mechanics drive the experience, to seamlessly jump from a platforming section to chaining together Lucha Libre moves on the enemies in your path feels great! It is full of content that deserves all the praise int he world.
It’s a blend of all the exploration mechanics from Castlevania with a bright coat of paint that should lift your mood when you pick the game up. It’s an excellent time to grab it too – Since the game is a few years old, it’s not all that expensive.
The enhanced edition with all the DLC has the best name ever too. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition. Why would you not buy that?
That’s my list! Castlevania is my all time favourite game series. From 8-Bit Simon to Judgement. I’m willing to explore and enjoy everything the series has to offer. It’s got such a rich history and is easily one of the more recognizable faces of gaming. It’s clear with how many games adopt its style of format, that the love for these games is there.
I’ll continue to love this series and play any game that uses the Castlevania formula as inspiration. While Bloodstained is quite a ways away from being released, that won’t stop the community from giving us games to satisfy our need for some Castlevania goodness.