GAMING

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Castlevania

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chris-littlechild - November 19, 2014

You don't eff with Castlevania. This ol' bastard has become a real gaming fixture. To date, there have been over forty entries in the series, and that's pretty damn impressive. If I knew what fancy-ass words like 'prolific' meant, I'd be typing them in your face in Castlevania's honor right now.

The franchise is approaching its thirtieth anniversary, and there's only one way to celebrate that. With a heaping helping of snark and/or piss-takery, that's how. So let's party like it's 1986 and look back at the very first Castlevania release. Which was called --just so our slow cousin Joe didn't get confused-- Castlevania.

The series' lore has become long, meandering and wanktastic over its long history. It's like trying to understand what the shit's going on in The Da Vinci Code with the TV on mute and Romanian subtitles up. But the mid-eighties were a simpler time, and all of that BS hadn't come to pass yet.

The first game is set in 1691 and brings us the story of Simon Belmont, the original vampire-murderizing Belmont. He's cruising through Dracula's castle, which apparently reappears every 100 years. As, y'know, undead demon-things' big ol' freaking castles tend to do. Nothing screwy there.

So wanging legendary monsters in the face before getting a shot at the lord of darkness himself is the order of the day. Which is something we can all get on board with.

This is before he started all of that 'what is a man?' BS.

Castlevania is an action platformer with an Edgar Allan Poe, My Chemical Romance-y vibe of gothicness. Along with the standard wandering-and-jumping shenanigans, there are some undead enemies to dispatch. To that end, you're armed with (what became) that iconic piece of franchise ass-whuppery: the magic whip. You'll also find a selection of sub-weapons (ax, throwing daggers, holy water and that fancy stopwatch that freezes enemies), which cost collectible hearts to use.

This debut laid the foundations for three decades of Dracula-bashing. In that time, the vampire has changed from a studly Bela Lugosi type in a spangly suit to an old bastard with a grayer, beardier beard than Dumbledore. And Gandalf, both combined into one elderly entity. But nevertheless, the core of Castlevania's gameplay has changed little.

That's a sign of Konami getting a magic formula right the first damn time, which is a rare thing. This is clear from the game's reputation; it was critically acclaimed and is still regarded as one of the best releases the console ever saw. It's been keeping Dracula in foppish, too-camp-for-The-Village-People outfits ever since (after he changed his style, as I've said), and that's a legacy to be proud of.

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