Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pensieve Post #2 ~ Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Reactions

So it turns out that my suspicions were right. To be honest, it wasn't that hard of a guess to make (especially after Monday). Kojima Productions' involvement isn't really known for sure at this point, but they are at least supervising the now confirmed Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Being developed by Mercury Steam, it looks to be some sort of reboot for the franchise entirely. Now that my personal hype has worn off (I just really wanted to know what that damn mask was), I'm left with a few ambiguous realities that I would like to quickly address.

Slasher Syndrome
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The biggest obstacle Castlevania faces is evolving it's own immense legacy. Between Simon and Samus, a distinct type of play is now known (for good reason) as "Metroidvania". By melding the mechanics of a sidescrolling action game with various RPG influences, it's a style that still remains fairly solitary (not to mention potent) to this day. When 2001 rolled around, Devil May Cry came out and kind of gently usurped my love for console Castlevanias (especially considering that since 2001, Castlevania became increasingly more available in it's old form on handhelds instead). I'll repeat, I don't think Lament of Innocence or Curse of Darkness were bad titles by any means, but they show a slight typecasting detriment as if they're trying to fit into DMC's own category (and I ironically assert that the DMC franchise only exists because Castlevania itself).

Titles like God of War and Ninja Gaiden all join Dante's exploits in crowned jewels for qualitative slasher action. Castlevania incorporates these gifts, but isn't limited to them. It has to find some way to translate it's overall formula for a true console evolution. Retro proved this was possible with Samus, but "the whip's transition" wasn't as friendly. Of course the series didn't outright stumble into the 3D realm like SOME OTHERS *coughSoniccough*, but it shuddered with Lament of Innocence, as if it were struggling to hold up that immense aforementioned legacy. Judging from the shots of the trailer (which can be seen here), they are pretty far along in development. The mechanics look solid, but the title could just as easily be in the same exact beat as its two console predecessors. I guess more will be revealed as time crawls on of course, but I'm excited nonetheless.

Art Affinity
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Another thing I'm interested in regarding this title is the art design. Apart from Yoji Shinkawa and Yoshitaka Amano, I hold Ayami Kojima in extremely high regard. She entered into contributing artwork for the game starting at Symphony of the Night and it has defined the series since. A big reason I love the Castlevania franchise is that it's one of the few titles that flamboyantly speaks with a dark romantic accent. In case you don't keep up with me, I'm a large fan of the Romanticism movement in general, let alone this beautiful subset. Again, Devil May Cry nearly inherited this trait from Castlevania and it plays a major role into how fans see the game overall. The bad thing is that I don't think Ayami is going to be back for this game. If she is, then I'll be extremely happy. However, with the studio-shift, I expect some new blood to step up and offer their own unique translation of the formula (which I welcome of course). I didn't get too much from the trailer, but I think it's a given that Mercury Steam knows what it's dealing with.

Fanboyish Fangasm
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After I'm done with my other playthroughs this summer, I think I'll start replaying some Castlevania titles again for DFB entries. The titles pretty much consumed a large chunk of my childhood and the formula of play is one of the many titles that still hold up to this day. As the game draws closer to it's release, expect me to keep an eye on it. There's much to consider for games when Castlevania is involved. The franchise encompasses many vital portions of what makes video-games so damn amazing in the first place.

~sLs~