With the release of Adi Shankar’s Castlevania on Netflix, an iconic series is finally opening up to a brand new audience. It’s been over 30 years since the original Castlevania title was released on the NES, and the series has grown in a number of ways since that humble beginning.
If you’re not as familiar with the Castlevania series as you are with its contemporaries, such as The Legend of Zelda, Metroid and Super Mario Bros, you may be surprised to learn just how big the series actually is. Whether you’re new to the series or just need a refresher, here is the history of Castlevania so you can see just how it made its way to the screen.
The Original Trilogy
Konami’s Castlevania was released in 1986 on the Famicom in Japan and in 1987 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It featured whip-wielding hero Simon Belmont and took players along on his quest to take down Dracula once and for all. The game was a big hit for Konami and was followed by two sequels on the NES: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. A pair of sequels on other systems (Vampire Killer and Haunted Castle) were also released in between these games.
Simon’s Quest and Dracula’s Curse took the platform adventuring of the first game and really expanded it. Both games featured multiple endings, and Dracula’s Curse featured a branching storyline that allowed player decisions to affect how the game played out.
The first two games follow the adventures of Simon, while the third game is a prequel that focuses on Simon’s ancestor Trevor C. Belmont. The overarching story of the games focuses on the Belmont clan (and some other characters, such as Dracula’s son Alucard) trying to stop the destruction caused by Dracula and prevent the vampire from returning from the dead.
Castlevania: The Adventure
Konami released Castlevania: The Adventure on the Game Boy in 1989. This prequel game focused on Christopher Belmont, a descendant of Trevor who has taken up the family whip in an effort to stop Dracula once and for all. The game abandoned the sub-weapons that were present in the NES games, though it does retain the use of hearts collected from defeated monsters to restore lost health. There are no stairs and gameplay is linear, with a “primary evil” found at the end of each level that must be defeated. A point counter and level timer serve to further differentiate the game from those that came before.
A sequel titled Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge was released in 1991 that picked up Christopher’s story 15 years later, when Dracula returned and kidnapped Christopher’s son. Turning the boy into a demon, Dracula then set about trying to regain his former power and rejoin the world. The game featured sub-weapons and corrected many of the questionable issues from the first Game Boy title, though its short play time was still considered a weakness.
Captain N: The Game Master
The Castlevania series made its way to animation for the first time in 1989 when Simon Belmont appeared as a supporting character in the NBC animated series Captain N: The Game Master. Unlike his video game appearances, Simon was depicted as a self-obsessed and arrogant warrior who isn’t nearly as formidable as he believes himself to be. Dracula appears as a villain in the show under the name The Count, wearing a yellow suit for most of his appearances in contrast to how he appears in the games.
While Simon and the Count were the primary Castlevania characters to appear in the show, Alucard appeared in one episode as well. He was depicted as a rebellious teenager with a blond mop of hair, sunglasses and a bat-shaped boom box. Unlike in the game series where Alucard is one of the playable heroes, this version appears to be on the side of the N-Team at first but eventually double-crosses them as he is working for his father.
A spinoff of the Castlevania series, the Kid Dracula games focus on Dracula’s son and act as a parody of Castlevania. The series consists of the Japan-only Akumajō Special: Boku Dracula-kun (which translates to “Demon Castle Special: I’m Kid Dracula!“) and its Game Boy sequel/remake Kid Dracula. Though the games are intended to be parody, characters from the games have appeared in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania: Judgement. The main character of the games is intended to be Alucard, who serves as a protagonist in some of the main series games.
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