Castlevania: Moonlight Rhapsody
August 21, 2020
After Konami elected to cancel Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, having released only the first five of the planned eight missions for that game, and stopping it before it even had a chance to come to the U.S. (let alone worldwide), only giving it a beta release is Japan and, for some reason, Canada, Castlevania fans were understandably wary for the future of the series. Recent news about the next in-development title will not assuage the fears of the fans.
Yes, another Castlevania game is in development. Sadly, as with Grimoire Konami is not taking an active hand in the game, once again farming out development to a third-party source, the China-based Shengqu Games. Intended for release in Chinese markets, at least at the outset, the fact that it's being developed by a Chinese team isn't entirely surprising -- China is very controlling of companies and media that come into that country, preferring Chinese teams to work on Chinese products, and for Chinese companies to own a substantial part of ventures in the country. Having Shengqu Games work on the game might have been the best Konami could manage.
That said, this game doesn't seem (from the trailer we've been shown) to do much to push the series forward or tread any ground outside what Grimoire was already treading. This is another mobile phone game that sees a cross-section of heroes from the series -- Alucard, Maria, Richter, Shanoa, Soma, Yoko, along with new character Elvis (or maybe that should be Yves, if it is a mistranslation as some fans think) -- getting sucked into the late 1890s to fight a resurrected Castle Dracula. Presumably it will have multiple missions to download, along with pay-to-play bonus content and all the like you expect in the mobile market.
The look of the game has some fans worried. Along with the fact that there's only one new character, Elvis/Yves, leaving the rest of the cast as the usual allotment included in every game like this, all of the music so far, and much of the set design, seems borrowed from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Little has been revealed that feels totally new, nor have any details of the story really been leaked to let us know what it's about or what's really going on.
Needless to say, it's hard to get excited about this title. One, who knows if it will ever actually be released; remember, Grimoire never made it out of beta and then was canceled with only half the story released. And then, secondly, even if it comes out it might remain a Chinese exclusive. That would be a first for the series, as every game previously has at least seen release in Japan (including Grimoire). Fans in the West, though, may never get to even try out this title meaning this could be yet another Eastern exclusive the hardcore fans simply get to pine over without being able to ever see it properly.
If and when more information is released about the game we'll report on it here. For now, put a pin in the title as this could all be a lot of vapor that never materializes in a proper game.
January 21, 2021
It's been a little while since we last heard about Castlevania: Moonlight Rhapsody, but a recent game play trailer (video courtesy of Gaming Mobile) does at least give us some idea of what the game will look and play like and... well... it's a bit dire.
As we knew, Moonlight Rhapsody is going to be a mobile-only game released, as of right now, exclusively in China. That alone had some in the community scratching their heads as China is not well known for their love of Castlevania. Plus, with the Netflix "anime" going on (season three having been released just last year, and a fourth season due out soon enough), all of which is geared for Western fans, it's a bit odd that Konami hasn't put out a game in the series here in the West in some time. We're still puzzling that out, all these months after the game's initial announcement, and when you factor what we can now see of the game, there are lingering questions about just what Konami is thinking.
For starters, the art style isn't much like anything we're used to for the series. It's very cartoony, which isn't necessarily bad -- the main series has been anime influenced for a while -- but it does feel a touch out of place with the Gothic style the series has become known for. While the music feels more natural, it's clearly still all rearrangements of tracks we've heard before, most specifically Symphony of the Night. They are rearrangements now, as opposed to just tracks lifted straight from that classic game, which is good, but there's still the question of how original this game will be.
That is, of course, only made worse by the fact that the first character we truly get to see in action isn't newcomer Elvis (who we still know very little about), but Alucard. He flies down from the top of the castle (which, if he's going to have to battle is way through the castle to reach Dracula, seems decidedly silly -- you were already at the top, so your cool entrance really sets you back a long way), then picks up a sword and starts slicing through enemies. This is where things really go off the rails; I'm okay with the on-screen mobile controls (you have to control a mobile game somehow), but the fact is that this game seems like nothing more than an action-tapping repetitive motion simulator. You walk forward, then slice at enemies, then walk forward, then slice at enemies. Sometimes you jump, but it's not for any intricate platforming but simply to jump over a rock before you go back to walking and slicing.
Yes, Alucard gets a double-jump power but, as yet, there doesn't seem to be much use for it. Similarly, there's no style to the action -- the hordes of the enemies wait for you to make the first movie (which makes this seem like they're on a wait-based system, if not a deeply hidden turn-based system) and then you just furiously slice at them until the enemies die. There is a stark lack of strategy to the action, something even the worst games in the series at least managed, making this game look very shallow when it comes to the core strengths of the series.
And, bluntly put, this game play looks very rough. As a very true debut for how the game is going to play, this trailer does a bad job selling it. The game stutters and hitches more than once, the music cuts out repeatedly as the action loads. While it's true that this game is still in development, this trailer shows us a very limited slice of a single level so you'd expect at this this section to play well. It doesn't, and that leaves us worried about how well the final product is really going to play.
Overall, Castlevania: Moonlight Rhapsody looks like it's in pretty rough shape. Even for a stripped-down mobile title it seems like the company developing the title, Shengqu Games, has bitten off a lot and doesn't seem to have the skill to really pull it off. Fans of the series outside of China may never be able to play this title, and right now that looks more like a blessing than a curse.