Castlevania: Legends

Game Overview

When viewing the whole of the Castlevania series, the temptation is to say there are clearly delineated eras for the franchise, from the early action-platform games to the MetroidvaniaAt the intersection of Metroid and Castlevania lies the exploration platforming genre, the game style with heroes wandering expansive worlds, looking for items to expand their quest, know as Metroidvania. later titles (to say nothing of the much later Lords of ShadowThe first full reboot of the franchise, the Lords of Shadow series introduced a new hero, Gabriel Belmont, and reimagined villains all in league with a new antagonist, Satan. sub-series). But while it would be easy to use Castlevania: Symphony of the NightReleased on the PlayStation in 1997, this game, while not hugely successful in the U.S. at the time, went on to become on the most beloved titles in the Castlevania series. as the clear breakpoint between old and new, that's simply not the case.

While it is true that Symphony is the game that perfected the Metroidvania style, it wasn't the smash hit, initially, that Konami wanted or expected. Thus, instead of immediately putting eight more Symphony-clones into production, the company had other internal groups craft their own Castlevania experiences. Released a short 8 months later in Japan, and a few months later in the U.S., Castlevania: Legends (Akumajo Dracula: Dark Night Prelude in Japan) is something of a step back for the series, a Game Boy game beholden to the very old-school platforming of old with none of the Symphony charm worked in.

Considering the release dates, this game was likely developed concurrently with Symphony of the Night (and it's possible this team saw what Koji Igarashi was doing on Symphony and that's the reason AlucardOne of three heroes recruited by Trevor Belmont on his quest to defeat Dracula, Alucard was the son of Dracula who turned from his fathers evil, battling against his cursed family line again and again. is included here as well), a game put into production for hand-held systems that would hopefully capitalize on the expected success of the PlayStation title, leading to greater sales for both. Unfortunately, two things hobbled this title: one, Symphony of the Night was not a break-out smash hit in Japan and, two, this game is much more beholden to the old Game Boy titles (like The Castlevania AdventureThe first Castlevania portable title, it manages to squeeze in the basics of the series onto the four-color Game Boy... but only barely.) than anything Symphony had on offer.

Set up to depict the earliest Belmont encounter with DraculaThe lead antagonist of the Castlevania series and most famous vampire character in all media, all thanks to Bram Stoker., Castlevania: Legends follows young Sonia BelmontHeroine of Castlevania Legends and, at one point, mother of Trevor Belmont before Igarashi removed her from continuity., progenitor of the clan and the first female carrier of the famed Vampire KillerThe Vampire Killer, the legendary whip charged with holy magic and created for the Belmont clan to aid in their fight against the forces of darkness. whip in series history. On her journey, Sonia would meet up with Alucard, getting advice from the Dark Lord's son to aid her in her quest. She'd then end up collecting special items and taking on Dracula, leading to that vampire's first known defeat (at least until Castlevania: Lament of InnocenceThe first title in the series for the Sony PlayStation 2, Lament of Innocence gave us the first glimpse of the earliest hero in the main series, Leon Belmont, he who first had to engage against the vampires by taking up a magical whip and knocking around the worst foes of the undead world. removed this game from continuity).

It's just a pity that Sonia's game wasn't very good. While Legends was an admirable effort to explain the origins of the clan while at the same time striking a blow for equality in the vampire hunting workplace, it wasn't all that fun to play. Muddy graphics, slow mechanics, and cruel level design hampered the game more than it should have. Considering that the last Game Boy Castlevania games had come out years earlier, Konami should have been able to do a better job with the lessons learned in the interim, but instead they cranked out a game that felt too similar to those titles, if not even more archaic.

Where the game could have been a companion piece to Symphony, instead Legends ends up being a sad final note on the classic game play of old. After two disappointing sales of this game, coupled with poor U.S. reception of Symphony of the Night (at least initially), the series would strike out in a new direction. Castlevania for the Nintendo 64After a number of titles for non-Nintendo systems, Castlevania’s return should have been marked by much love and enjoyment from the fans. Sadly the first version of the game on Nintendo’s 64-bit console was a flawed game, interesting in places but not the kind of game fans were clamoring for in 1999. for the Nintendo 64 would try to update the classic game play for 3D consoles (also to muddy effect and little fanfare). The failure of that game would prompt Konami to all but abandon the classic series entirely, moving forward with Metroidvania games for the foreseeable future (powered by the relatively brisk sales of Castlevania: Circle of the MoonThe second Metroidvania-style game in the franchise, Circle of the Moon was developed by the KCET team within Konami, who had previously developed the much beloved Super Castlevania IV. Although not considered a perfect game by fans, this Game Boy Advance title did show that there was much that could be done with the Metroidvania mechanics in the series beyond Symphony of the Night.).

As a sad final note, Sonia was later removed from the official continuity, all but ensuring her as but a footnote in the grand series history. Famously, Koji Igarashi hated Castlevania: Legends, calling it, "something of an embarrassment for the series". Sonia's role as progenitor of the series was eventually taken over by Leon BelmontProgenitor of the Belmont Clan of vampire hunters. Leon was the first to go up against the undead, chasing the evil vampire lord Walter Bernhard to his edifice of evil, all so the hero could rescue his kidnapped lady love, Sara. And, from there, a vow to defeat all vampires when they rose was born. in Lament of Innocence), while her next game, the U.S. developed Castlevania: ResurrectionA canceled game for the Sega Dreamcast, this title was being actively developed by an American team, creating a new adventure for Sonia Belmont. The low sales of the Dreamcast, though, doomed this title, and the game was fully scrapped (instead of being moved over to a different system instead).) would get canceled. Sonia was left on the sidelines, a footnote to the series instead of the grand beginning for it.