You God-darned Bat-thread! (Castlevania)

I got that Castlevania Advance Collection and I‘m having a good old time plugging away at Circle of the Moon. I’ve got a few minor gripes (I HATE double-tapping a direction to run) but overall it‘s great, especially a couple decades removed from playing it on that really dark first gen GBA screen. As an adult I realize that I love the IGAvanias (I know he didn’t work on Circle of the Moon) ultimately because they‘re very boring; they have that same meditative quality to me that a good JRPG has where you just kind of run around the same corridors and killing the same enemies over and over to farm items with frustratingly low drop rates. I swear to Christ I’m being serious when I say I love it.

What's your favorite Castlevania? My favorite classicvania is Super Castlevania IV, it's definitely a gimmicky "look what we can do on the SNES" game but I just love the atmosphere and the music. It's also the only one of the 16-bit games that really still has the "if you can hang onto the triple shot by the time you make it to the boss we'll let you cheese the fuck out of it" mechanic which I appreciate, lol.

My favorite IGAvania is Portrait of Ruin, it's probably the most transparently cobbled together from recycled assets but it's also got a lot of goofy gimmick stuff that I love, like where you have to use your tag-team "push heavy things" skill to stop a train, or the Medusa fight where her eyes emit a screen-filling paralysis beam that you can only avoid by turning away from her, or the Cleopatra mummy lady you have to fight as Charlotte because she charms Jonathan with her horny powers. And the final boss Dracula/Death tag-team! Also Yuzo Koshiro music!

I also want to fill this thread with favorite music. I love this remix of Garibaldi Courtyard from Curse of Darkness. The vocals (which appear to be in some kind of nonsense language like the Nier soundtrack?) manage to sound both genuinely creepy and more than a little goofy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooDJInJz71Q

Man, I‘ve played through 100% of all these igavanias and I like all of them. But aside from sotn, I’m not sure I could tell you which was which. To me they kind of all blend together, and frankly I appreciate that! I remember liking the one with the spear and the drawing gimmicks a little less, but maybe that's also the one where I could have three owl familiars which was one of my favorite things? Heck if I remember. And the first ds one where you could step on the car and snow would fall off. Love it! And maybe that one had the skello bartender too.

Those are ds ones, but I like all them gbases too. Maybe I'll play through them again and remember what's different about them, why not!! But yeah, I do appreciate that these days, once you've finished one igavania you can just head right into another without missing a beat. The castle changes, there's a new gimmick, but ultimately it's around about the same solid 8/10 gameplay and whacking away at bosses til they're dead, while collecting stuff, most of which you don't need. Good stuff.

In that respect, the first and last handheld metroidvanias are the ones that deviate most substantially from the SOTN template: Circle of the Moon was by a completely different team and as such has a ton of quirks and rough edges that some find endearing, and Order of Ecclesia for DS was an attempt to veer back towards a more traditional action game—there are far more explicit difficulty checks and a general expectation that you think a little more about the combat than not at all, and you spend most of the game outside of the castle in discrete stages.

This is an incredibly hard question for me to answer, but it lets me think about Castlevania, so I'm happy for it!

I'm not sure that there's another video game series that I've got more actual thoughts on than this, but I think it's because I find most of the series to be great in one way or another, and the games I don't care for have made me think about what it is that makes them stand out to me, so even those are important! I had a whole thing I had written about the games I don't care for, but that's not the brief, so I got rid of it. I'd love to talk about the games I don't love sometime if anyone else cares to do the same.

Anyway! My very favourite is probably Order of Ecclesia, because of what @"gsk"#70 said: it was an attempt to refocus the series. To me, it combined a lot of the best traits of both the classic games and the IGA generation of games and ended up being a cool third thing, sorta. I'm still a little sad that there was never a real followup to it, because I think it had real potential.

Of course as soon as I say that, I regret not saying something like SOTN is my favourite! As far as that goes, it's like the comfort food of games. I don't think I've ever actually been challenged by SOTN, because it supports playfulness in trying out new equipment to adjust difficult up and down, different approaches to where you go when, scouring the remotest bits of the map for treasures, and admiring tiny details. It's also clearly a game that the developers had a lot of fun making, something that I recall came up in subsequent interviews. I think I've replayed it more than any other game, period--probably dozens of times, and only last year, when I started a new playthrough, did it start to wear thin. I'd still buy it in a heartbeat if they released a Switch version!

As for the GBA and DS igavanias, they're good, and they were excellent for handhelds, but (for me at least) they never quite approached the inventiveness of SOTN. I think in part because it served as the template for the later games, they always felt more conventional and less exploratory, with fewer secrets and oddities. It's p[robably just my skewed perception though.

My favourite dark horse Castlevania is definitely Dracula X for the SNES. At a time when I was reading magazines that constantly hyped Rondo of Blood, and when imports were way out of reach for me and emulation just didn't exist, it was a way to experience Rondo on the cheap. I'm sure that's part of my affection for it. It also turns out to have really excellent music, and functions as a pretty cool remix of Rondo. I'm just glad that it's been given a few re-releases over the years since my perception is that it's wildly disliked.

I could keep going on about Castlevania! I'm eager to talk about the games I don't care for, because there are a few! But that wasn't the question here, haha.

We agree these are as much aesthetic experiences as anything, and so, my friends…

It's time to talk about Order of Ecclesia.

As soon as you pick up this box you know it's gonna be good.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/tKM7fDM.jpeg]

Oh yeah, buddy.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/iGnCGhr.jpeg]

Have a look at the character art! I really love the style they went for here. Not the same as Kojima's, but beautiful in different ways (certainly an improvement over Portrait and Dawn, in this forum poster's opinion...). Look at the texture of the outfits, the shadows on faces, the muted yet distinct colors. The hair is great. And it translates to the game nicely!

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/R1jxTf5.jpeg]

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/WkSXoJy.png]

And the [sprites](https://www.spriters-resource.com/ds_dsi/castlevaniaorderofecclesia/sheet/19214/) look great, and the [animation, ooooh](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JglkA2rmXec&t=1064s).

The [opening cinematic](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRAQ-ZzOE4M) is a lightly animated compilation of character promo art, and I love it. Also a nice preview of the music to come...

Speaking of music, this one has a different texture compared to previous DSVanias. Dawn of Sorrow has more of those ['80s drums](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsBwe-01lS0), and what seemed to me a lot of [mellow](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3ue13fGHTs) woodwind instrument [tunes](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs1uLcnP5w8).

Ecclesia still has some of [those drums](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsHnrMNSsNQ) of course, but overall the sense of orchestration is different. There's more focus on [strings](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDynplObnQE), [guitars](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uJhva1jvWw), [keyboards](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DU_dusaZC8); just a variety of instruments I like more. There are some more [flute/woodwind-heavy tracks](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2kcrtFrw_c) but they've got enough of that thick bass in there to make it feel balanced.

Structurally the game is somewhere between Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin—the first half of Ecclesia takes you through a variety of forests, mountains, and oceans on the journey to Dracula's castle, kind of like the smaller levels found in Portrait's portraits (though not as high-concept as say a [foray into an Egyptian tomb](https://media.rawg.io/media/resize/420/-/screenshots/30b/30bf5d1f0a9ee23cfb1bf581f061eb1d.jpg)).
The second half of the game is Dracula's castle, which is certainly smaller than previous game-length castles, but I don't think it disappoints! It feels pretty huge to me. And the castle music takes it to the next level:

An Empty Tome:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UImoQhzaOJk

Tower of Dolls—originally from the [X68000 Akumajou Dracula](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwkKuolGG7Q&t=33m4s), but this remix is probably my favorite Casltevania track:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK5rmnMRdvs

The bosses in Ecclesia are tough! Not quite in the same way as Portrait's, where you might get killed in two hits (early game)—whatever the difference is I enjoyed Ecclesia's difficulty tuning a bit more. Of course it might just be that certain glyph combinations make later, possibly unfair bosses a joke.

I enjoy Ecclesia's glyphs, which replace the weapon system from Symphony and Aria/Dawn: in the latter, there are ten thousand different weapons, of which you can only equip one at a time (in Aria/Dawn you can switch between two weapon sets at the press of a button). In Ecclesia, you equip glyphs, which are each distinct—instead of having twenty different straight swords and katanas and claymores etc. as in Symphony/Aria/Dawn, there is one straight sword-type glyph and one rapier-type glyph—cutting back on the sheer number of weapons to keep in mind when deciding how to deal with enemies. Glyphs are not just close quarters physical weapons—they are spells too, and ranged weapons. You assign one glyph to each hand (X and Y buttons) and alternate pressing the two buttons when attacking, allowing for either rapid-fire use of a given attack (if the same glyph is equipped to both hands) or strategic alternation between two different attacks (enemies are vulnerable to different damage types). _AND_ you can customize and switch between three separate glyph sets!

The menu sound effects!

At the end of the day it's still an IGAvania, which is to say not an exceptionally deep game, but it's well put together and has little nooks and crannies and secrets that I like to dig into. It looks and sounds nice and is a DS game which means it's 2x cooler than a game on any other console.

The Annotated Symphony of the Night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFmpodGI3Jk&list=PL6oJayMOGGc8h9gUFdJhbyaOYMYvABRjB

Yeah to me the joy in an Igavania almost entirely comes from exploration and discovery, any mechanical challenges the games present seem to come about more because you haven't found enough upgrades or the right weapons, rarely because you need to learn a boss pattern or new skill. And that works fine for me. I usually end up treating a difficult boss or section of corridor as just another locked door, another place to mentally note on the map as I go somewhere else and continue on the path of least resistance as I continue to explore the castle.

That does make me think that to make a good Igavania game you need to focus more on stuffing it full of little environmental details and enemy and weapon variety above anything else.

I wonder if there are any metroidvania games that try to have more items and environments and discovery but end up not being any good because the underlying gameplay isn't good enough? Is there a minimum level of mechanical engagement these games need that some have not met?

On a whim I started playing Rondo of Blood last weekend, via the pitifully presented Castlevania Requiem collection on the PSN store.

And I'm still not sure exactly how to talk about it, because I really love a whole lot about the presentation, the music in particular is incredible, but I am stuck on Stage 4! I'm wondering if I need to run through the game from the beginning to build up hearts and bring in a good subweapon and/or build up extra lives to have a chance in hell of getting through it. I don't think I've even made it to the boss yet.

Also mild spoilers but ||Maria rules||

not sayin they're the best but will speak up for that genesis castlevania and I like those PS2 games also!

@“Polaco Yunque”#p44062 I actually ordered a copy of Curse of Darkness last night! I usually play Castlevania stuff in October, and the Advance Collection has me wanting to revisit a few more games I haven't played in a while.

Also I actually really liked the Netflix Castlevania show, and the Curse of Darkness characters were such a huge part of that story that it made me _a little_ annoyed that I had no way to play the actual game

I decided to stop playing Rondo of Blood! I did beat Stage 4, though. But that Death fight is absolutely rotten.

I got what I wanted out of it, though. That's a rad game with a BANGIN' soundtrack.

@“Gaagaagiins”#p44101 I also randomly picked up this game just a few days ago! I‘ve half-heartedly played the intro every time I set up a new way to experience PCE CD games, but I think the MiSTer is about as ideal as I’m going to get (for me at least!). I also just realized that I had to manually enable RAM saving, so next time I go back I don‘t have to start all over again (and watch that whole German intro…I mean, it’s great, but they really couldn't allow you to skip it the first time through??).

Anyway, I strenuously agree with your sentiments that the OST and ||Maria|| rule. I've heard sooo many iterations of Vampire Killer, but this has to be the best, especially with that hearty bass drum _THUNK_. I'm also planning on finally playing through SOTN now that I have my ideal setup for it (PSX into RetroTINK via RGB), so this seems like the ideal preamble.

As for the series in general, I ravenously played through all of the GBA and DS games up until Order of Ecclesia. Don't get the wrong idea, though, I _love_ that game in theory, especially the direction they went with the aesthetic and protagonist. For some reason it was just a bit too challenging at the time and the gameplay didn't really click with me. After reading @"captain"#258 's post, though, I really would like to give it another shot...might be an ideal pairing for my DSi LL.

I gave Bloodstained a shot last year, but somehow it also didn't quite compel me to sink much time into it. Hollow Knight, on the other hand, was probably my most played game last year and I think did a better job taking up the [metroid]vania mantle.

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@“kory”#p44146 As for the series in general, I ravenously played through all of the GBA and DS games up until Order of Ecclesia. Don’t get the wrong idea, though, I love that game in theory, especially the direction they went with the aesthetic and protagonist. For some reason it was just a bit too challenging at the time and the gameplay didn’t really click with me. After reading @captain ’s post, though, I really would like to give it another shot…might be an ideal pairing for my DSi LL.

I couldn't quite get into Ecclesia either! At the time I remember feeling like every enemy and boss took way too many hits to kill early on.

I took a break from Circle of the Moon last night and switched over to the Anniversary Collection again. I love the stage 2 music in Kid Dracula
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaVCSTh-wek

Bloodlines/Vampire Killer all the way. It just felt so nice and chunky with its high contrast/color saturation, and satisfying FM sound, and I'd usually play as Eric with his spear since he had a really good vaulting jump. Just a sloppy off the top of my head order of favorites:

Bloodlines, Chronicles (the X68k one and PSX port with all the fun midi choices), Symphony, Aria, Order, Rondo. Also really enjoyed ReBirth but Konami seems to want to believe any of their ReBirth games do not exist anymore.

Immediately got the Advance Collection after it was announced and started digging into all three games at once. I like Circle of the Moon for how stiff and rough it feels, but it's definitely the weakest of the three I'm only just now realizing. Lots of jumping up spires/towers. Too much.
I didn't care for Harmony of Dissonance when it first came out, but revisiting it now I've warmed up to it way more. The more primitive sounds over Circle and Aria give it a really nice charm, though it has such a frustratingly spread out save room layout. I've died a few times thinking "Well that's a butt load of progress lost..." and setting the game down way more than other Igavanias.

I've been having an itch to revisit the PS2 games.

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@“GigaSlime”#p44151 every enemy and boss took way too many hits to kill early on

Yes! Now that I'm thinking back to it, that is exactly what got to me. I felt like it was such a chore to get through even the most basic screens screens in the early game. I can only assume this becomes more manageable later in the game, but it sure was a momentum killer from the get go.

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@“JJSignal”#p44152 Also really enjoyed ReBirth but Konami seems to want to believe any of their ReBirth games do not exist anymore.

I am quite peeved that M2 did not use this excellent opportunity to bring their own Rebirth back to modern consoles. Dracula XX could have waited for the inevitable Dracula X collection together with the PCE and PS1 games (and maybe add that weird Sonia Belmont game for Game Boy if you really want four games for each collection).

My other disappointment regards the lack of options for the visual settings, especially in contrast to the kind of comfort provided by M2 on the ShotTriggers series. It’d be pretty helpful for GBA games, especially on a console like Switch with a growing number of screen configurations (the original screen, the smaller Switch Lite screen, the new OLED screen and of course any monitor you might use for the dock). I like that the sound settings offer the option to keep or boost the original sound output, at least.

M2‘s been trying to do something with the Rebirth games forever, but it’s not their call and I don‘t understand why Konami’s so hesitant to do anything with them.

@“gsk”#p44161 It baffles me that somehow Konami is willing to license out the OST (Ship to Shore Media put out a nice vinyl release not long ago) but is content to leave the actual game languishing in a defunct digital store. I suppose it requires significantly less work and investment to accomplish the former, but still!

@“kory”#p44162 The work's more or less done, even!

The vinyl thing's frustrating because Konami won't let publishers credit the actual composers any more, which is demeaning in and of itself, but it also leads to situations where soundtracks like those Rebirth games are attributed to "Konami Kukeiha Club" even though they were handled by external companies.

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@“gsk”#p44161 M2’s been trying to do something with the Rebirth games forever, but it’s not their call and I don’t understand why Konami’s so hesitant to do anything with them.

Based on this morning’s eShop rankings, Castlevania seems to be doing well even in Japan (and Actraiser seems to have done extremely well) so we can hope that Konami would be running out of options when it comes to adding a suitable bonus game in the subsequent DS trilogy collection...