Interview: Reinventing Castlevania For A New Handheld Generation

Konami's Dave Cox talks about the latest entry in the bloodsucking franchise

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is almost with us, so what better time is there to sit down with the producer of the game and chat about its development, inspiration, aims and challenges — as well as the future of the Castlevania franchise?

Nintendo Life: As the game's release draws near, have you had chance to reflect on what's been achieved? Is there anything you would have done differently if you could start over?

Dave Cox: We are very happy with the game. I think when you spend two years plus working on something like this, you have to be selfish a bit and try to make the game that you want and hope others appreciate what you have done. I am very satisfied with Mirror of Fate and feel proud of what we all achieved. I think as a game developer that is all you can ask of yourself and your team.

NL: What's the relationship like between MercurySteam and Konami?

DC: It's very strong and we work very well together. The team is passionate, committed and extremely talented. Making a game is not easy and you face many problems and challenges along the way, but having a relationship like we have makes things go smoother. I have made real friends over the course of the development and when it comes to pulling together to get across the finish line, you need friends standing beside you.

NL: You've mentioned that you've been able to do some technical things with the 3DS hardware that have surprised even Nintendo. Can you fill us in on what kind of tricks you've been able to perform?

DC: We have tried to screw with the player's perceptions as much as we can by making a game that on the surface looks like a classic Castlevania side-scroller but upon further investigation is in fact a thoroughly modern and new take on the series with a much heavier emphasis on combat. It's also got a third-person perspective and we use the camera a lot to add the feeling of being in a real world. The 3D is something we really worked hard on to make it special and to really show off the visuals. I think when people play the game in 3D this will become apparent. I don't think there is anything else on the 3DS quite like it.

NL: With the vocal talents of Robert Carlyle, Alec Newman and Richard Madden on board, the game has a Scottish feel to it. Why did you choose to give the Belmont clan this accent?

DC: We felt that because Robert was Gabriel that we needed to keep a consistency in terms of accent. It would have seemed wrong to us for us to change that for his offspring.

NL: The series has traditionally been developed in Japan. What's the reaction been like to the game in that region?

DC: Fantastic. This is surprising to us as the game has really been developed for a western audience in mind, but we are very pleased when Japanese fans send us fan art or tell us they like the new direction.

NL: As a fan of the series, has it been fun to create your own origin story for Castlevania with the Lords of Shadow sub-series?

DC: Absolutely. I think by rebooting and re-imagining the series, it's given us the freedom to explore some interesting ideas and take the characters in directions that we didn't expect. I always wanted to know how the blood feud came about between the Belmonts and Dracula and who Dracula is as a character — why does he do the things he does? How did he become this person, what's his story?

NL: The reaction from some sectors of Castlevania fandom has been a little frosty towards some of the story changes you've made in the Lords of Shadow series, yet the reboot is one of the best-selling entries in the franchise. Do you feel vindicated by its commercial and critical performance?

DC: It's important to know your audience and to focus on making a game for them. It's easy to get distracted by the noise of the few and forget the silence of the many. We had faith that there was an audience out there who wanted a new approach to Castlevania and felt the series had grown stale and needed fresh blood, so to speak. There were dark days I can tell you, but our faith and hard work paid off and we attracted a new, larger following to the series and broadened the appeal. Yes, we do feel vindicated and it has given us the confidence to move forward with the next instalments because we don't want to let our new fans down.

NL: Where does Castlevania go from here? I know you've previously stated that MercurySteam will move onto other projects, but if Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2 perform as well as the original Lords of Shadow did, surely Konami will want to continue the relationship? MercurySteam could make the Castlevania series its own...

DC: Actually, this conversation has come up many times. Right now, we are committed to bringing this story to a close and then we want to try something new. Would we come back if there was the demand? It's hard to answer right now; on the one hand we don't want to be known as "the Castlevania studio", we have big ambitions but we also know that there are a large number of people who love the Lords of Shadow series. My head says "No, time to move on," but my heart says otherwise. Perhaps it's time for a new perspective from a new creative team?

NL: Castlevania has a long and proud association with Nintendo systems - you've stated that Lords of Shadow 2 is out of the question due to time and resource constraints, but are there any plans whatsoever for the instalment on Wii U?

DC: No plans for those very reasons, but I wouldn't rule it out completely.

NL: The series enjoyed a good run on the Nintendo DS. Will we see any future Castlevania instalments on the 3DS?

DC: I hope so!

NL: You've made no secret of the fact that you're a huge Castlevania fan, but what would you say is your favourite entry in the entire series?

DC: Super Castlevania 4 because it is the original perfected. I also like Dracula's Curse, but it's the original game that inspires me everyday.

NL: Given the proud history of the Castlevania franchise, are there any plans for a collection of past instalments? A compilation of the 8 and 16-bit entries, perhaps?

DC: Perhaps... but not by my team. We are looking forward, not backward. There is a new generation of consoles and gamers coming and that excites me very much and spurs me on to tell new stories and explore new experiences. I always look back fondly, but I am not one to live in the past.

Thanks to Dave for taking the time to speak with us. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate launches in North America and Europe next week. If you're in the UK, don't forget to take part in our exclusive competition to win a copy of the game and a poster signed by Dave himself.