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Interview: Reinventing Castlevania For A New Handheld Generation

Posted by Damien McFerran

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.

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User Comments (58)



CountEkkiM said:

thank you Dave!!! im just afraid castlevanias future after you complete your work..




Well impressed by the demo . Hopefully the main game will stick to a metroidvania template, which would be excellent combined with the combat system they have in place.



Damo said:

@PORYGON So it's only Castlevania if IGA is involved?

Guess we can ignore all the amazing 8-bit versions, Super Castlevania IV, Belmont's Revenge, Bloodlines, etc...



RotYN7 said:

Loved the Demo, usually Demos Actually turn me off to a game, this one made me upset when it said "thanks for playing!!"



Will-75 said:

The Demo made this a day-one purchase for me, just AWESOME cannot wait to play !



Usagi-san said:

I keep going back to the demo to find out what everybody else is seeing but I haven't a clue. It didn't strike me as particularly good or bad so what is so awesome about the demo that changed people's minds?



Usagi-san said:

@jon_simmons I wasn't going to say anything in case I was the only one, but I did find them a little clunky at times with the larger enemies.



PinkSpider said:

Yeah the controls are a little stiff and what's with the skeletons with shields taking forever to kill its really infuriating.



SF2010 said:

About the controls, it was the same on PS3 MS Castlevania, the blending is so smooth that you need to wait a few to see if the combo you were making is working right, and the combats are based on combos and chains. It isn't the arcade feeling that for me it's one of the highlights of the saga, you can't fight against a lot of enemies at the same time. Anyway, a lot of people enjoys this combats mechanics. I found it frustrating on PS3, and I don't enjoy at all the Tomb Raider climbing moments. My brother is going to buy it, so I'll try it again later.
I'll love a Castlevania with the MS graphic engine, IGA level design and gaming design, Ayami Kojima (maybe Yoshitaka Amano?) characters and story and dialogues really written by Hideo Kojima.



edcomics said:

Seems like I'm always being negative these days, but I was really disappointed by the demo. I was prepared for something different, but this felt like a step backward, somehow. The graphics are ok. The combat is kind of uncomfortable, and the character moves so slowly. I don't know. It just wasn't a lot of fun. Plus, the style is more than a bit weird. It's kind of over-stylized, which takes away from the somewhat classy feel of previous Castlevania games. Oh well. I guess everything changes over time. Except Mario, that is.



Lostog said:

@Usagi-san: You're not alone. Search for NL's first impressions, they weren't exactly won over either. Personally, I don't see the appeal in the game, but other do, so to each their own!



Tasuki said:

Great interview. I went into this game expecting a God of War clone like LoS on the 360 so I wasnt expecting much. To my surprise I really enjoyed the demo alot. Playstyle wise it felt like it was combining playstyle of all the Castlevania games. You have the platforming feel like swing with the whip of the older Castlvania games. The exploration and layout of the Metroidvania games with the combat of the LoS. Going to be picking this one up for sure next week.



jon_simmons said:

yeah, with that last boss I kept getting hit because of how slow the character moves. I was going to buy it on day one but I'll probably skip it.



Monoyan said:

Just bought the game today(was released early here in hong kong) and played for an hour. The controls are chunky yes, but I think the producers want to resemble more to the "Pre" shadow titles, in which I am more fond of. I think the game really is quite challenging and tests my reflexes. Early impression is a combination of old and new, and I enjoyed so far. I just missed those beautiful tunes in GBA and DS vania games though, music now is a bit too atmospheric for me. Lol



zionich said:

I dont know why but the Demo just seemed ok to me. It could be because im too excited for Monster Hunter in all fairness.



GraveLordXD said:

I'm glad to hear this isn't too much like the GoW castlevania games but more like the older ones I couldn't find the demo on the eshop the other day here in the states so I just preordered it anyway I have a feeling I'm going to like it I just hope it isn't to easy



WaveGhoul said:

The stereoscopic 3D is absolutely incredible in this, especially during the cut scenes(which are awesome in their own right!) and boss battles. The graphics look fantastic and are pouring with tons of detail, but because of this it's limmited to 30fps. My only real problem are the controls which feel a bit delayed, clunky & heavy, not to mention the jumping is a tiny bit ont he floaty side. It's still fun, but it just doesn't feel or play like a Castlevania game.

It feels like 2D God of War + Elements thrown in from MetroidVania.



DreamOn said:

Based off the demo I think they did a good job here. At first the game felt clunky but after a few play throughs I found the pace and rhythm the dev's want you to use and it all works very well and I no longer feel that way. I feel like the pace of play and the visual presentation were designed to leave room to get your imagination involved. We'll see how the rest of the game goes.



jon_simmons said:

Just played the demo again and I enjoyed it much more the second time. I might think about getting it after all. This game definitely makes me want to upgrade to a 3ds XL



XCWarrior said:

I'm going to keep saying this because it needs to be said. These are my favorite articles Nintendo Life. Because they are original content for your sight, and they have lots of quotes from the developers rather than rumors and hearsay. I hope you guys keep trying to get these interviews, especially with Indy devs to bring more awareness to their games.

I need to try the demo out for this game still, been lazy and just haven't downloaded it yet. My first notion is I'll like it, I really enjoyed the DS games. Hope this is as enjoyable.



pikku said:

The demo was just okay imo. Not great but hardly crap. Needs more bloodvthough. Seriously, all the T rated ones had more blood than this



Tantan said:

The demo was just amazing. I loved every second. I wonder if it stays exclusivve. Would not work without buttons that's for sure. And Vita is possible but so unpopular Also it will suffer graphically. The 3D is so amazing it's exciting to see what more can developers do with the 3d. It's sublime graphics.



k8sMum said:

@waveboy: yeah, i got that God of War vibe also.

i liked the demo, i liked the graphics. unfortunately, i demolished the joint where my thumb/wrist meet on my right hand over the years i've played games and i cannot do button mashers any longer. the pain and swelling become unbearable after a short time.



belmont said:

I want a classic 2d Castlevania or an IGA Metroidvania game not some God of War clone with a suggestive plot. The LoS may be fan games but there are no Castlevania games.
A new Aria of Sorrow or Bloodlines would be great.



JAPBOO said:


Agree, music at least on the demo, does not feel like castlevania at all...actually what music? The gameplay feels slow; don't like it that much... I will get it, but only because it is my favority series and i own all games...maybe, I will get a surprise as for now, it is a big question mark



Dpullam said:

I was honestly pretty impressed with the demo. Although it did take a bit to get used to the slightly lower than I'm used to frames per second, after that I enjoyed battling the undead horrors of that spooky castle.



JAPBOO said:

actually I think it is not about the demo, it is about castlevania. the demo looks good, did make me want to go further... problem is music is not like castlevania at all, maybe the game will have great old and new tunes, but if you ask me, I will do a demo that shows that it is a mix of old and new things, like music, power ups, gameplay, and so on. So far, only the map seems like the old portable versions



RR529 said:

I thought the demo was pretty good. Sure, your character moves a tad slow, and the enemies are tough, but I think it's that way on purpose. It's more about mastering the complex combo system & confronting your opponents intellectually, instead of hack & slashing your way through them. I really enjoyed the special finishing moves you can pull off when an enemy is stunned (such as picking up a skeleton & punching through it, or ripping the shield away from the big skeletons & hacking them in half with it).

I don't have the money to invest in retail games at the moment, but I may download the Castlevania Adventure from the eShop, & properly introduce myself to the series.



Gorlokk said:

That demo was god-awful. I seriously couldn't stand it. Beautiful graphics, though.



Dpishere said:

I came away quite impressed with the demo myself and if it really is 20 hours for the game like the videos have stated then you are most certainly getting plenty of bang for your buck.



jkvasn said:

this game needs a higher frame rate and the devs could learn a thing or two about controls from like every 1st party nintendo title known to man.



WaveGhoul said:


Ok, woa woa..Stop right there. Castlevania: The Adventure is easily thee' worst choice as far as jumping into the traditional castlevania series goes. Don't even bother....Start out with Castlevania(NES) on the Wii's VC, or if you must skip it and go for SCIV. The Adventure is considered the worst ClassicVania game for a reason...Wouldn't want your first impressions of the traditional series to be a big Uuber Let down!

Ya, the frame rate seems to be locked at 30fps(And even dips below that). In order to do 60fps they would have probably had to sacrifice a ton of detail and the like.
And if only the controls were more kinetic, on the 'dime' responsive and lighter feeling. Hell, If it didn't support 3D, i honestly wouldn't even bother. It's amazing how Stereoscopic 3D can breath new life into a game and make it appear far more amazing and enjoyable than in 2D. In this case, it needs it....Otherwise the visual 'magic' is gone. If this controlled or played like a traditional or metroid styled Vania than i'd be absolutely cool without 3D, but as is....It seems like the only REAL exciting thing that has me...ahem, whipped.



DreamOn said:

I like playing C: the adventure but pure nostalgia. I also like the rebirth version.



TromboneGamer said:

Only complaint I had with the demo was the tolerable, but noticeably "low" framerate. Great game design and feel- my impressions as a newcomer to the series. I feel like I should play from the beginning as they may be old the first game at least looks appealing enough to play through and get a feel for the origins of the series.



DaveC said:

I liked the demo. The graphics and art style were great. The attention to detail and lighting was pretty amazing to me. This is how 3D should be done, not a tacked on gimmick just to do it, but something like this that really adds to the art. You can tell it was made with 3D in mind. The atmospheric music/audio was great for what it was. Standing in front of the castle with winds rustling and howling just gave it allot of mood. This game has allot of mood which is rare for handhelds. I do think that there should have been breaks in the moody music for some classic tunes like remixes from CV 4, maybe like during boss fights. The classic tunes could have played through once when you are in a certain area then blend to the atmospheric sound rather than looping or something like that too.

I liked the combat, you had to play smart rather than just button mash and hope for the best. Gives it depth. It did get a little framey once in awhile but I would rather have that and the better graphics than cut down detail and always smooth.

I guess it comes down to what you are expecting. The only thing I DIDN'T like was the QTEs. QTEs must die in my opinion and are a blight on gaming. I hate them in every game that uses them. In the demo though they don't seem too overused (just to finish off a boss mostly) but to me zero QTE would be best. This just isn't the style of game for QTEs even if you like them. Over all I think it is great do far, will be getting the physical copy when released.



jkvasn said:

@WaveBoy agreed. the 3d really brings a whole new level of immersion. on top of that, it ups the presentation wildly by separating - for instance - the action from the background. not that non-stereoscopic 3d games are imposible to play, it's just a huge visual plus when you are allowed to use the two eyes we were born with on games.



ecco6t9 said:

I'm just not feeling it, on the plus side for me it's one less game to buy and frees up funds/time for Soul Hackers.



BakaKnight said:

Very glad to hear they worked on the game without rushing and with the involved people having fun in the work!
That's how developpers should always work and it's the perfect premise for get a well made and cared game as result

After this interview I can't wait even more for next Friday!!!




@jon_simmons I thought the same, that it was because of that, but nope, this is one of those special games, where you must be in total control of what you do in order to survive. The rare zombie thing, the final boss of the demo, made me his bitch like 7 seven times in a row, but after learning patterns and the moves the demo teaches you to use, like rolling, I totally destroyed him and he was my bitch in that matter. I really had my doubts with this game, but somehow I have faith in it, it plays A LOT like circle of the moon, and in my book, that is just marvelous.




@DaveC I totally agree with you, this isn't hack and slash here and there, just hoping everything dies when you do reckless attacks, this game involves strategy, if you up two or three times in areas where you are in a THE WALKING DEAD situation (completely surrounded), you die, as simple as that; and that is excellent, because that's how retro games worked, you get hit too much before thinking of a way to progress, well, back to square 1 sucker. Castlevania the adventure rebirth had that and I just loved it.



WaveGhoul said:

I really love how there's also a lot of 3D pop instead of the main focus
always tending to be as if you're looking through a window into a tiny virtual world, which is amazing of course, but the 'pop' effect seems to typically take on less of a role for the majority of 3DS games. But here however, it's
extremely impressive! More so with the cutscenes..

Anyways, i went through the demo again....And i was a bit bored to be honest. I just don't care for the whole experience point aspect and the zillions of moves your character gradually earns. I'm fine with it going 'Western' with the visuals, sound and what have you. But I'm not jumping over my seat based on how it plays or how many hits it takes to kill a skeleton for ex. Again, i feel like I'm playing it for the 3D effect which just tripples the immersion factor and makes the experience feel all the more striking, realistic and unique as IF you're looking through
a tiny little window into another world. I just wish this could of been a proper follow up to something like SCIV. Dangly whip anyone?

I'm expecting a 7-8 from NL. Gaurantee this will divide Castlevania fans.




@WaveBoy Glad to see you finally changed your image waveboy, anyways, I'm a huge castlevania fan like you, and SCIV is my favorite in the series, it will always be; but on the other hand, I feel this game like circle of the moon, one of my favorites in the series, and I totally love that game for the gba. I feel that instead of revamping the series into a mash-up of other games that have nothing to do with castlevania (which was my fear for this game), they took the best elements of past entries and created this great title. I'm really looking forward to play the entire game in 3 days.



Darth_Pascal said:

Sorry to say it but the character handles like a truck. Combos take forever. And jumping is so sluggish. Castlevania was more responsive than that... Battling a boss feels like I'm two seconds late. There's a definite disconnect between pressing a button and the action on screen. No buy for me.



Nintendawg said:

I love this game. I love the combat system. I love everything about it, in fact.
The combat system reminds me of the one that Activision uses in several DSi titles (Spiderman Web of Shadows to name one) and that is GOOD!
Moreover, I can see what Dave Cox meant when he said they've looked into 2D beat 'em up games like Street Fighter when they were developing the combat system. Synch-block, for instance is similar to the parrying system from Street Fighter 3.
This is evolution and I welcome it.



Marioman64 said:

my roomate absolutely hated the demo, which is funny because he was planning on buying this day one before hand because "it's a castlevania game" he said. he says they overhauled what makes the game a castlevania game (that, and he said enemies shouldn't attack you while you're attacking them, and he almost died to the first enemies that spawn which shouldn't happen)
as for myself, I love it because they made it easier, more showy, and more beat-em-up, which I like. I don't want them to ruin the series for others, but it's nice to have a version I could possibly be good at



satya said:

i played the demo till the end but gotta say for me being a die hard castlevania fan since day one this game is absolute crap. Its moved into the trendy game bracket because of the way the game plays and i believe they have absolutely killed the franchise with this horror title.

Castlevania always had its own feel but now its so guilty of jumping on the bandwagon and trying to make more appeal to the trendy gamers. Love that i would never sell out an idea that worked. *Goes back and plays the ds and gba castlevania games that ARE way better than this
Watch the profanity — TBD



Marioman64 said:

also just want to point out that just because a game is different than others in its series DOES NOT mean it is a bad game on its own, ever

...even Mario Party 9 is okay, ya know, as a numbered spin-off of the Mario Party series that accidentally got a number

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