Castlevania is one of those franchises which will always be inexorably linked with Nintendo. The series became a household name thanks to its well-received NES outings, and in the days of the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS it strengthened this connection with six excellent "Metroidvania" releases. Although its future may well lie on other formats — Lords of Shadow and Lords of Shadow 2 both bypassed Nintendo hardware, although we did get the underrated Mirror of Fate for our troubles — Konami's gothic epic will always owe a debt to the Kyoto firm.
This perspective becomes even more obvious as you flick through the 158 pages of Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: Castlevania, an exhaustive guide to the entire lineage that is packed with information, trivia, screenshots and much more besides. Penned by esteemed journalist and series fanatic Kurt Kalata — who founded The Castlevania Dungeon website almost 20 years ago during his school years — this book follows on the heels of the similarly essential Sega Arcade Classics: Volume 1 and takes the content published on the aforementioned site and extensively re-tools it for the printed page.
Starting in 1986 and taking us all the way up to Lords of Shadow 2, Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: Castlevania looks at each blood-curdling entry in detail, offering a knowledgeable critique as well as outlining interesting bits of information that even some dedicated fans may be unaware of. Kalata also takes the time to explain some of the intriguing regional differences which have plagued the franchise since the days of the NES.
Kalata doesn't stop there, however — he also looks at some of the more notable clones which have sprung up over the decades, such as Matou no Hokai, Komajou Densetsu and the surprisingly good Soul of Darkness, which hit DSiWare in 2010. Recurring themes in the games are also covered, and there's a detailed list of all of the soundtrack albums which have been published over the years — an essential companion to any serious Castlevania aficionado.
No stone has been left unturned in this lovingly constructed tribute to one of gaming's most enduring franchises, and it's clear that Kalata himself is a massive, massive follower of the games. It's incredibly difficult to translate the appeal of a website into a printed book, but this venture is a wonderful success, striking the perfect the balance between text and imagery to create a tome which is easy to pick up for a quick read, but hard to put back down again afterwards.
If you're interested in some fittingly spooky reading this Halloween then Hardcore Gaming 101 Presents: Castlevania is available in both physical and digital forms. The book can be ordered for $25 / £17, or you can grab the Kindle edition for $6.99 / £5.15. If you order a copy — or you already have the book — be sure to let us know what you think by posting a comment below.