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Castlevania impressions

castlevania

So this happened. This was a surprise when it was announced. A TV show based on Castlevania (which was rumored for a good while). I really didn’t inform myself about it beyond “hey it’s coming out”, so I was pretty surprised when the trailer came out and showed that it was animated.

Castlevania itself needs no introduction, it’s an absolute classic game series, that Konami sucks at supporting recently. There’s even a style of game that is colloquially known as “Metroidvania”. It has a big amount of amazing games spanning a few , and a few bad ones, and Lords of Shadow which is its own level of bad. Going from “game-that-has-almost-no-story” to “animated TV show” is a pretty big challenge though, especially since the show was said to be based on Castlevania 3.

So I was approaching this with caution. Video game adaptations are well known for not really working out well, with a few exceptions (the live-action Phoenix Wright was pretty nice, for example), so I had no trouble containing the hype. You know, just in case.

My plan here is not to spoil the story note-for-note, or do a complete analysis or anything. I just want to give quick impressions about it. Spoilers may come up nonetheless so…

SPOILERS POSSIBLY INCOMING (but I’ll try to be very top-level about it)

 

Thoughts

So this actually serves as a prequel to Castlevania 3 on the NES. It’s more as an introduction to the series, the style they wanted to portray and the characters, rather than a full-on story. It starts with Dracula being… given motivation to want to kill everyone. Specifically in the form of his wife Lisa being burned at the stake for being a witch (though she was just doing science-y stuff)… which should surprise no one who is familiar with the series’ story. And suddenly a year later hell is unleashed on whatever city this was and Dracula’s castle moves there (because it can do that).

The demons from Dracula’s castle start spreading around, which leads to Trevor Belmont (after getting beat up in a bar brawl) running into a town under siege by demons every night, and teaming up with the Speakers, a group being blamed for the demons attacking to find a missing member (and hopefully prevent them from getting killed by the townspeople being lead by the church).

So without going too crazy in spoiler territory… Basically this is the team forming to storm Dracula’s castle, before any of Castlevania 3 happens. Characters and their abilities are introduced, monsters are shown off, and there’s a few cool action scenes. The series is, surprisingly, not that interested at just throwing references to the original series at the viewers. There’s familiar characters and elements, but it’s not just “hey remember this thing from the game?”, there’s actual content to it. Sure, there’s a few references (like the one axe that is used in an action scene is thrown upwards… I didn’t miss that), but it’s not really the focus.

One thing I’m not disappointed by is the violence. They don’t hold back at all. If someone is shown being teared apart by a demon, you see everything in detail. All the guts and gore you might want to see are there. Especially in the first episode. Love a bit of gratuitous violence.

It has a handful of really cool action scenes. The highlight is obviously the final one, which made me happy for many reasons. No spoilers though 😛 It’s smooth and feels pretty natural. The use of the whip is really nice, and Trevor is shown able to use all sorts of weapons. Plus Sypha is there and she’s shown to be a really awesome mage, she’s really cool. Let’s just say her magic is a bit more effective than in the game.

One part I had some issues with was the voice acting. It wasn’t bad, but it felt kinda… rough to me. There’s an important character, a bishop whose name I forgot, that talks very quietly. Even with maxed out volume I could barely hear him. I feel he wasn’t really emoting all that much. He kinda annoyed me. Trevor is another one that felt weird to me. He did the drunk part nicely, but he kinda still sounded drunk for a while in the rest of the season. By the end he got really good though, so I don’t know, maybe I’m just being weird. Some of the side/background characters had kinda choppy performances (like the drunk complaining about the Belmonts), but it did fit.

The music, while definitely really solid (and it was made by a guy called Trevor Morris… that’s an amazing coincidence), wasn’t really super memorable to me. Castlevania is a series known for its music, and, unless I missed something, none of the music in the show used familiar themes, even a little bit. Maybe I’m wrong and I didn’t notice. Would’ve been nice to see some classic music here, even if it was orchestral versions. There is at least one visual reference to classic Castlevania music though.

Overall

It’s short and not much happens in it. But, with a season 2 being announced, it’s a clear statement of intent to make something really cool. It looks good, the violence is there, the characters are cool, the few actions scenes are great… I really liked it. It establishes Dracula as an absolutely overwhelming threat, but it doesn’t reveal too much about his army (“Bosses” weren’t shown at all), leaving most of that for the second season.

I did find it pretty thin on the story part, but the fact that a season 2 is coming (with 8 episodes instead of 4) makes me be pretty okay with the first season being so short. It’s a good intro that was very entertaining to watch. Season 2 should be even better.

Also Grant isn’t in this season at all so the Castlevania 3 cast isn’t complete yet, though that does make sense.

Get on your Netflix and watch this.

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