Sunday, August 20, 2017

Castlevania – season 1

Directed by: Sam Deats

Release Date: 2017

Contains spoilers

The Castlevania series is a computer game series by Konami. I have played a little of it (mostly Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which I abandoned eventually as the ported keyboard controls for PC were, quite simply, horrendous) and have also given an Honourable Mention to the live action fan film, Hymn of Blood.

This anime production of the story was a short, four-part series based on the 2008 game Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. I’ll say at the outset that the short length of the series did it no favour in developing the characters as it whistlestopped – though there was good characterisation through voice acting.

Vlad and Lisa
The first episode starts in 1455 (which, historically was the year before Vlad Ţepeş' second, and longest, reign and therefore ignores entirely any attempt at historical veraciousness) and sees Lisa (Emily Swallow) approach Dracula’s Castle. She walks through fields of the impaled, now skeletal, and rendered in cgi on which the 2D animation is imposed against. She gains entry to the castle and suggests that she has come to learn. Dracula (Graham McTavish, Preacher) is impressed by her and allows her to study. We should note that the castle is a home of advance technology (including electric lighting and a mechanism that allows Dracula to transport the giant edifice). Later talk about lore/prophecy coming from the future might suggest an element of time travel (and the games did have time controlling characters).

wrath of Dracula
20 years on, in the town of Târgoviște, Lisa has been taken from her home by the church and sentenced to be burnt alive as a witch. She implores Dracula not to take revenge (they assume she is imploring Satan). Dracula, meanwhile, is walking (at her behest) to her home and hears of the execution – arriving too late. Lisa and he had married and in his wrath he tells the town they have one year before he razes the town and then wipes humanity from the face of Wallachia. He needs a year to summon a demon army. At the end of the episode, with the demon army spreading, we briefly meet Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage).

The next episode concentrates on Belmont, a drunkard and excommunicant as all the Belmonts were excommunicated despite the fact that they fought monsters. The peasants are blaming the noble families for the attacks and he gets into a bar brawl. He sneaks into the town of Gresit, which is under siege by Dracula’s night army. In there he saves a Speaker, a group of nomad scholars, and discovers that one of them is missing, assumed dead, in the catacombs under the town as she searches out the sleeping soldier. This is a legendary warrior said to be beneath the city who will awaken and defeat Dracula – or so the story (claimed to be) from the future says. He agrees to find the scholar in return for a promise that they will then flee the city.

field of the impaled
Each episode is in the (roughly) 22 minute range and as such don’t build too much story (being that there are only four of them). However the action is fun, the story is kept simple but mention must go to Richard Armitage whose voice acting is superb and who makes the character of Belmont wonderfully dour and jaded, with just a glimmer of the hero he is underneath. The dialogue, and the gore in the animation, sets the series directly towards a more mature audience. All in all, it’s not bad but could stand a lot more depth. However at 4 episodes it won’t outstay its welcome and perhaps should have stayed longer. 6 out of 10

The imdb page is here.


nfilak10 said...

I think you'd actually get a kick out of the Castlevania games. Lords of Shadow I never played on PC but it was adequate on PS3. However that is a stand alone series of three games that do not represent the series as a whole and left mixed impressions for me ending on a bad note (Circle of the Moon for the GBA, Castlevania Legends for GB, and the N64 games are also not canon in the old series). The old games are HARD particularly CV3 but the old horror movie references feel strongest there from CV1-Rondo of Blood as far as I've played and there's a real sense of reward when you win. The game-play is stiffer but it's easy to pick up and starts to become pretty addicting. Symphony of the Night and it's clones expanded the game-play considerably and in many ways for the better, but there's a sort of generic anime vibe you get from that point and the backtracking and sense of repetition of Dracula's revival starts to seem like a standard chore as opposed to an epic quest to defeat the lord of darkness (mostly cause he's always the final twist boss in those games as he's revived only in the end in almost all the Metroidvanias). They are worth it though, and the series as a whole boasts excellent atmosphere and music that make up for the fact it's practically the same game every time. I recommend CV1, 3, 4 (personal favorite for darker atmosphere and 8 whip game-play even if it's one of the easier ones) Bloodlines for the incredibly loose at best connections to the book, and Symphony of the Night for the fun of playing a half vampire character. Just don't play it for the story. For that look to Legacy of Kain.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers for that. I actually have played some of the Kain material and enjoyed what I played. I have got the new Vampyre game, played it a little on release but have been travelling a lot and need to sit and concentrate on it.