10,000 years of Castlevania

Lords of Shadow is the latest Castlevania in over two decades of games which encompass ten centuries of the past and eight thousand years of the future. Since the eleventh century Count Dracula has walked the Earth, rising every hundred years to spread his evil influence across the world, and at every resurrection he has been foiled by a descendant of the Belmont bloodline. It’s a vendetta which Konami claim they will put aside in favor of a brand new timeline beginning with Lords of Shadow, but a close look at the history reveals a startling secret and poses a terrifying question… if even Castlevania’s most distant side-stories fit within a thousand year timeline, how then did Dracula rise so early, and how does he know the Belmonts so very, very well?

Above: Lord of Shadows in action

Leon Belmont’s company of knights was made invincible by the bravery of its leader and the genius of tactician Mathias Cronqvist, but the death of Mathias’ wife Elisabetha left Mathias despondent and bed-ridden. Cursing God, Mathias plotted to defy his will by living forever as a vampire, setting into motion events which would manipulate Leon Belmont into killing the vampire Walter Bernhard so that Mathias might claim his soul. Mathias is reborn at the expense of Belmont’s fiance’s life. He offers Leon the chance to join him, but Leon refuses, instead fighting Mathias with his whip, now infused with the power of his fiance’s soul. Mathias flees but the Belmont bloodline continues, forever swearing to hunt Mathias – known to the world as Dracula.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2, 2008)

One of the more recent titles, Lament of Innocence is actually the first game on the Castlevania timeline. The world of Castlevania didn’t sit well in three dimensions in the earlier N64 titles, but Koji Igarashi’s first Devil May Cry-inspired crack at the 3D space was well received. Since Symphony of the Night Igarashi has been the series’ steward, directing the games’ chequered continuity and even excising entire chapters from the Castlevania mythos.

Early-mid 1400s
Dracula’s second wife, Lisa, is executed by the Inquisition as a witch for preparing medicines to aid the sick. Dracula declares war on humanity.

The Belmont family is exiled from Transylvania for fear of their supernatural powers. Some remain behind in secret to watch for Dracula’s return.

Enraged, Dracula sends legions of undead across the land to begin his conquest of the world. Standing against him is the seventeen year-old Sonia Belmont and Dracula’s half-mortal son Alucard. In a story now excised from Castlevania history by Koji Igarashi, Sonia Belmont became the first of the Belmont bloodline to face and defeat Dracula with the Vampire Killer whip.

Castlevania Legends (Gameboy, 1998)

The last of the three Gameboy Castlevania games, Legends was one of several titles which had been edited out of official Castlevania continuity by Koji Igarashi, but a timeline which shipped with 2006’s Portrait of Ruin reinstated the others while keeping Legends out. However, it still exists as a side story. Though Legends was released one year after Symphony of the Night, it’s a straight point-to-point adventure with six levels and none of Symphony’s Metroid-style wandering, making it the last of the ‘classic’ Castlevania adventures.

1476 begins much as the excised 1450 side-story began; Dracula has risen not to conquer the world, but to exterminate humanity as revenge for the murder of his beloved wife. Brilliantly-named Trevor Belmont becomes the first Belmont to officially face Dracula and defeat him, travelling across the Transylvanian countryside towards the vampire’s castle. Along the way he meets three companions – the even-more-brilliantly-named pirate Grant DaNasty, priestess Sylpha Belnades, and son of Dracula, Alucard. After Dracula dies for – in the real continuity – the first time, Alucard enters a long period of slumber, fearing his own powers and the danger he might present to the world. DaNasty sets to work rebuilding the lands ravaged by Dracula’s hordes, and Sylpha marries Trevor and becomes mother to future Belmonts as the family returns to their homeland of Transylvania.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES, 1990)

Dracula’s Curse was the last of the NES games and abandons the adventure elements of Castlevania II in favor of classic platforming and baddy-whippage over fifteen levels. In a strange twist the Japanese version of Dracula’s Curse had a dedicated sound chip, removed in the European and American releases. The Japanese Castlevania III set the standard for a long-running tradition of magnificent music in the Castlevania games. And of course, in typical NES fashion it’s as hard as a coffin nail.