Castlevania is a storied franchise. As one of the most popular and iconic long-running series in the world, it has a great deal of history. One of the best parts of playing through new games in the series is seeing them delve into the rich lore of the franchise and all the call-backs, references, and general nods to the past works in the series. Being able to experience so many chapters of the story of protagonists from the Belmont family (and other friends, sometimes – we love you Alucard, Shanoa, and Soma) in their quest against Dracula really lends the Castlevania series a weight that many modern competing games in the Metroidvania genre can’t match, even if their gameplay might be similarly stellar.
It’s true that, like many other fans, I was somewhat dismayed about the announcement of Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls as a mobile game instead of a full-fledged new entry of the franchise. At the time of the game’s initial announcement in April 2018, it had been nearly a full 4 years without any word of a new mainline Castlevania entry after 2014’s Lords of Shadow 2. Despite knowing that longtime series veteran Koji ‘IGA’ Igarashi would no longer be producing any games, having left Konami to eventually cofound Artplay, Castlevania fans were practically salivating over every crumb of news, every speck of a rumor. Then we were told that the next installment in the series would be coming to Android and iOS. Predictably, people were less than pleased, to put it lightly.
Now, almost a year and a half later, a lot of that resentment has turned into resignation, especially with IGA’s work on Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night available to quench some of the thirst for more vampire-killing action. But honestly, Grimoire of Souls deserves better than that sheer resignation. Beneath the immediate repulsion of ‘oh no, another cash grab gacha game’ is a game with a lot of love for the series clearly baked into it. As a longtime Castlevania fan, I’ve found myself appreciating a great deal about Grimoire of Souls, and I want to break down some of the elements that make me feel that way.