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Castlevania! A Halloween Tra(con)dition

Once upon a cold autumn season a game was released that allowed horror fans to travel back into a time of macabre legends, of monsters and madmen. Ingrained in our minds were images of Dracula’s dark castle where the Lord of the Night and his beastly servants dwelt.

Hammer Horror gave us insight into the wonderful abyss of dark intentions, of gothic landscapes, broken vestiges of a land long-held in the iron grip of incarnate Evil, but, most of all, of unlikely heroes armed with stakes and a crucifix and dedicated to hunting the horrors of the Night.

gif via halloweenshindig

Vividly can we recall watching the brave Van Helsing (played by the one and only Peter Cushing) cornered by Count Dracula (brought to life by the extraordinary Christopher Lee) in a legendary fight to the death.

This was epic. It took the Universal era of horrors and increased the intensity and left us spell-bound. In the final battle, and trust me it was a battle, Van Helsing knows he can’t meet the Vampire Lord by strength alone.

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, ‘The Horror of Dracula’

So the man rushes down a long table and throws himself at some closed curtains, opening them, and allowing the day’s light to blast itself against Dracula, burning him, leaving ash wherever it touches his body.

I was probably a weird kid but fuck all if I didn’t want to fight Dracula too! I wanted to explore the Vampire’s evil castle and go back to times when monsters walked the land. Being part of such gothic adventures enthralled my juvenile imaginations.

Then late September back in 1986 a phenomena hit the land and monster-lovers from all over were given the chance to do just that.

Castlevania Hit The World

Armed with a whip graced with the power to slay Vampires you step into the role of Simon Belmont, the last Vampire Killer, and face the rusty gates of Castlevania

This lone barbarian warrior stands between the awakened horrors of the Night and the fate of humanity. Destiny is coiled within the whip and should you fail in your task of guiding Simon through Dracula’s haunted castle the human race is lost.  

This is Castlevania! A daring action-adventure game made as a tribute to horror films of the past that immediately upon release both enchanted and inspired a generation of blossoming monster fans.

Gamers, young and old, flocked to this nightmarish realm trapped in the shadow of Dracula’s demonic fortress to match whit and strength against the terrors the game had in store for us. 

Inspired by the exhaustive lore of both Universal Studios and Hammer Horror films, the game became the definitive monster game and immediately appealed to parents who grew up with those movies and found a new audience of kids who would grow up loving monsters from yesteryear. 

image via Hammer Horror, Christopher Lee ‘Dracula Has Risen From the Grave’

All the greatest names of gothic terror are included herein. The Mummy, Frankenstein’s tortured monster, the deep ones and gillmen of the watery murk, werewolves (in later titles), and the Lord of Death himself, Count Dracula!

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, art by Ayami Kojima, ‘Dracula’

Medusa is even included here and you will face off against the Queen of Serpents.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, art by Ayami Kojima, ‘Medusa’

Ghosts, vampire bats, haunted suits of armor, and skeleton soldiers! Of course, this game became an instant classic upon its release and the definitive Halloween game to play again, and again.

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

Upon playing the game countless times images of Frankenstein’s monster, Mummies, and Dracula could not be erased from my head. For the first time the extensive library of monsters given to me via Universal and Hammer came to life in a whole new way. I was now finally able to explore a world filled with them!

image via Universal Monsters

I remember getting in trouble in school for drawing a Castlevania pic with Dracula and the Grim Reaper floating over a bloody skeleton. 

The teacher had to call in my parents over a ridiculous concern that maybe I was under Satanic influence. Yup, it was mid-eighties and the stupid fucking Satanic Panic was in full swing which made it tough to be a horror fan in school. At least in Minford, Ohio.

Why couldn’t we draw graveyards and zombies under a gibbous moon frosted with Death’s shroud? 

Well, that shit was straight up frowned on, kiddies! 

Luckily, I had/have cool parents and my mamma raised Manic on classic horror movies and we made a big deal about Halloween. So we agreed the teacher was a dumbass then went home to play Simon’s Quest.

My Introduction to Castlevania

“Hey! Have you heard of Castlevania?” my best friend asked me over recess one day. The name alone captivated my attention. The title was alive with full-moon images of gothic horrors. I just knew it had to have something to do with Dracula. 

“It’s game about monsters and has Medusa in it,” he went on to tell me, barely able to contain his own excitement. “And the final boss is Dracula!” This was a big deal to old school gamers. I mean come on! King Koopa was the final boss in SMB which made him Mario’s arch-enemy. Same with Ganon and Link in Legend of Zelda. The final boss was Shredder in TMNT. So the role of Final Boss was designated to the biggest and baddest villain around, the arch-enemy! 

So Dracula meant business, and his business was death and terror. And business was good, which wasn’t good at all for humanity. 

“You even have to fight the Grim Reaper!” Honestly, I didn’t need to hear anymore because I was sold! I HAD to play Castlevania. It sounded like a horror freak’s dream come true. 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

The rest of that day draaaaggggggeed on and all I could focus on was getting home so I could tell mom about this amazing game we just had to play. 

When the time came I leaped out of the bus and ran my little butt up the hill as if the Devil himself was driving me. I had to get home and tell mom! I had hopes that maybe (just maybe) I could convince her to go out and rent it. 

I slammed through the door, yelled out for mom, rushed down the hall, and as I got closer to the back of the house I heard beautiful 8-bit music I didn’t recognize but instantly fell in love with. So I knew she was playing Nintendo. But oh my God what she was playing! She had already gone out and rented Castlevania and was playing it! Playing it and waiting for me to show me this fucking cool game! 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania’

Was I hooked? I don’t know. It was more like being drawn to it like a bee is drawn to pollen. Or an ant to a picnic. It was natural gravitation. It felt like a game tailor-made for people like me. For the first time gamers were permitted the opportunity to tread beyond the dilapidated threshold of Dracula’s castle and discover the many dark miracles hidden within. 

Castlevania was a game shared by me and mom and became our daily thing to do. It wasn’t until Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was released that mom and I really got into strategizing together. I’d come home from school and she’d pass the controller off to me to advance the progress. “I got us the chain whip,” I remember her saying one day, and that was huge news for us! 

Castlevania Cannot Die!

image via Netflix, ‘Castlevania’

Crossing generations and gaining new legions of fans the beloved franchise has enjoyed resurgences, and is a celebrated anime now on Netflix. Using the enriched-lore of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse as its source of inspiration (a stroke of genius!) the show takes place a generation before Simon and tells the story of his father, Trevor Belmont’s, war against the Undead.

Once again I was spellbound by Castlevania. The show may not be perfect but it is a beautiful new way to explore the haunted world I grew up playing in.  The show also has given people a desire to play the games once again and for that I applaud it.

Might as well throw this in here too. Just in case you can’t display your love for game franchise enough and need more to add to your life there are some beautiful Castlevania figures. A few years back Neca released their own line and their prices are quite hefty. But a new line of figures are being leased now by Diamond Select and are based off the anime.

Castlevania Anniversary Collection 

In case you never had the chance to play the original games or if you’re dying to jump back in but don’t have an NES lying around you’re still in luck. The Castlevania Anniversary Collection is available on PS4, Xbox One, Steam, and the Switch. 

image via Konami, ‘Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse’

Not only does the CAC come with the three original NES Castlevania trilogy, but it also includes the two Gameboy Castlevania games, Castlevania Adventure, Castlevania: Belmont’s Revenge.

You also get Super Castlevania IV, and the Sega Genesis Castlevania: Bloodlines. 

image via Konami, ‘Super Castlevania IV’

And just for the Hell of it they’ve thrown in Kid Dracula

This collection also includes the original Japanese versions for some of these titles giving Western players the chance to check out their favorite vampire-hunting games in their original format.

We are not sponsored by Konami at all so this is just Manic loving the hell out of a game series he grew up with. Every Halloween I return back to Castlevania to ring in the witching season. So grab your whips and crucifix and let’s celebrate the terrors of the Night.

I know you need some more Halloween fixes from us over here at Nightmare Nostalgia. So be sure not to miss why Michael Myers had blonde hair in Halloween 4 by clicking right here. Yeah, ain’t that the weirdest shit? Our beautiful mind behind our madness here at NN answers all the obvious questions of why, how, and huh so don’t miss it.

And we love all you guys and wouldn’t be what we are today without our faithful readers, our nasties, and our legions. We were honored to be part of Feedspot’s Top 100 Horror Blogs and Websites For Horror Fans ! That’s a huge deal to us. We promise to bring you only the absolute best in horror and retro fun.

So Happy Halloween season, my Nasties!