stepping through the creaking old gates transports you to an unreal realm... an antique garden floating high off the ground, filled with decrepit statues half-consumed by moss, ivy-coated stone walls, and rose bushes blooming petals of deep blood red. from here, you can see clouds moving swiftly just above, softly illuminated by the moonlight. there's a melancholy aura seeping through this area... what dormant souls rest within?
ah... Castlevania. i hold a lot of love for these games, and it feels appropriate to pay them tribute with my own little fanshrine. i'm particularly fond of the more exploration-focused ones, especially Symphony of the Night. few things please me more than collecting neat objects in an ornately decorated pixel castle.
you know, i suppose it's fitting that Castlevania somewhat indirectly led to a dormant part of myself being awakened. i started accepting a lot of my gender feelings around the same time i played SotN for the first time. to be honest, i was already questioning a lot of things at the time, but i think playing as a beautiful long-haired dhampir prince did something to my brain.
anyway. it is probably well-established by now that i love Alucard. he's probably my #1 comfort character... seeing him gives me so much joy...!!! something about seeing this sad dhampir bishounen makes me want to pick him up and give him a cup of tea. he's very important to me and i love him very much. i have a small collection of various prints, stickers, and charms that i've bought from fanartists... i just think he's neat
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Symphony of the Night is a game that instantly charmed me. the art style, the attention to detail, the gameplay, the music - i fell in love immediately.
here's a fact that's important to know about me: i love silly, unnecessary details in video games. this game is absolutely full of them. there's the bird in Outer Wall, where depending on how many times you leave and re-enter the room, you can watch it build a nest, lay eggs, and watch the chicks grow up. you can sit in chairs, and if your fairy familiar has been summoned, she'll rest on your shoulder after idling for a moment. you can sit in a haunted confessional booth, and hang out with ghost priests. there's a bountiful amount of food items that exist in the game, with unique pixel art. you can eat peanuts, but only by tossing them into your mouth.
the game feels great to play, at least for my personal preferences. truthfully, i've never been a 2D platformer kind of person, and don't have a ton of experience with non-Castlevania exploration action games. but i find Alucard really satisfying to play as. i like the amount of options you have, while being forgiving enough that you don't have to memorize a bunch of buttons and inputs to play through the game. even just walking around feels satisfying! i love Alucard's walk and jump animations! he looks so cool!!!
for what it's worth, i don't think it's a perfect game. i think some of the progression can be confusing, the map is pretty big and easy to get lost in, and the Reverse Castle is a lot of padding. but... i found myself not really minding. it's fun to walk around, taking your time as you explore the sights of Dracula's Castle. and for all these reasons, that's why Symphony of the Night is one of my favorite games of all time.
also because Alucard is hot and i'd like to both be him and kiss him.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
alright, honestly? i think Portrait of Ruin is my second favorite. it's a very close call - i love Aria as well - but i think Portrait's gameplay wins me over. i'm a fan of the split between smaller maps and having a larger "hub" that's still an explorable area in itself; not everyone will agree with me on that, but i find it more digestable to process and explore, especially given how generous the game is with warp points. the "dual character" gameplay took a while for me to adjust to, but once i started looking at it as a way switch between magic and physical builds on the fly, it became a lot more intuitive to me. Jonathan and Charlotte both get a lot of funny toys to play with, which is a huge plus in my book. (throwing a pie at your foes is VERY important.)
also, there's something that's really nostalgic to me about the early-to-mid 00s anime vibes, lmao. obviously i would love more of Ayami Kojima's art, but i'm weirdly charmed by the 2000s anime art. i'm also really fond of some of the locations in this game- Forest of Doom/Dark Academy is one of my top favorite Castlevania areas in general, between the music and the "creepy abandoned schoolhouse in the woods" vibes. the bakery in City of Haze is great, too.
the gate can take you back, if you so desire.