Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Castlevania

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That first corridor is always the same. It snakes out in front of you, occasionally illuminated by the dim flames of wall-mounted torches and stabs of lightning, intruding from the gigantic windows that line the hallway. Huge curtains sway violently from the sudden gusts of wind as you peer down the path, knowing you’re being watched. It’s not from the archaic paintings that depict grim figures, but from the foul, crumbling ghouls that are waiting to ambush you. You grasp the Vampire Killer tightly in your hand, knowing that this is just the first room of many, the first trial in an endless sea of monsters and demons, drawn out by Dracula’s labyrinthine castle. Before the end you will have navigated deadly traps, climbed impossible heights, come face-to-face Death itself.

Castlevania_1The Castlevania series has seen many iterations in its 28 years of existence. From the challenging trials of the side-scrolling NES and SNES titles, to the revolutionary reinvention of the Metroidvania titles, leading all the way up to the recent, action-orientated Casltevania: Lords of Shadow line, each has elements that could provide a unique spin on virtual reality (VR). Take notes Konami; we want the Belmont’s next adventure to be playable with Oculus Rift VR headset.

Pre-Symphony of the Night, Castlevania was very much about perfectly-timed jumps and well-placed attacks. It’s not hard to image how this classic style of play could translate to VR. The new sense of depth-perception that the technology provides gives a whole new perspective to every leap of faith you take. Executing the perfect bound from one moving platform to another would no longer be about simply waiting for the next location to show up on-screen but using your natural senses to judge timing and distance for every leap. Mess up, and it’s a painful trip to the spike pit. Maybe don’t make that part quite so realistic. The combat’s test of sharp reflexes would also be enhanced by the ability to control the Belmont’s legendary Vampire Killer yourself. No longer confined to a single animation that pre-determined power and reach, you could combine VR with motion controllers to have a life-like experience that brings out your inner Indiana Jones.

But it’s the Metroidvania-era that could truly make a distinction in VR. Symphony of the Night really changed everything for the franchise, spawning a number of sequels that followed the same twisted template of immersing you in Dracula’s castle and drip-feeding items and power-ups that you need to progress. Each title is able to relay an incredible sense of discovery and isolation that would go hand-in-hand with VR. Putting yourself inside the castle and scanning every nook and cranny in each room for hidden pathways and items would be all the more rewarding as you find these secrets yourself. To study a castle’s layout ourselves and explore the catacombs and towers as if we were actually there could bring about a whole new era for the entire genre.

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A hurdle would be reassessing the power-ups. The knee-slide, for example, is a staple of the early game power-up. But in first-person and with control of your own body, could we really buy that we’d need a new item to get through a gap we could crawl through? That in-turn paves the way for potential new items and mechanics. The Vampire Killer could be used with pin-point accuracy to tear down walls and grapple onto objects, for instance.

There’s also something to be said for the recent Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games, and Konami itself clearly knows this. During Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2’s development cycle, image of the title being played in Oculus Rift were put online. While we’re yet to journey through the series’ latest, there are certain moments in the 2010 original that we’d love to see realised in VR. From the scale of the Shadow of the Colossus-inspired bosses to the arresting vista that provides the first look at castle, this powerhouse of visual flair would be a sight to behold with a headset. Being able to come face-to-face with the crumbling ruins and rain-drenched villages would make it worth undergoing the lengthy quest once again, especially when paired with the potential advances to the combat system.

Different as they may be, each Castlevania shares one thing in common, a journey. Be it the tireless work put into learning the intricacies of Dracula’s castle or simply travelling the great distance to slay him, each adventure takes you on a memorable trip. We’d love the chance to experience the intense action and the engulfing exploration that this classic series provides in spades in VR.

Make it a (Virtual) Reality’ is VRFocus’ weekly feature that takes the videogames we already know and love and looks at how virtual reality (VR) could enhance them. From retro classics to modern blockbusters, we examine the pros and cons of bringing a franchise to VR headsets. 

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