What is it about Castlevania that gamers have found so appealing for more than twenty years? Is it the story? The atmosphere? The visceral sense of fulfillment from whipping all manner of damned creatures back to the infernal depths? Is it the one-on-one arena battles in Boy George makeup, steam-punk corsets and leather-daddy fetishware? Yeah, it's probably not that last thing. We had in mind a traditional sidescroller for Castlevania on the Wii, with waggle-enhanced whip cracking, so that's why this week, I've set out to capture that fun that we've so desperately desired.
I still have in my possession my original Castlevania cartridge for the NES, but I didn't truly start appreciating the series until it made its debut on the SNES. Super Castlevania IV, like any other long-running series to successfully make the jump into the 16-bit generation, expanded upon what worked in the earlier games and was rightfully deserving of its "Super" prefix. It turned out that the keys to unlocking my inner Castlevaniac were a faster pace, more intricately-illustrated surroundings, haunting musical compositions, and most importantly, upgraded controls that allow you to crack your whip in any direction as well as dynamically swing it around you. It was the whip mechanics that I've really been looking forward to experiencing with a Wii treatment, and there's still some chance that Castlevania Judgment will deliver on that end. It's going to be a painfully long wait just to see if Mega Man 9's sales will convince Konami to invest in our nostalgia.
What I've done is run Super Castlevania IV in a Super Nintendo emulator, so that I could write a GlovePIE script for it. I won't get into the legality of emulation again, and as with any emulated game I script for, I won't be answering questions on how to run the emulator, where to get the ROMs, or sharing the script. This is not meant to be a promotion of emulation or warezing, but like most of my scripting efforts, a demonstration of what could be if a certain type of game found its way onto the Wii.
Basically, I wanted to be able to jerk the Wiimote as if cracking a whip and elicit the same response from the game. But I also wanted to be able to freestyle control Simon's whip with flicks of my hand. Because I was building a script on top of a game instead of creating controls inside a game, there was no way I could just have motion controls for all the whip action. I do have straight whipping working with just a flick of the wrist, but the way the free whipping works in the game is by pushing the d-pad while holding a button, and it responds differently depending on the direction Simon is facing onscreen. The trouble is that my script has no way of knowing which way Simon is facing. I had to make it so that you control Simon's movement (and the direction he's facing) with the Nunchuk joystick, and you can whip with the B trigger on the Wiimote. Holding the B trigger and either left or right on the Nunchuk joystick allows freestyle whip movement to be controlled by pitching or flicking the Wiimote in front of you in any direction. Iga's team could surely find a more elegant way of handling the controls, but this scheme turned out to be quite easy to get accustomed to.
Oops, how'd that Symphony get in there? I must confess, I've never been big on the Metroidvanias, but adding Wiimote controls helped with the immersion factor and boosted my interest at least +10HP. Slashing with the Wiimote works to control Alucard's sword, and lovers of Twilight Princess shouldn't have any problems with that. Nintendo didn't exactly put all their eggs in the waggle basket with that game, because anyone that didn't want to use motion controls exclusively in such an action-packed game were at least given the option to purchase the Gamecube version. And Konami can learn a lesson from that. Optionsare a good thing. If Wagglevania doesn't seem like the kind of game that would attract a new generation of armchair vampire slayers, the B button works just as well as an alternative. Just please, give the rest of us the Castlevania we want.
Mike Sylvester writes REVOLUTIONARY, a look at the wide world of Wii possibilities. Perhaps it seems like he has been a little hard on the upcoming Castlevania fighter, but there's plentyofevidence that it's shaping up to be a game we do not want. Take a look at our E3 coverage of it, and you'll see why he's not rushing to Judgment.