Halloween RetroVision – Zeldavania?

Have we been looking at things all wrong when it comes to the creation of the sub-genre now commonly referred to as “Metroidvania”?  Well, legendary video game developer Koji Igarashi (commonly known as simply “Iga”), best known for his role in the development of the critically acclaimed PlayStation title Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, suggested that this could be true.  These comments came when speaking last year as part of a talk entitled “There and Back Again: Koji Igarashi’s Metroidvania Tale” at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, a talk in which he divulged some interesting facts about the game’s creation.

Koji Igarashi at GDC 2014
Koji Igarashi at GDC 2014

With Symphony of the Night being one half of the two games that defined the genre Metroidvania, alongside Super Metroid, many believed Metroid to be the inspiration for the iconic gameplay format seen in Alucard’s quest to defeat his farther’s castle, and the evil within.  Gameplay that fuses action-adventure, exploration and RPG elements.  However, former Castlevania lead-producer Igarashi revealed that, not only had he not heard of the term “Metroidvania” until a few years ago, but that it was one of Nintendo’s other iconic franchises that actually acted as the inspiration, namely The Legend of Zelda.  When Igarashi took control over the Castlevania series, he wanted to find a way to engage with the player more, and in turn increase the amount of time players would spend within the Castlevania series.  Many games of the time, especially in Japan, were stage driven action experiences that only lasted a couple of hours.  As such, Igarashi looked to games that had prolonged gameplay, with the primary example that jumped to mind, being Miyamoto’s Zelda, a game which held exploration at the forefront.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past

This exploration then became the basis for Symphony of the Night’s iconic gameplay mechanics, rather than the similar elements found within the Metroid series.  Nevertheless, Igarashi has continually stated that he is extremely proud of the fact that his Castlevania games have become so intertwined with the Metroid series, stating in reference to the term “Metroidvania” that:

I like the name and I respect it, … and I like the meaning behind it. It fits very well, so I’m actually kind of honoured that Metroid, the name, is attached to Castlevania, and that it morphed into this one word, so I like it very much.

Despite the evolution that the Metroidvania genre has seen since it’s inception through Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night, Igarashi also told the attendees of Symphony of the Night’s humble beginnings, and how the project was originally codenamed simply “2D exploration action game”.  

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Having now left Konami after 20 years with the company Igarashi has also said:

I’ve decided to break out on my own to have the freedom to make the kind of games I really want to make — the same kind I think fans of my past games want as well

Many at the time believed that this was Igarashi possibly hinting at his return to the Metroidvania genre that he was so influential in founding.  This is something that we have now seen come to fruition with his massively successful Kickstarter campaign for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.  A spiritual successor to the Castlevania series he was so influential in developing, and a game that will look to return this style of gaming to its retro Metroidvania roots.

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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