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Castlevania Collection

Predictions for Bloodstained 2 – Part 3: Setting and the Son

Part 1: The Belmonts & Zangetsu
Part 2: The Villians

Sometimes a rumour emerges of a revival of the dead Castlevania franchise. It reminds me of the Symphony of the Night Succubus taunting Alucard with the vision of his dead mother.

With a new series in production at Netflix and a crossover with Dead Cells nearing release, the Castlevania franchise is more active than it ever has been. Alas, where is our new game? This is an illusonary dance.

At least we know the Bloodstained sequel is in development. It’s not quite Castlevania, but is is very close… which means we can make some guesses about what Bloodstained 2 will be about.

The next question: without the Castlevania name, does Bloodstained even need a castle?

The recurring setting

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night castle

In Bloodstained, Dracula’s castle becomes Gebel’s castle. Or, that’s what we think at the start of the game. The true owner is probably Gremory. Gebel was the steward of the castle because he was possessed by Gremory. At the end of the game Johannes talks about returning the castle and demons to where they came: hell. In Curse of the Moon we also see Gremory as the master of the castle, not Gebel. 

Will we return to the castle in the next game? One game in the Bloodstained series has already bucked the trend. The major structure in Curse of the Moon 2 a demonic tower, not a castle.

Yet… I can’t yet imagine this series without any castle at all, even if we take detours away from them for some (or most) of the game. I already said I expect Gremory to be a recurring villain, so I expect to see her castle make an appearance regularly in future games, probably as a late game area that precedes the summoning of the final boss

The Castlevania castle had some recurring areas and we definitely see analogalous areas in Bloodstained. The clocktower, a late-game Castlevania area filled with moving platforms and other devious machinery, becomes the library, the Livra Ex Machina. (There is also the Twin Dragon Tower, which features rotating gear platforms like the clocktower, but I think the library fits the spirit of the clocktower better)

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night castle

What about the castle’s supposed owner? Gebel’s role in Bloodstained is supposedly that of the new Dracula, but we find this to be as a red-herring. By the end of the game, Gebel heroic core shines through. Not a very good trait for a series villain, but there is another character Gebel is similar to.

The recurring protagonist

Gebel also stars in the Curse of the Moon games. In this game, he is no dracula analogue, but an analogue for another Castlevania character: Alucard (his moveset is almost identical to that in Alucard’s debut game, Castlevania: Dracula’s Curse).

Alucard and Gebel. Can you tell the difference?

Things get more confusing when we jump back to Ritual of the Night and realise that game has it’s own, entirely separate analogue for Alucard!

Of course, I’m talking about OD, or Orlok Dracule, who not only looks the part but even sounds it: he is voiced by Alucard’s PS1 voice actor — both the Japanese one (Ryōtarō Okiayu) and the English (Robert Belgrade). I’m not sure how much more of a homage OD could possibly be!

It’s not surprise that an analogue of Alucard was desirable. The son of Dracula is one of the most well loved characters in the Castlevania franchise, and played major roles in some of the most loved game in that franchise, including Dracula’s Curse, Aria of Sorrow, and of course Symphony of the Night.

We have seen how Zangetsu has potential as a Belmont stand-in, and how Gremory is an excellent stand-in for Death. However, OD doesn’t inspire the same confidence in me. He just comes off as a pastiche, rather than a character essential to the franchise. 

I say that with some trepidation, because there seems to be plenty of call from the fans for more OD. He is highly requested in discussions about the next playable character. It’s not that I am an OD hater, it just seems to me that OD was supposed to be a reference rather than a substantial character. A librarian, like in Symphony of the Night, with the appearance of the protagonist of that game, with a fun name (OD being the reverse of Dio, a JoJo reference, like Alucard is the reverse of Dracula). It’s witty… yet OD has a miniscule role in the game.  

My guess would be that OD will return, but probably in a similarly minor capacity, as a recurring side-character, perhaps always found in the library.

If not OD, our new Alucard must be Gebel then? Well, perhaps, but… I think there is a better candidate: Miriam.

Our hero

First, let’s explain why I think Miriam will return: she is the most iconic, popular character in the franchise to date, and she has had cameos in other games, which would make it the most wasteful of wasted opportunities to bring back Bloodstained and not bring back Miriam.

As the star of the first game, she will always have a special place in this universe. I expect Bloodstained to play into that fact big time.

If Miriam is coming back, will the game be set in the same era as Ritual of the Night (Castlevania often made generational leaps decades and centuries across the timeline). Maybe, maybe not.

Consider this. Miriam is not a vampire, but she is a shardbinder. So was Gebel, who was initially this game’s version of Dracula. Shardbinder might well be Bloodstained’s version of vampire, or dhampir. Rather than sucking blood, they absorb crystalised souls.

Now, could Miriam’s powers as a shardbinder have made her ageless? If so, even if Bloodstained 2 leaps into the future, Miriam may still return.

As all this would make Miriam the perfect replacement for Alucard: she would a recurring hero, touched by darkness, closely connected to a villain, that defends the mortal plane across the ages, as an iconic franchise hero…


Talking about “across the ages”, in the next post we will discuss a potential timeline for the Bloodstained franchise. See you then!

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Castlevania Collection

Predictions for Bloodstained 2 – Part 2: Villains

Part 1: The Belmonts & Zangetsu

Despite being a videogame franchise twice as big as Dance Dance Revolution and a Netflix franchise so popular they didn’t cancel it even after four seasons — they gave it a second show instead! — Konami isn’t making more Castlevania games. So it is a good thing Koji Igarashi is.

Bloodstained might not have Belmonts or magic whips (we talked about that last time), but it isn’t trying to hide its intentions: it wants to succeed that franchise, and it’s got a pretty good claim.

For over a year now, we’ve known that “Ritual of the Night 2” is in development. We don’t know anything else. But with 25+ years of Castlevania inspiration to draw on, we can make some educated guesses.

As I said before: I don’t think Bloodstained should slavishly follow the Castlevania blueprint, and they’ve even got good reason not too. The theme of Castlevania NES was monster mash. It was never designed to support a lore than spanned fictional generations. Bloodstained doesn’t have to build on those quirky foundations.

However, I want to explore the clues for the future of the Bloodstained universe that might be lying in its connections to the previous franchise. This time, new interpretations of classic villains.

The Future of Gremory

Gremory

You don’t have to squint to see that Gremory is an analogue to Castlevania’s recurring boss, Death. I love how they have taken the visuals of some of Death’s traits, such as the sythe attacks, and managed to reinterpret them into a wholly original lore: the spinning half circles that Death was known for are no longer the grim reaper’s sickles, but are representations of a waning moon, the moon being the source of Gremory’s powers.

Gone is that odd quality of the Grim Reaper being a servant of Dracula. You would really expect it to be the other way around, wouldn’t you? Gremory is a powerful demon, but not something metaphysical and metaphorical like Death.

There’s no question in my mind that Gremory is going to be a recurring villain in this franchise. She already is, having appeared in all three games released so far, and that is bound to continue. 

But if Gremory is Death, who is Dracula?

Death

The Big Bad Question

If there is one single thing that Castlevania is known for, it is that Dracula is the last boss of every game. So it’s natural for us to wonder, who is Bloodstained’s equivalent? You might say it must be Gebel, because he kind of looks like Dracula. But Gebel is not the final boss in Ritual of the Night. Other than that, he is also disqualified from the role as he is no longer a villain.

(He’s also no longer alive, though how often has that stopped somebody trying to become a Lord of Darkness?)

At the end of a Castlevania game, you almost always have a fight with Dracula starting as a man, then with Dracula as a demon. The final boss of Ritual of the Night is Bael, a demon, but before Bael it is Dominique, a human.

Therefore, the roles of Dracula are taken in combination in Bloodstained by Dominique and Bael. Is our new Dracula one of them?

Well, Dominique certainly has the name for it.

Dominique Baldwin
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

The Future of Dominque

Despite being the antagonist of the first game, I don’t think Dominique is going to be the recurring series villain. In her debut, she didn’t appear to have the charisma to carry a whole franchise, but that could change. She doesn’t have the long history of Dracula, but that could change, too. However, most of all she seems to better fit the achetype demonstrated by Shaft in Symphony of the Night. There are similar character throughout the Castlevania franchise: Brauner in Portrait of Ruin, or Albert in Order of Ecclesia. These are the humans that align themselves with the forces of darkness. Though Dominque surpasses them by featuring a final boss in her game — other corrupted human villians never do — this is the role she plays.

However, I don’t think her influence on the franchise is over.

The story of the Belmonts is one that spans generations, and allies are often cropped from familiar families. One of the key families in the Castlevania franchise was that of the Belnades, known for their powerful magic. The progenitor of this bloodline was Sypha Belnades, who now has a starring role in the Netflix series. Charlotte Aulin (Portrait of Ruin) and Yoko Belnades (Aria of Sorrow) are some of her descendants.

Yoko Belnades
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

There’s not a lot of evidence for this but one hint is something Dominique Baldwin says about exorcists, especially just before Ritual‘s final battle. She says that she and Gebel have the power of exorcists in their blood. Earlier she says that her parents are exorcists. So if this power is hereditary, I feel like if we take a leap to another generation we might see the Baldwin’s take a similar role as the magical family.

Though Dominique was a foe in Ritual, in Curse of the Moon she was an ally. Therefore it is not even much of a twist for her descendants to join the fight as true heroes, like the Belnades clan. In the canon of Ritual, they might be motivated by the evil committed by their mother/grandmother/ancestor.

Or it could be a bit more uncertain, where like Dominique (or like a Targaryen of Westeros), the Baldwin clan have a tendancy to turn to evil, summon demons, and cause trouble through the ages.

Either way, bloodlines were an integral theme to Castlevania and I think taking the villain of the first game and doing something with their descendants is an interesting way to start a new family tree for this new franchise. 

The Future of Demons

If not Dominique, who replaces Dracula? 

So far, there may be more more evidence to suggest there will be no recurring final boss. For the games released so far, we have various final bosses:

  • In Ritual of the Night, it is Dominque followed by Beal.
  • In Curse of the Moon, it is Gremory, and the secret boss is corrupted Zangetsu, who acts a little like Dracula.
  • In Curse of the Moon 2, the boss of the last stage is at first Beelzebub, but even nastier demons replace him at the climax of subsequent episodes, leading to a final confrontation with a beast called Sariel.

The theme seems to be a different demon will take the role of the ultimate antagonist in each game. 

If that is the case, I’m okay with it. Dracula’s narrative impact always felt lessened by the fact that he was beaten back to sleep every century without fail. By having a new, previously undefeated, demon in each story, the threat can feel fresh and urgent every time.

Unlike Castlevania, Bloodstained does not enlist a smorgasbord of movie monsters that Castlevania used as its bosses. Instead, many of Bloodstained real-world influences are found in demonology lore, such as the 17th century grimoire The Lesser Key of Solomon.

Now I don’t know anything about demonology, but according to Wikipedia The Lesser Key of Solomon lists eight other demons with the rank of king, the same as Bael.

By the way, the Gremory of real-world demonology is listed as a duke. Here is an interpretation of her:

I feel it would be pointless of me to try and guess which of the demon kings might appear in the next game. There are other demons with names that have pentrated popular culture in the same way Bael and Beelzebub have. For the sake of recognisability, perhaps we will see an Astoroth, Mammon, Asmodeus, Samael or Azazel.

If I had to choose, it would be Paimon, described as a man riding a dromedary camel followed by a procession of trumpet players. I very much look forward how such a thing might be turned in a fearsome last boss. 

I see a franchise in which each game, a new demon king is summoned by the power of the Liber Logaeth. Perhaps, as we work our way through the princes and kings of the demons, a greater threat stirs in the shadows. At the top of the demonic chain lies lucifer himself, which would make quite a climax for Bloodstained VII or so.

I’ve used the Curse of the Moon games as examples here, so I’ll also point out that they are considered alternate realities and are made by a different studio and therefore I don’t think they are precisely indicative of what Iga wants to do with the franchise. I’m confident Inti had plenty of creative freedom with the Curse games. An interview with the game’s director indicates as much:

The path to the ending was going to be pretty wild, and we were afraid that we might make IGA upset when we sent our ideas over to him. It was all for nothing though, because we got the OK for the main story with hardly any changes requested.

Hiroki Miyazawa

The Future of Bael

Finally, as a counterpoint to this theory, let me say that I believe there is power in developing an iconic series boss over the course of several games. One of the greatest pleasures of a Castlevania fan is seeing a new interpretation of Dracula at the end of each game. It is something that is novel but familiar. It will be a shame if that is lost entirely.

If Bloodstained does opt for a recurring demon antagonist, Bael seems the most likely choice. In Ritual of the Night, his name is first evoked by Johannes in some optional dialogue at the hero’s base. He tells Miriam to fear the demon Bael, because he is the most powerful of the 72 demons. If, in Igarashi’s demon heirarchy, Bael is already at the top, any other demon will be a step down. This would seem guarantee a starring role for Bael in subsequent games.

At this point, I think it could go either way.

In the next part, I will consider how Miriam’s role in the Bloodstained story might proceed.