Castlevania is one of those series that, despite consistent and stellar releases, has never reached beyond a fairly niche audience. I mean for fucks sake, there’s a damn genre of video games named after it (Metroidvania), but unless your fairly into retro gaming (or badass soundtracks) there’s a solid chance you’ve never really experienced the masterwork that these games are.
While there is some variation, the basic premise is you’re a vampire hunter, often of the Belmont family, who storms Dracula’s castles with your magic whip, murdering monsters, minions, and freaks of all shapes and sizes, occasionally busting open a stone wall to eat the (most likely rotten) ham inside.
For me, and I’m guessing for a lot of others, the best part about Castlevania is the monsters. From the MAN-EATER, a giant insect living inside a skull, to a mirror teleporting jester who cackles madly as he shoots lasers from his fingertips, these are some of the most creative bosses and enemies in gaming history, and an absolute joy to fight against for any fan of the macabre and grotesque.
And that’s the reason Netflix’s new Castlevania series falls a little flat.The action, done in that slick style only anime seems able to accomplish, all looks and feels great, but there’s just so little of it. Beyond Dracula himself, a few flying gargoyle like creatures. and an excellent fight with a Medusa/Cyclops hybrid these four episodes feature very little of the beasts that make the video games iconic.
Granted four episodes isn’t a lot of time to accomplish much of anything. More episodes are promised to come next year, but the streaming giant might have done better to keep this one in their money lined pockets until they had more to show.
The character work is pretty rudimentary as well. Our hero, disgraced Belmont clan member Trevor, is a witty enough protagonist, despite the occasional tacky one liners, but his two companions magician Sypha and Dracula’s do-gooder vampire son Alucard aren’t much more than their wikipedia descriptions.
I never played Castlevania 3, the game this tv show is based off of (my experience with Castlevania is mostly the Playstation era and above), so I couldn’t tell you if their more faithfully portrayed there. I also can’t say whether or not they will grow as the series moves on because, like I said earlier, this is just four episodes.
I didn’t hate what Netflix has gave us so far, but I didn’t love it either, certainly not in the way I love the games. With the crew assembled and Dracula’s demise imminent, I think next season has a shot at being a lot stronger. But until that season does come out, proceed with caution. Right now we don’t know if this series will be sharp as a whip, or moldy as wall ham.