E3 2017 brought us another chance to see Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, the spiritual successor to Castlevania from the series' renowned producer, Koji "IGA" Igarashi. The game, which was initially announced via Kickstarter back in 2015 (and would go on to be the most-funded game in Kickstarter history until it was dethroned by Shenmue III), was originally estimated to release in 2017, but some unexpected snags in development pushed it back to the first half of next year.
Fortunately, from what we've seen of it so far, Bloodstained seems to be coming together well. For this year's expo, publisher 505 Games showcased a brand new church level from the title and gave fans a glimpse at a challenging new boss called Bloodless, who can fly around the screen and attack players with torrents of blood.
We got a chance to speak with Igarashi and Shutaro Iida (programmer for the handheld Castlevania titles as well as the director of Harmony of Despair) through an interpreter at E3. We asked the famed designer about the game's recent delay, his reasoning for moving to polygonal models with this project, and which Castlevania game is his personal favorite.
You showed off a new church level for E3 this year. Is this an early area in the game and does it differ from the demo on the showfloor?
Koji Igarashi: The stage itself is in the actual game, but all the enemy placements and a couple of other adjustments for it were made just for the E3 demo. All the materials in the stage itself are going to be like that in the final game.
The stage ends with a new boss called Bloodless. Is she the first boss you encounter in the game?
Actually, this is like a mid-game area. If you actually saw the menu in the demo, it says level 15. Around that level you'll be able to go through this stage.
How is development progressing? You recently had to delay the game to 2018. Have there been any unexpected hurdles in development or is it just taking a longer than you anticipated?
Development is generally going smoothly, but there have been a lot of troubles. We encountered a lot of problems during development. Right now, we're trying to speed up the development more because we had to make the system first and then go from there and just created more and more content. It's quicker now in general.
Is there a reason you decided to go with polygonal models for Bloodstained instead of the pixel visuals of traditional Castlevania games?
We generally have two reasons for going to 3D instead of 2D, one reason being, when we started the Kickstarter campaign, we already had decided we were bringing it to multiplatforms. In order to be able to do that, we decided to go with 3D.
The second reason we decided to go with 3D is there are not a lot of pixel artists actually that would work continuously. There are a lot of 3D artists. So in general, we were able to find more people that were able to create 3D models than 2D.
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How many playable characters will be in the final game and can you give us any hints as to who the others are?
In the final game, we'll have three playable characters. Right now, we only announced that Miriam is going to be a playable. The two other playable characters are still a secret, but we'll announce them soon.
A lot of the later Castlevania games share many similarities with Metroid. What are your thoughts on the new Metroid game that was announced for 3DS?
The two of us are extremely excited! [Laughs] We're looking forward to it!
Which is your personal favorite Castlevania game?
Out of the games that I've produced, my favorite is definitely Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It's a memorable title, it was the first title that I was able to work on, and it's also the reason why I'm here today developing Bloodstained. If you include all the other Castlevanias I didn't produce, my favorite is Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse.
Shutaro Iida: I was a game programmer for the Game Boy Advance and DS Castlevania series. My favorite title that I didn't work on is also Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. Of the titles that I have worked on, Portrait of Ruin is my favorite.
Development is generally going smoothly, but there have been a lot of troubles.
What is it about Castlevania III that makes it your favorite?
Igarashi: Personally, the reason why it's my favorite is because III doesn't really tell you the story in the game itself. It shows it throughout the gameplay. It doesn't really explain but it tells a lot from just playing the game. The whole concept of the game, the world setting for III was the best. Also, it was one of the first games that released a cassette. It was easy to play during that time and also the sound was great.
Iida: The reason why I like it is because of one simple reason: the background music. The music is the best. This is something that a lot of Castlevania fans know, but in the Japanese version of Dracula's Curse, they have a sound chip that's specifically inside the Japanese version and the sound quality is so great on that because they have its original sound chip in there. That's another reason why I really like it.
Bloodstained is obviously inspired heavily by Castlevania, but do you feel any pressure to see the game constantly being compared to it? Would you prefer Bloodstained to be known as something separate from Castlevania?
It's hard to say, "Don't compare it with Castlevania," because it's based off of it and it's also something that we've also knowingly done, so it's inevitable. We don't mind it. We like it, but at the same time, it's something that's kind of like a revival. We want people to think Bloodstained is a revival and also something that we want people to feel nostalgic about.
Do you have any final comments to fans who are really looking forward to Bloodstained?
Igarashi: For those looking forward to Bloodstained, we hope that you'll experience that nostalgic feeling. We're working hard to make it very much like that old-time Castlevania. We also want new players to feel the enjoyment of this kind of game. I hope you look forward to it.
Iida: Every time we create a new "Igavania" game, I always think about how to go beyond the previous games. But for this game, we want fans to think, "Oh, this is [a classic] Igavania game. This is what's good about this kind of game." We're also including new elements to it, but that's on the side. We want people to experience that old-school Igavania game.