Feature Article

What Netflix's Castlevania Show Gets Right As A Video Game Adaptation

Other adaptations can learn a thing or two from Castlevania.

The history of video game adaptations is long and mostly terrible. For every half-decent movie, short film, or show based on a game, there seem to be about a dozen that are just plain awful. This is the reality in which gamers live.

Into what category Netflix’s animated Castlevania show falls is a matter of personal taste. To be fair though, there are a few things that it totally nails--things other game adaptations would do well to note.

If you haven’t watched Castlevania yet, rise from your coffin, pour yourself a glass of blood-red wine, and check it out. Then read on to find out exactly what it gets right as a video game adaptation.

Staying Faithful

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Castlevania's first four episodes follow Trevor Belmont--last son of the house of Belmont--and Dracula himself, who seeks vengeance against humanity for the death of his human wife, Lisa. That’s basically straight out of Castlevania III, and the Netflix show largely stays faithful to this basic story--and more that we won’t spoil. Plenty of adaptations have trouble just getting the basics of their characters right, so kudos to Castlevania.

Dead Weight

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Castlevania may stay faithful in the spirit of its characters, but it also knows where to draw the line. The story the show tells is largely original, and it never feels like it’s just paying tribute to the games for tribute’s sake. Castlevania adds to, alters, and expands the franchise’s world and settings wherever needed, like making Trevor Belmont a bit of a washed up drunk--a new facet to the character that we hadn’t seen before. Sure, Dracula hates humans, but there’s no “miserable little pile of secrets” line to be cringed over (or adored, depending who you ask) in this incarnation, and the landlocked pirate named “Grant DaNasty” has, thankfully, been left out at sea.

Straight To The Point

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In this modern golden age of TV, plenty of new shows choose to keep it short and sweet at around ten episodes. Castlevania takes that further: With its debut on Netflix this week, Castlevania consists of just four 24-minute episodes. These four episodes are barely the length of a single feature film (which is exactly what this adaptation was originally envisioned as back in 2007), and they accomplish a lot with very little run time. Multiple series characters are introduced and have their own arcs and emotional payoffs, there are a couple of good twists, it has just enough fan service, and the action is well-paced throughout. Castlevania does a better job in these four episodes than other adaptations have done in many more.

Action Packed

Castlevania’s quality varies in some areas, but it features some truly fantastic fight sequences. It doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the violence, and a town full of people being viciously shredded by demons looks like about what you’d expect. The “boss fights”--including Trevor taking on a pissed off cyclops, and another, later one that we won’t spoil--have some extremely cool action choreography. It may not feel exactly faithful to the side-scrolling action of the Castlevania games, but--actually, wait a second. That’s a good thing.

The Right Writers

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Castlevania may have just debuted, but these episodes were largely written over a decade ago. They were penned by esteemed comics writer Warren Ellis and former Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. And that’s the way to do it: Mix a severely talented writer with someone who has experience on the franchise, go through literally eight rewrites, and, uhh, let it marinate for ten years like a vampire in a crypt? OK, maybe not that last part.

Castlevania deserves some criticism, especially for some of its voice acting, some shaky animations, and one unusually long scene about a goat. But overall it should tickle fans in all the right places--like right in the jugular. You can check it out on Netflix now and decide for yourself.

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mrougeau

Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Senior Entertainment Editor. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.
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Sefrix

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Fantastic show, with my only real complaint being the townspeople fight. To be vague: What's up with the effectiveness and why on earth are ice walls used for things with wings?

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coop36

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I found alot of the dialogue to be pretty cringey and hammy, but it was mindlessly entertaining for the most part. Even as a lifelong 'Vania fan, I doubt I'll watch the series more than once.

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Rodro

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This is far better than most series, my only complaint is that i wanted to hear the music from the videogame, music was good though.

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effinjay

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I absolutely fuckin loved this show! Only complaint i have,is that it was only 4 episodes. Thats it,get over yourselfs ?

Season 2 will have 8,from what i read.

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RaveNRolla

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I gave it a go last weekend, but i turned it off after a few minutes. it seemed really weird to me that when you saw someone walking he stuttered the whole time. Not the most fluid animation, even if it is a cartoon i imagine you can do more. My eyes couldn't take it at the time, but i might give it another shot when i'm less tired. I'm definitely intrigued, Castlevania was my favourite game back on gameboy in the 90s.

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ranzikiel

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I have never played any of the Castlevania games but I really love this show.

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jerusaelem

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Google "Bit Brigade Castlevania", and shush up about the damned soundtrack. Yeah a modern take on the music would be neat...and it is. Go listen to it. As for the show, they're telling a story. Not shoehorning musical fan service for nostalgia junkies.

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Spaced92

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Edited By Spaced92

@jerusaelem: Yeah obviously Castlevania music is amazing, but it's meant to be background music during gameplay, seeing them randomly bring it out even during a fan service action scene would be cringey, not really a fan of shoehorned stuff like that.

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Zorlac

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@Michael1571: The only thing that sucks was the length, but as this article says, it does more in 4 episodes than most series do in many more.

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RenFairReject

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@Michael1571: nah, was pretty awesome actually. a little (more than a little) stunted in terms of how much there actually was, but that's about it.

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Astelion

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My only dislike is Trevor's character. He seems very out-of-time and out-of-place here, he got a little better towards the end... but he is the single disappointment (along with the music) in what could have been a flawless adaptation.

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coop36

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Edited By coop36

@Astelion: Yeah, I wasnt a fan of the writing. Smarmy modern 'snark humor' is getting really old.

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LightRukia

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The key to any good adaption when it comes to video games and books is be animated, have good to great animation, and stay faithful to the source as much as possible.

That's it, live action adaptation rarely ever work because they're limited to what the human body can do ( we're also always more picky on who should play the part as far as Hollywood stars go) not to mention good special effects cost more then simply drawing.

Plus the live action writer or director always feels the need to change something up to make it theirs or to make the story easier to follow for the ignorant masses who aren't even fans of the original source.

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JustinGoSka

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@LightRukia: I'd have to disagree that live action won't work because of limits on the human body. With good stunt coordinators and/or cgi, pretty much anything is possible.

I think your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. Film makers feel putting their own mark on a story is more important than staying faithful to the source material. A good film maker would be able to stick to the source material and make something unique. Unfortunate we have crazy film makers making crapy films that no one would watch if they didn't have a popular IP attached to them. Instead of appreciating the IP, they crap all over it just so that they can feel like the film is their own and that people aren't only interested in the film because of the IP that someone else created.

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LightRukia

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@JustinGoSka: I never said they don't ever work I said they rarely do and I also mentioned the use of special effects.

The thing about special effects is once again money, and unless some big name movie or tv show company gets the right for it and has enough faith in source material being a success to give the movie or TV show a huge budget the effects and stunts will often times come out cheap.

Then you get stuff like DB Evolution or Avatar the last airbender. Seems like only live action adaptions that mostly work nowadays are big name super hero movies. Which once again have a high budget because of their long time existing reputation. not to mention the writers actually put some effort in staying true to the super hero personalities.

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Spaced92

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Edited By Spaced92

@LightRukia: I think there'll always be something just a little lame about adapting stuff like this and turning it into a live action film. The Dark Knight is a great movie but will never feel as close to what Batman is as the 90's cartoon even if the cartoon doesn't have the comic book violence, and comics are obviously much more easily adapted than games.

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effinjay

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@LightRukia: You have to be my twin lol i have been sayin this same thing for yrs about comic movies, and video game movies. Its just not possible to do the thing comics,or video games can do with a human body and look good doing it,in real life. I think it also comes down to the costume,the character is playing. Spiderman,iron man,batman, sometimes others look better in real life then say superman,ryu,ken,killercroc,mario...lol and many others im sure that would look like ass if someone tried to play them, in real life.

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angrycreep

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Edited By angrycreep

The animation looks great and i thought they did a good job. The only complaint i have is that they tried to do too much in just four episodes and it looks like they just squeeze too much in very little. They were obviously trying to impress. Don't get the just 4 episodes if you gonna take the plunge do it like you mean it and at least this should have been 8 episodes.

Overal i give the show.

Story - 8.0/10

Animation - 9.0/10

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Quarkzquarkz

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Hey man, I saw all 4 episodes in 1 sitting and I have to say, the animation and gore is freakin' mind blowing. I mean I don't even like this stuff but Castlevania? C'mon can't pass it up. It's like they crossed Vampire Hunter D's graphic gorey stuff with today's awesome animation and the acting is also superb! Can't wait for 2nd season already

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amillionhp

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Edited By amillionhp

Thought this was amazing and i dont even agree on the criticism against Grant. In response to the logic of a pirate being a stupid inclusion, there is always a possible way to make the most ridiculous ideas work if they are properly communicated to the audience. It just depends on its delivery. I suspect he will be showing up in future seasons anyway.

I'm just dissapointed we only get this much and be waiting presumably another year for any additional episodes.

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freedom01

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freedom01  Moderator

This was a really great adaptation, it went above my expectations and made me want to see more. I can't wait to see Season 2

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Alucard_Prime

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My expectations were shattered - This might be one of the best animated shows I've ever seen, right next to Transformers the Movie(1986) and even better than Berserk(OK I'll wait until season 2 before saying that lol). I loved it from start to finish and disagree about the voice acting criticism, I thought that aspect was excellent overall, just like everything else basically. The wait for season 2 will be a torturous one, I'll definitely re-watch this several times. Well done

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3D3

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I really enjoyed season 1. I can't wait for season 2!

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Alucard_Prime

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@3D3: Agreed!

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crashchaos

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The amount of humor in it was a pleasant surprise for me. Was expecting it to be totally bleak and dark.

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Alucard_Prime

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@crashchaos: yeah same here.....I definitely laughed several times

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TightNinja

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Edited By TightNinja

Was disappointed with this......mainly because of the music. Castlevania has some of the best game music of all time. I would have liked to hear new renditions of the icon themes from the game (Bloody Tears, Vampire Killer etc). Without the music is just feels empty.

I like Warren Ellis and the other work he has done (G.I. Joe Resolute was awesome)

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DefunktJunk

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@TightNinja: Yeah I was waiting for them to drop some of those classic Castlevania tunes myself. They're a big part of what made the games so much fun and immersive. But sadly we got nothing of the sound this season :( Oh well. I still think it's a pretty cool animation nonetheless.

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pavelbure

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Grant may still come into play. Technically he is not met until Trevor reaches the top of the clock tower.

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JackNief

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@pavelbure: Man I hope so. And I hope classic Castlevania music appears in some form or another. Even if they become little more than ambient tracks.

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gargungulunk

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Watched all 4 eps last night; it was refreshing to watch animation that was not only hand-drawn, but also strove for realistic details.

Great pacing, solid action scenes, fresh enough story.

Music could have been more "classic groovy", but it still fit.

Trevor was more like the accidental hero, which felt a bit tropey, but the alternative would be the mighty warrior, which would still feel off. I guess Castlevania characters never really had a persona, so you just gotta pick one.

anyways, I'll watch it again.

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Archangel3371

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Watched the four episodes and really enjoyed it. Looking forward to the next season.

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Alucard_Prime

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Edited By Alucard_Prime

@Archangel3371: same here!

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Barighm

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Edited By Barighm

I stand by my criticisms. Aside from the art style and music being severely diluted, I just can't stand how many characters sound like your average every day mook instead of medieval nobles and ladies. They don't have to sound too antiquated, but they certainly need to sound better than Trevor's "every man" delivery. I'm no huge Castlevania fan, but I have to wonder how even fans could enjoy this very much.

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jerusaelem

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@Barighm: Sooo...ye olde cheesy accents would have made this BETTER, in your opinion? Do you even have the slightest clue what a Wallachian accent even sounds like, because I'm betting you're just thinking of that "vaguely English" accent every hokey movie uses when they're trying to sound European. Yeah. No thanks.

"I'm no huge Castlevania fan..."

Then your criticisms are borderline meaningless and I'm left to wonder why someone who isn't a fan would even bother to watch it in the first place.

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coop36

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@jerusaelem: So basically any differing opinion from yours is irrelevant? What a diaper baby.

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DeadpoolKing

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Great prelude just need a lot more episodes for the next "season"!!!

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kanekan-slaugh

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After watching it I love it, wish they'd tone the humour done a bit (it's not in the least bit comedic but whatever) and I hope they bring far more in it's next season

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dz99ls

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watched 3 episodes hated it

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ProjektInsanity

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@dz99ls: I couldn't get past the first one. Still trying to convince myself to make another go of it. I thought there were brilliant parts here and there, but overall it seemed awful. And I'm actually a fan of the games. Dunno what others are seeing in it.

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coop36

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@ProjektInsanity: Same. Seemed like it relied too much on shock value.

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Urizen5

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Good series. I enjoyed the expansion on the lore over video game easter eggs (*cough early capcom *cough) Such as history of the church and the Belmonts and Dracula. For only 4 episodes it really felt like a full season. It has its faults, but overall i'm ready for more.

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xADx

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@Urizen5: Only fault it had was 4 episodes.

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ValedictorianXD

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@xADx:

And none of the music that makes Castlevania so wonderful.

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Barighm

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@ValedictorianXD: Or the art style. So many opportunities provided to use the amazing art style, but no. Even the interiors of Drac's castle and the crypt looked mundane.