To say that video game adaptations are toxic is like saying that the sun is a little bright or that the universe is a little vast… Video game adaptations aren’t just toxic, they are a near fatal dose of incompetence and unconcern rolled into a single maggoty confection one might fight lying on the ground next to a trash can because it’s not good enough to be in the trash can with the other garbage.
Just look at the video game adaptations of the past: Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon… all absolute and unquestioned rubbish. Even when you look at what many people consider the “best” of the video game adaptations, movies like Angry Birds and the first Mortal Kombat movie, calling them the best is charity. Acceptable, maybe?
I’ve heard people… professional critics even… say that a quality video game adaptation is impossible.
And then you’ve got Castlevania, a well paced, thoughtful, action packed, and overall extremely enjoyable series based on an 8 bit video game from the 1980’s that proves that video game adaptations do not have to be complete drivel, they can be compelling and every bit as binge-worthy as anything else on Netflix.
The story revolves as much around the antogonist, Dracula, as it does the trio of protagonists. Here, Dracula meets and falls in love with a human woman who approaches him about learning medicine and the science of the old ways. They marry, have a child, and then the woman is murdered by religious zealots who convince themselves that her and her science is witchcraft.
Dracula, returning home on a journey of self-discovery his wife sent him on, is enraged and declares war on humanity, determined to wipe every human off the face of the earth with his army of vampires and demons.
Trevor Belmont, the last in a legendary line of vampire hunters, is an indigent drunkard who has lost everything. Despite his skills, he is wasting away in a sea of self-pity and self-loathing.
He crosses paths with Sypha, a member of a clan of Speakers who is well versed in magic and determined to help render aid and end the suffering of the needy.
Together, abet reluctantly, they uncover Alucard, the son of Dracula and his human wife, who vows to kill his father and end the war in memory of his mother.
Castlevania is beautiful. Everything about it is beautiful. The animation flows so smoothly whether it is doing one of its amazing and well-choreographed action sequences or whether it revels in one of its more quite and dramatic moments. The character designs are so good that, even when a character is shown from a distance, I never had to wonder, “Now, who’s that?” Emotions from joy, anger, sorrow… all are shown and easily understood. The characters can communicate without saying a word.
The story is also top-notch. Not only are we privy to the heroic redemption of the three heroes of the story, but we are also witness to the workings of Dracula’s inner circle. There are no “bad guys” here – merely people with differing agendas and values. Even Dracula’s lieutenants are fleshed out characters with believable motivations and emotions. Heck, there are times that, as Dracula made his plans to wipe out humanity, I felt sympathy for the man… have we ever seen a “bad guy” with depression before?
You know, you can almost argue that depression IS the bad guy here.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as Castlevania also has a marvelous sense of humor, most notably in the interaction between the half-vampire Alucard and Trevor Belmont who comes from a family that hunted and killed vampires. The two are like quibbling children when they are together and I loved it.
I loved every minute of this series. It just wrapped up its second season, but with only 12 episodes total, it’s a show that you can binge over the weekend with ease, though with quality this high, it’s hard to not watch the entire series in one go.