Interview: Castlevania's Former Keeper Returns with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Former Konami producer Koji Igarashi turns to Kickstarter for the project we've all been waiting for: A spiritual successor to the vampire-slaying series he made his own.

Analysis by Bob Mackey, .

"Whatever happened to Koji Igarashi?"

That's been the most common refrain from Castlevania fans after Symphony of the Night's director seemingly had nowhere to go following the 2008 release of Order of Ecclesia. After nearly seven years away from Castlevania, though, Igarashi's back, and with a project that just had to happen: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a spiritual successor to Castlevania which begins its Kickstarter campaign today. (As if that "Sword or Whip" teaser site didn't make this news delightfully predictable.)

This conceptual image shows what Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night could look like in its final form.

In the years since his last Castlevania game, it's safe to say Igarashi's chosen genre has escaped its niche. Perhaps you could chalk this up to the lack of proper Castlevanias in our modern times, but plenty of indie (and not-so-indie) devs have picked up where Igarashi left off, delivering a wave of games that attempt to capture the same spirit of 1997's Symphony of the Night—just do a quick search for "Metroidvania" on Steam, and you'll see how popular his special sauce has become.

Bloodstained didn't strike exactly publishers as a sure thing. During an interview with Igarashi last month, Castlevania's former king was more than a little candid about his struggles with getting his new project off the ground through traditional means. "We had a great pitch," he says, "and we took it around to pretty every single publisher. And while it's not cheap because it's an original title, and you have to make assets from the ground up, it still wasn't something that was extremely expensive. Still, there were no publishers that were willing to take a chance on it. Which is kind of sad, because if you look at my experience both on making games that were financially viable and also making titles that had big fan interest and good scores, it didn't seem like a huge risk from my perspective to fund something like this. And yet, there seemed to be a huge disconnect between what publishers are looking for, and what fans want."

Miriam, one of Bloodstained's playable characters.

Like many developers of his generation who once held positions at major publishers, Igarashi has turned directly to his fans for the sake of funding. But it took Keiji Inafune's success with his own spiritual successor Kickstarter before Igarashi decided to take the leap into the sometimes-shaky world of crowdfunding.

"We're very isolated from the rest of the gaming world in Japan," says Igarashi. "And so, some of the information doesn't really come through to this side. And seeing that there was such a big user interest in funding and supporting an orthodox, side-scrolling title like Mighty No. 9, it showed me Western users really were putting their money where their mouth was. They really were passionate, and really were going to help their creators, basically, be independent and make the games they want to make. People who supported that game are giving other Japanese creators courage to step out on their own."

Take one look at Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and you're sure to get some serious Castlevania vibes. This new project features the same focus on Gothic horror, customization, item drops, and exploration as his brand of Castlevania, all focused on a central theme. According to Igarashi, "The key revolving concept that a lot of the different systems are going to be built from is the term 'stained glass.'" Though Dracula isn't likely to make an appearance, some familiar Konami friends will, like Michiru Yamane, whose soundtracks were synonymous with Castlevania during the Igarashi years. And while Igarashi hints one of his former colleagues—who he trusts without fail to bring him great ideas—might be attached to the project, he knows for certain development studio Inti Creates will be handing production of Bloodstained.

"In talking with [Inti Creates]," says Igarashi, "[They] were the ones that felt like a natural, organic fit. Not just because they have Kickstarter experience, but because in talking with them, they said, 'Listen, there's three games we've always wanted to make, ever since being an indie developer.' One was a Mega Man-type game—well, they're doing that. The second game was an Igavania-type game, so that fit with what I wanted to do. And the final was a Zelda game. That third part may be hard for them, but it's great for both teams to be able to make something they want to make."

This concept art for Miriam shows off more of Bloodstained's "stained glass" theme.

Igarashi's use of "Igavania" to describe his genre of choice may strike some as a little strange; "Metroidvania" (or the rare "Castleroid") may not be the most elegant portmanteau out there, though it does a good enough job as a descriptor. Throughout our interview, the amount of times "Igavania" was uttered indicated a desire from Igarashi to reclaim this term for himself, if only because Metroid didn't serve as a direct inspiration for Symphony of the Night.

"People may suggest it was me that reinvigorated that subgenre," says Igarashi. "From my perspective, that's not really the case. When we made Symphony of the Night, the idea wasn't to make a Metroid-like game; it was actually to make a Zelda-like game. But the second [Symphony] was a side-scrolling game, it was compared to Metroid more than it was [compared to] Zelda. I understand why that is, and, honestly, Metroid's a fantastic franchise I love as well. So it's fine by me if they want to compare it that way. Honestly, the idea of exploring, and having locked gates that you need certain items or abilities to get through—a lot of those key features are already in Zelda games. In making Symphony of the Night, we just wanted to make a fun game. Games with an exploring element to them, where you get to kill a lot of different enemies: That's the core of what makes a lot of fun games fun, and we were surprised more people weren't doing that kind of design at the time."

As of this writing—before the Kickstarter's launch—it's tough to say anything definitive about the future of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night—though with the buzz the Sword or Whip teaser site and hashtag are generating, it's hard to imagine a world where were won't be playing this Castlevania successor within the next few years. And even though he hasn't touched the world of "Igavania" since the latter months of the George W. Bush administration, his mission statement hasn't changed one bit in the passing years.

Gebel, another of Bloodstained's potential playable characters.

"I've been making these games for 15-or-so years," says Igarashi, "and while that seems like a long time, I really haven't learned a lot. That may sound funny to say, but what I mean by that is Symphony of the Night is largely considered to be one of, if not the best Igavania game that's been made. Every time we make a new game... our goal is to make a game better than Symphony of the Night. If you look at the games that came after it, they are great games, but very few people consider those to be better than Symphony of the Night. So we always like to set the bar high, and until we come up with a game that's better than Symphony of the Night, that's still going to be the gold standard that we're trying to shoot for."

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Comments 17

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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #1 Monkey-Tamer 3 years ago
    Konami: "Is it a mobile game?"

    Koji: "No, it's a-"

    Konami: "Get the hell out."
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #2 KaiserWarrior 3 years ago
    Continuing an excellent trend of talented game-makers bailing out of the traditional publishing scene and making the games they want to make. The large publishers will no longer risk any amount of money on any project that isn't a 100% guaranteed big-seller, because they make games to make money. Truly passionate creators, on the other hand, want to make money so that they can make games -- a very important distinction of priority -- and crowdfunding has allowed them to do precisely that. Here is our idea, here is the project we want to make, and here's a few examples of our passion for that project... we only need a bit of money to get started on it.

    Things like this are why, for all of the faults in the Kickstarter and Early Access systems, I can't bring myself to flatly denounce them. They've both got a ton of issues, but the plain fact is that they do serve a noble purpose of allowing truly passionate development teams to make video games that would not otherwise be made now that Video Games has the big-V and big-G attached to it -- and all of the megacorporate baggage that implies.

    I miss the days when video games were creative endeavors made by dedicated people that loved their craft, rather than cold, passionless investments made by gigantic companies that care only for profit margins. Slowly, those days are beginning to come back now that creative people can once again find sources of funding that don't have stockholders attached.
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  • Avatar for scarritt #3 scarritt 3 years ago
    YES. This is awesome. Igarashi makes awesome games, can't wait to play a new one.
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  • Avatar for gillijack #4 gillijack 3 years ago
    Go IGA! I'm so glad this game is happening.
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  • Avatar for Makgameadv #5 Makgameadv 3 years ago
    Around 2002 EGM had a preview for Harmony of Dissonance (GBA) (archived at the Castlevania Dungeon), the first IGAvania since SotN at the time where they quoted

    - For the GBA encore, Konami has given the series back to the able hands of Koji Igarashi, the visionary behind Symphony of the Night (PS1), a game that all but reviented Castlevania with its Super Metroid (Super Nintendo)- inspired gameplay.

    - "[Super Metroid] is a great game that had a lot of direct influence over Symphony," Igarashi tells us during a recent visit to Konami's American headquarters.
    "I can't wait for Metroid IV on the GBA."

    Igarashi mentioned the Zelda influence (instead of Metroid) around the time of his GDC speech too a while back.

    I think the influence of Metroid came up over the years as a byproduct of the fact that Metroid and Kid Icarus were also likely influenced by Zelda that released about 6 months earlier on the FDS with the idea of going through dungeons collecting power ups. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is probably close to IGAvania because of the side scrolling.Edited 2 times. Last edited May 2015 by Makgameadv
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  • Avatar for NinjaMic #6 NinjaMic 3 years ago
    This is basically me right now:Edited May 2015 by NinjaMic
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  • Avatar for camchow #7 camchow 3 years ago
    This makes me so so happy. I wont pretend I'm a little sad that they aren't going to be doing this with sprites considering Castlevania has some of the best sprite work in gaming, but it's hard to get too hung up on that. Looks like it's already nearly funded, good times!
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  • Avatar for davidwurzel94 #8 davidwurzel94 3 years ago
    Just backed it for $60.

    I went from never Kickstarting anything ever to backing this and Yooka-Laylee within a couple weeks of one another.

    I'm still not big on Kickstarting, but given the pedigree behind both of the aformentioned titles, I simply couldn't resist.
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  • Avatar for docexe #9 docexe 3 years ago
    Reading the Kickstarter page, I’m not entirely sure about their intention to provide with physical/retail copies. In this day and age, that seems like a tall order for a project like this one. Granted, Mighty No. 9 is also going to do it, but that didn’t exactly happen overnight.

    Still I have faith in Igarashi and this had such a long time coming that I’m willing to back it. Just not right now. It is my luck that this had to be announced the week I’m broke ;_;
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  • Avatar for NinjaMic #10 NinjaMic 3 years ago
    @docexe they have fangamer on it, the same company that produced the physical copies for Retro City Rampage on PS4 & Vita, and they handle game related merch in general. This is double the price per copy, much higher profile and it's still being produced to order specifications according to the kickstarter, so it should go off without a hitch.

    At the worst, I'd expect the biggest controversy being some people getting their copies in the mail a few days later than others.
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #11 Captain-Gonru 3 years ago
    While I'm very interested in this, I'm disappointed it won't be showing up on Wii U or 3DS. It's tiresome to see franchises revived, or kept alive, on Nintendo consoles, only to be abandoned once they take off again. I know that isn't exactly the case here, but I'm still bitter.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #12 Vonlenska 3 years ago
    This really brings a smile to my face. I've been hopeful for Inafune, Igarashi and Inti Creates to be successful and act as a kind of good example to follow for all of the other highly talented Japanese designers currently stumbling and flailing to find a way forward. So, to see this surpass its goal already!... Wow!

    It's also got the most charming Kickstarter campaign I've ever seen.


    A wonderful pile of sweetness!

    Awww!Edited May 2015 by Vonlenska
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  • Avatar for pennybags #13 pennybags 3 years ago
    I'm glad people are excited about this, but what I'd really like to see is something that revives the pre-SotN "Classicvania" kind of game. I think Valis is the only thing really available for people who have played them all and want something similar.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #14 VotesForCows 3 years ago
    This blew my mind when I saw it last night. I'm absolutely thrilled. Never KS'd anything before, but I had to get in on this one. The portable Castlevania games were very, very good, but I much prefer having something on a home console.
    @Vonlenska I thought that was particularly charming too!
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  • Avatar for msturge116 #15 msturge116 3 years ago
    I've begun a summer project to replay most of the Castlevanias on their original consoles in honor of this auspicious news. Damn Frankenstein and Igor...
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #16 Kadrom 3 years ago
    I think a lot of Kickstarters would see higher rates of success if they raised the floor of entry like this Kickstarter has. 28 dollars is still a pretty reasonable price for what would amount to a "retail" game and is almost double the usual 15 dollar early bird prices you see on Kickstarters. Besides the fact that everyone loves IGA and Castlevania games, the 28 dollar price tag can also be credited for how quickly this got funded, and it gives me more confidence that they aren't going to get bit on the back end when it comes to fulfilling physical reward tiers.
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  • Avatar for ChilquilloBurillo #17 ChilquilloBurillo 2 years ago
    I think a lot of the later games did have improvements over SotN, they just suffered from being on lesser platforms, so the final quality of them could not match the Playstation release. Continuing an excellent dieta dukan trend of talented game-makers bailing out of the traditional publishing scene and making the dieta detox they want to make. The large publishers will no longer risk any amount of money on any project that dieta da usp isn't a 100% guaranteed big-seller, because they make games to make money. Truly passionate creators como emagrecer rapido em uma semana, on the other hand, want to make money so that they can make games a very important distinction of dieta da proteina and crowdfunding has allowed them to do precisely that. Here is our idea quitosana emagrece, here is the project we want to make, and here's a few examples of our passion for that project.Edited May 2017 by ChilquilloBurillo
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