Koji Igarashi is Begrudgingly Appreciative of the "Die, Monster" Line from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Symphony of the Night's Western success took Konami by surprise, and Richter's infamous quip might've played a small part in it.

Feature by Nadia Oxford, .

1997's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is part of the PSOne's "Greatest Hits" collection. The garish green label was reserved for million-sellers that received a re-release at a discounted price. Unofficial numbers from third-party tracking sites peg Symphony of the Night at 1.27 million copies sold worldwide, with at least 500,000 of those copies coming from North America alone. Keep in mind those numbers don't include digital sales of the game.

Symphony of the Night's North American success is a small miracle, and a triumph of word-of-mouth marketing before the age of social media, or even widespread Internet use. Its rich 2D sprites made an impression in a time when Sony of America was hostile towards 2D games. People picked it up off the shelves despite the fact it sports the most generic jewel case art ever thrown together in Photoshop 4.0 (ever notice the featured castle doesn't even bear the iconic shape of the titular Castlevania?). Its opening moments, which revisit the climax of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the PC Engine, are supremely confusing, even to Western Castlevania fans: Most of us had never even heard of Rondo of Blood and naming the prologue after the rare Sega Genesis Castlevania game—"Bloodlines"—muddied things further.

Dracula's castle is supposed to be a creature of chaos, not a creature of bland clip art.

And then there's, ahem, the game's still-infamous localization and voice acting. Like the undead that tirelessly fling themselves at Alucard, the salvo of quips and accusations Richter Belmont and Dracula exchange before their scripted stand-off refuse to die. If you cry out "Die, monster, you don't belong in this world" in savvy company, you're practically guaranteed to have "It was not by my hand that I am once again given flesh" volleyed back at you. Inevitably, the conversation terminates with "Have at you!" It's like the gamer version of "Marco Polo."

When I interviewed Symphony of the Night's director, Koji Igarashi, at PAX West last week, he admitted Symphony of the Night's Western success took him by surprise given the game's poor localization. That said, he's thankful (a tad regretfully) the awfulness of Richter's opening lines keeps Symphony of the Night alive in our memories.

"We were never expecting [Symphony of the Night to be a hit in the West]," Igarashi told me via a translator. "This was our first time having a game localized for the Western market; we didn't have a lot of experience publishing games in English. So, the English localization is not what we were expecting."

Igarashi pointed out the actors for the English script had no experience voicing games (though Richter's voice actor, credited as Scott McCulloch, voiced a few games before Symphony of the Night before becoming a popular DJ in Japan. Sadly, he passed away in 2000). Plus, the quality of the voice recordings themselves is poor; McCullouch indeed sounds like he's recording Richter's lines in an open room. Given the campy and confusing first impression Symphony of the Night offered Westerners, Igarashi was "extremely surprised" it was so well-received by us.

I asked Igarashi if he's aware Symphony of the Night's English dialogue is inscribed in legend. He smiled ruefully and confirmed he's aware.

"It's interesting, because if ['Die, monster!'] had been a cooler line, maybe it wouldn't have been as well-received," he said. "Personally, I wanted [Richter] to say something really cool. It's an ongoing joke about his lines being weirdly phrased, but I guess that's the reason it had a lot of impact on players. In a way, that's good."

I also had a chance to talk to Igarashi about the surprising influence Castlevania II: Simon's Quest had on the development of Symphony of the Night.

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Comments 17

  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #1 Funny_Colour_Blue 10 days ago
    Wow Scott Mcculloch died in 2000? :(
    RIP Time Crisis's Wild Dog

    (I knew that voice sounded familiar!)

    At least we can still listen to Robert Belgrade tell us to kill the evil merchant in Tenchu: stealth assassins.

    I know this is like a pipe dream, but it'd be really cool to get like, an oral history of like, the guys who voiced megaman 8/megaman x4 or like, the live action actors behind Resident Evil 1 - like, their acting/voice acting, may be considered bad by today's standards. But It'd be really interesting to hear the stories behind these lines and examine the changes that developers have incorporated today.

    Like, The dude who voiced Ben in Brave Fencer Musashi, (Joe Romersa) also provided the lead vocals for Silent Hill 4's "Cradle of Forest", like how did these guys get these really cool jobs?? It'd be really cool to find out.
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  • Avatar for ArugulaZ #2 ArugulaZ 10 days ago
    I have Symphony of the Night (in a variety of flavors) as well as the remastered version hidden in the PSP game The Dracula X Chronicles. I prefer the voice overs in the original game, hands down. Sure, it's silly and campy, but at least it isn't bland and stilted like the dialog in Dracula X Chronicles, which sounds like it came from a B-grade anime dub.
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  • Avatar for BulkSlash #3 BulkSlash 10 days ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue By some crazy coincidence Sherudo Garo in Time Crisis was voiced by Michael Guinn who played Dracula in SOTN!!
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #4 CK20XX 10 days ago
    "If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error." - John Kenneth Galbraith

    Did Koji Igarashi like Richter's reveal for Smash Ultimate though? That had his famous line dubbed the way it was likely meant to be in the final product.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #5 SargeSmash 10 days ago
    I think it's worth remembering that a lot of games in this era had poor localizations and voice acting, so I think gamers were willing to cut it a bit of slack.

    Personally, I think Alucard's voice acting is perfect. I still wish I could do that voice. His exclamation of "What?!" when Death takes his stuff... priceless.
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  • Avatar for kidbot #6 kidbot 10 days ago
    Sotn wasn’t a word of mouth game. It did get press in Magazines back to the day. Just because it was before the age of the Internet does not mean that it’s success was garnered by word-of-mouth. Several magazines review this game PSM Magazin even gave it the game of the year at the time. Beating out Final fantasy 7 for the top spot.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #7 nadiaoxford 10 days ago
  • Avatar for moochan #8 moochan 10 days ago
    I loved the localization. Just bad enough to be awkward while still trying to be good. Feel actually trying to be "bad" is really hard if not impossible to really get right because it comes off at trying to hard. While stuff like this was made when no one had any idea what they were doing so if it seem right they did it which brings up fantastic lines like that.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #9 Ohoni 10 days ago
    I still love Dracula: "What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!"
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #10 JamesSwiftDay 10 days ago
    Japanese audio = real audio.

    I can't remember if they got the same actors from Rondo of Blood to reprise their roles for Symphony though.
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  • Avatar for SpoonyBardOL #11 SpoonyBardOL 10 days ago
    I love the SotN dub like I love the Mega Man 8 dub, passionately and (mostly) unironically.

    There truly was a hot minute in video game development after the tech was created to allow extended use of voice acting, but before any standards or expectations had a chance to develop. And in that period of time we got games like SotN and MM8, which produced something far more memorable than if either game had been made today with professionals.

    When Mega Man 11 was announced I briefly thought about what it might be like if Capcom included an optional dub track that was designed to mimic MM8's dub, Dr. Fudd-Light and all, but it's for the best this never came to pass. A group of professional actors really can't capture the essence of these amateur performances, we'll never have dubs like that again, the moment has passed.

    At the every least we'll have 'Die Monster!' and 'Dr. Wahwee' to remind us of that brief period of gaming. Thank goodness they didn't redub MM8 in the second Legacy Collection.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #12 mobichan 10 days ago
    Funny, I basically tolerated the cutscenes because I was more interested in PLAYING the game at the time. I barely remember them at all. No one I knew bought the game because they wanted cutscenes. It was because they wanted Castlevania after a very long drought.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #13 Monkey-Tamer 10 days ago
    I still think Richter's "let's get out of here!" is the best line, and also the last line of the game if I recall correctly. It's so overacted I'm wondering if it was intentional or just done in a vacuum with no knowledge of the context of the situation.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #14 The-Challenger 9 days ago
    @mobichan I never bought a game because it had cut-scenes, BUT anything post 1996, in my mind, should have had cut scenes. Of course now I realize what a colossal waste of money they were (considering how poorly they aged)...but at the time I ate the them up! I actually played through FF6 on the psx just so I could see the final cut scene.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #15 mobichan 9 days ago
    @The-Challenger I can agree if you are playing an RPG. You actively committed time to a story based game and cutscenes are just a fancier version of text boxes and pantomimed in-game sprites. But in an action game, I would not have expected it. Especially when most Metroidvanias up until that point had almost no text at all once you got past the opening scenes. I found the trend in the 90's to just fill up game time (due mostly to CD storage being so vast) to be annoying as hell. At least in the action games I played. It is funny to me that those "growing pain" years didn't actually educate all the indies making retro-inspired games now. People still want to publish their terrible fan fiction level scripts, but haven't learned that it isn't necessary. Less is more when it comes to retro experiences IMO. Edited 2 weeks ago by mobichan
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  • Avatar for Macuelos #16 Macuelos 8 days ago
    At least Symphony of the Night's voice acting makes some amount of sense in context. Compare that to Tales of Phantasia for GBA, where everything not only sounds bad, but Dhaos utters "What the heck is that!?" after getting an Indignation - Thunder of the Gods thrown at his head.

    I recently looked at a transcript of the opening of the DXC version of SotN, and it is just... bland. Chew the scenery more! Where's my narm?
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  • Avatar for toptravel #17 toptravel Yesterday
    By coincidence I landed on your site and have to say that I really liked the design and the information.

    Berita Bola
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