Afterthoughts: Dawn of Sorrow
Author: Shane Bettenhausen
Date: 29 October 2005
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is a fine, fine game — good enough to convert many DS haters to DS lovers. (Or at the very least, convince them to buy a DS.) After playing the game to death in both Soma and Julius modes, EGM sat down with Castlevania overlord Koji Igarashi (better known as IGA) to discuss the making of his latest gothic masterpiece.
EGM: Dawn of Sorrow was tougher than the previous two GBA games. Was this a conscious design decision?
IGA: he game is quite easy if you use the correct souls. It seems difficult at first glance, but you'll be able to find really useful souls along the way.
EGM: Did you design the castle to be less linear than the previous games?
IGA: You can move freely to some extent, but you will need specific items to progress. Much like in SotN, I wanted to give the player a little bit of freedom. When it comes to map exploration, it's actually more difficult than Aria of Sorrow.
EGM: How did you approach the design of Celia's fortress... since it isn't technically Castlevania?
IGA: With Aria of Sorrow, that is the cursed castle of Dracula. But this cult fortress is a modernized replica of the castle, you'll see cars and machinery. So, sometimes it's close to the traditional castle, but on the other hand it uses a lot of dark alchemy and machines.
EGM: How did you go about balancing the collection of souls?
IGA: You'll start to receive souls as you play, and once you start amassing them, you'll want more. Three-star souls are quite rare, and it's really up to the player. As a hardcore gamer, you'll feel that you really want to get them, but beginners might not want to take the time to collect them. You can clear the game without getting any of those rare souls. You'll find lots of joke enemies as well.
EGM: It seems that most of the traditional Castlevania bosses are AWOL. Why make so many new bosses?
IGA: After defeating boss characters you get specific boss soul powers, so we designed all-new bosses around these powers that you'd need to traverse through the game.
EGM: We love all the weird, wacky souls that you can collect. Our personal favorite is the Waiter Skeleton... what's yours?
IGA: He throws tons of curry on level 3. Personally, my favorite soul is the Bone Ark. No, it's totally strong! You're invincible! I also like the Ghost soul, because it comes out of Soma's mouth. I was hoping that the ghost would be able to attack some enemies, but nah, that would be too easy. You can go through doors into locked rooms. Think about the total balance that we've delivered this time... some really useful souls, others utterly useless and funny. The development team made stuff really useless just for fun.
EGM: Were you able to get everything you wanted into the game?
IGA: No, I didn't have much time to get everything in. The enemies are really close to those in SotN. We ended up having to port several of them in directly from that game. If we had a lot more time, I would have created a lot of new enemy designs. The DS has a pretty good capability for doing 3D backgrounds, actually. One thing I would point out about developing for the DS, we had a lot of problems making transparencies here, even more than on PS1. So, I sort of faked them with color balance. I also wanted to include a third potential candidate for the resurrection of Dracula, a worn-out salaryman who's 37 years old, the same age as I am. He's got a bad combover, a family, two daughters, The older daughter hates him, tells him that "you stink! I hate you." He's a middle manager at a large Japanese company. Ha, my team all told me that they hated this character and wouldn't let me include him. This character wanted to buy a house, so he borrows money from Celia's cult. In the middle of the fight against Soma, he'd win the lottery and just decide to leave the race.
One other story I was thinking of is that in AoS Soma was a high school student, so now he's a ronin, a wandering masterless samurai. My team wouldn't go with that, either.
I wanted more enemy types, and more background variations, but time didn't allow. I would have also liked to use the touch panel for more stuff, including a potion mixing alchemy feature. The conditions for mixing would vary depending on what you wanted to make, you'd have to stir in different circles. It would have been a good gimmick, but implementing it would have been tough. Oh, and I wanted to include a feature where you'd use the microphone to speak to the enemies.
EGM: I think fans are really happy that you finally let Arikado come back into action...
IGA: I thought Arikado was a really cheesy guy! I thought you guys already knew who he was! Officially, we've denied it in the past, but now we'll come out and say it. Hammer, however, is still mysterious. What's his last name?
EGM: Next year is the 20th anniversary of Castlevania... do you have anything special planned?
IGA: Actually, I've been so busy with my two games that I only recently realized that it was coming up so soon! Maybe I should delay Curse of Darkness until next year [Laughs]
EGM: Well, you have two years until the 10th anniversary of Symphony of the Night. That way, you can make the ultimate version of that for PSP with all-new voiceovers.
IGA: Do you think Sony concept approval would let us? I doubt it.