Castlevania: Order of Shadows Q&A
Author: Eduardo Vasconcellos
Date: 23 August 2007
Exclusive: IGN chats with the lead game designer of Konami's upcoming mobile title.
With various publishers making their way into the mobile market, we've been seeing familiar series making their way to the cell phone, but it's not necessarily for the best. It seems that Konami has acknowledged this by bringing their a-list titles to the front lines of wireless. With the announcement of a Metal Gear Solid, it seemed that Konami had some big plans for the smallest of gaming platforms. Now, it's bringing another of its beloved series to mobile with Castlevania: Order of Shadows.
With the announcement, we were curious what was in store for the new vampire slayers as they hunt Dracula in his legendary castle. We recently got the chance to chat with the game's lead designer, Tyrone Rodriguez, who gave us a taste of what to expect from this time around.
IGN Wireless: What did you think of previous versions of Castlevania games for mobile?
Tyrone Rodriguez: There were a few builds made for various regions, including North America. I had the opportunity to play a port of the original Castlevania for mobile. It was relatively true to the first game, but featured marginally-upgraded visuals. As such, there was no drastic improvements on the game—there was no need to. Castlevania is Castlevania, right?
IGN: What sort of improvements are you looking to make over past Castlevania mobile games?
TR: First and foremost, the game control needs to work on mobile phones. Just the fact that this game was designed from the initial high concept to finished product already gives us an advantage versus trying to force the gameplay to work. The first game got some heat from fans for falling short on a few things. What we want to improve upon is the perception from Castlevania fans, new and old, that the series can be fun on mobile. I know there were some criticisms to the originally and it's understandable, but remember the game was designed for NES, not a mobile phone.
IGA and his team have done a fantastic job of evolving the series on DS (and soon PSP). The mobile platform is a challenge in that these phones, while powerful, still don't stack up in terms of tech to a DS or PSP. We want to bring that experience to mobile, even if on a smaller scale.
IGN: What kind gameplay can we expect from Order of Shadows? Will it be several a refined version of what we've seen in the past on other systems, or will it be something built from the ground up, with mobile phones as the primary focus?
TR: Taking a look at all the 2D Castlevania games one thing is constant, the feel is consistent as a series, regardless of the storyline; they all feel like part of the Castlevania series. We want Order of Shadows to be a fun experience and something that is welcomed into the long list of Castlevania games.
With that said, we've taken a look at what we can and can't do on mobile phones and designed a game that feels more like an old-school Castlevania. So to answer your question, it's been built from scratch for mobile phone and draws heavily from series, but definitely not a port.
IGN: A lot of publishers are looking to do straight ports of sidescrollers and other classic titles straight over to the handset, but those don't necessarily make for the best game. What sort of approach are you taking when tailoring this title specifically for mobile?
TR: You're right, direct ports don't necessarily mean that the original game is represented correctly nor will it make for the best game. That doesn't mean this approach won't work, ports of sidescrollers or classic games can work if some time is spent fine-tuning the game control and being mindful of other factors like resolution and frame rates for the different handsets a game will appear on. Even so, it can be a ton of work to retune the game and redo some of the art just to accommodate a mobile phone. After all is said and done, the game still might not match up to the original. There's a sense of freedom creating a game tailored for mobile in that the only expectation is that 2D Castlevania games are fun.
IGN: How is it tied to other Castlevania storylines?
TR: Castlevania: Order of Shadows' main protagonist is a Belmont. He's doing what Belmonts do best.
IGN: How closely are you working with Koji Igarashi for this new title? Was he pretty hands on during the development, or did he just offer some guidance? Did he enjoy the challenge of working on a new platform, or was it outside his expertise?
TR: We met with IGA pretty early on in the development process, he gave his blessing, but also reminded us that the game had to be fun and keep with the spirit of the Castlevania series. This needs no interpretation and reaffirmed our believe that the game had to be designed to embrace the mobile platform. IGA took a look at the design, story and script, giving his input and comments as necessary. He was actively involved with ensuring the game was consistent with the current canon. His attention to detail and knowledge of the series is obviously unrivaled. It's really great to have a living, breathing encyclopedia, even if he's in Roppongi Hills most of the time.
IGA knows games, there's probably nothing related or unrelated to Castlevania he can't handle. His background is in programming so he understands the challenges of mobile. That's been a huge help—he even came up with a few solutions on how to improve hit detection and the whip mechanics.
IGN: What new characters will we be meeting this time around? Will there be any cameos? Who will we be playing as?
TR: The three new Belmonts involved with the Order of Shadows are Desmond, Zoe and Dolores Belmont with the main, playable character being Desmond. I really enjoyed the dynamic in Dracula X between Richter and Maria, that's where we saw the opportunity to integrate Desmond's siblings.
IGN: What sort of timeframe in relation to other Castlevania titles?
TR: Officially, Order of Shadows is considered a "gaiden" or side story to the Castlevania canon. However, it takes place roughly in the late 1600s.
IGN: Are you facing Dracula or will your nemesis be an original character, similar to Brauner from Portrait of Ruin?
TR: Dracula is in the game, but as cliched as this may sound, I hate spoiling the plot. There are a few original characters you'll meet along the way.
IGN: What sort of replay value will Order of Shadows have to offer? Will there be any hidden characters or unlockable areas of the castle?
TR: Again, I don't want to spoil anything, but we're all fans of the series. And we've made sure to include elements within the game that fans will recognize from other games, classic weapons and a few other surprises.