Castlevania: A History of Boss Fights and Their Best Era on Nintendo DS.

Konami’s illustrious Castlevania series is one of the most well-known and beloved side-scrolling series in gaming history. Starting with the NES Castlevania, the series evolved from a difficult 2D platformer into a Metroidvania which invited exploration and RPG elements. Not only is Castlevania known for its stellar soundtrack and gameplay but features a remarkable history of boss battles as well.

However, it’s worth noting that the series’ boss battles evolved over the course of decades. While Castlevania was always known for its difficulty, the boss fights themselves only offered a simplistic variety of attack patterns. Rather, once the series debuted on the Nintendo DS, Castlevania boss fights quickly became tougher.

Note that this list will cover the 2D Castlevania titles from the NES (1986) to Harmony of Despair (2011). This list is meant to cover the evolution of the boss fight creativity within the Castlevania series over the years. With that being said, please be mindful of the Castlevania series spoilers below.

Traditional Platformers – NES

1986’s Castlevania featured boss fights from horror novels, movies, and even the Christian Bible. Among them included Vampire Bat, Medusa, The Creature, the Mummy, Death, and Count Dracula himself. Each boss featured considerably simplistic patterns. However, Simon Belmont’s limited movement made evading their attacks difficult.

Without Holy Water or Cross, you were screwed.

Castlevania III featured several characters including Grant Danasti. This agile pirate could freely control his jump movement in midair. In the Japanese version, he could also throw Knives while also equipping another sub-weapon. Grant could trivialize most boss fights including Dracula.

Haunted Castle’s Dracula featured a sinister yet contrasting visual style to the rest of the game.

Traditional Platformers – 16-bit era

Super Castlevania IV gave Simon free movement control. However, unlike Grant, Simon was considerably larger and thus not quite as agile. Boss fights still played as they did in past games with large health bars but limited movements and simplistic patterns. Despite some bosses being tougher, they could still be trivialized with proper methodology.

Castlevania Bloodlines featured two characters – John and Eric – while Rondo of Blood also featured two characters – Richter and Maria. In Bloodlines, the final boss fight was blocked with a major gauntlet of boss battles including Death, Elizabeth, and Dracula himself. Rondo of Blood also featured a boss gauntlet against the original four bosses from Castlevania before fighting the dark priest, Shaft.

Metroidvania Era – Symphony of the Night

When Symphony of the Night came to PlayStation in 1997, players gained control of a new character: Alucard. Son of Dracula, who originally appeared in Castlevania III for NES, this revamped design of Alucard could equip swords, magic spells, and summon familiars. The Metroidvania era meant the game progressed akin to titles like Super Metroid which featured a map and free exploration. However, you needed to gain certain powerups or keys to gain access to another part of the castle.

Alucard’s free movement, his equipment, the item inventory, and RPG leveling mechanics gave the player new ways to conquer bosses. While some could pose a challenge to the player, proper equips and well-timed dodges could trivialize most of them. Particularly, weapons such as the Valmanway (aka Crissaegrim) or the Alucard Shield + Shield Rod combo effectively rendered all challenge null.

Granted, it took a bit of time and work to even access these items. Symphony of the Night allowed the player a bit of a challenge up until a little past the first half of the game. But with such equips, even the game’s superboss, Galamoth, could fall within seconds.

Metroidvania Era – Game Boy Advance

I found the Dragon Zombies to be among the hardest fights in the game.

Years later, Circle of the Moon, which came to Game Boy Advance in 2001, offered a bit harder of a challenge. I daresay you needed to grind levels in order to take out Adrammelch, Zombie Dragon, Camilla, and Dracula. Nathan needed to find DSS cards in order to cast magic and summon creatures. In my case, I just used a DSS glitch to summon Cockatrice to level the playing field against the bosses.

Neither Harmony of Dissonance nor Aria of Sorrow presented much boss challenge in their Normal difficulty modes. Bosses still moved with their stiff movements. Rather, only the rival battles against Maxim and Julius, respectively, could really be considered challenging for the player. Julius in particular dealt out harsh damage and could use multiple sub-weapons in his boss battle.

Metroidvania Era – Nintendo DS

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow continued the Game Boy Advance titles onto the stronger hardware of the Nintendo DS. Dawn of Sorrow was in fact a direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow. However, the spritework and use of 3D backgrounds, thanks to the stronger processor of the latter handheld, ran more in line with Symphony of the Night on PlayStation.

Portrait of Ruin featured Dracula and Death in the final battle.

However, what stands out here is the particular design of boss battles. Players who failed to read and memorize its pattern would end up punished and lose tons of health compared to past games. Whereas it might be easy to be a bit overleveled in the GBA titles, the DS games knew how to punish the player’s mistakes and give them the right challenge for their approximate level in line with their location.

Flying Armor, the first boss in the game, could pose a serious challenge to the newcomers. It set a standard for much tougher bosses like Abaddon.

Order of Ecclesia took it a step further. Released in 2008, the final true Castlevania title by series producer, Koji Igarashi, offered an even more difficult challenge than its predecessors. In addition to bosses that dealt hard damage to the player, hoarding items was scarcely an option.

Eligor was a colossal boss which had several phases.

Players needed to rescue the villagers of Wygol Village and complete side-quests in order to unlock shops and items from them. In addition to the challenge, you could kill bosses using unique methods as well. Climbing an elevator to kill a giant enemy crab or fighting several phases of a powerful mech golem painted Castlevania’s noteworthy boss fights in a new light.

Extra Modes and Other Titles

The result of the bad ending included a fight with Dracula in Dawn of Sorrow’s Julius Mode.

While players may debate on the difficulty of Symphony of the Night, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow, keep in mind it offered unlockable character modes. Richter, Maxim, and Julius could all be unlocked from these respective games. Moreover, they could not take advantage of the RPG elements such as inventory and equipment. While they could dish out powerful attacks, they were also subject to greater limitations than their respective game’s main protagonist.

Harmony of Despair

Finally, Koji Igarashi’s last game for Konami was Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. Playing as an online multiplayer dungeon crawler, the 2011 title featured a series crossover involving protagonists and stages across multiple games in the series.

Largely taking cues from the DS titles and Symphony of the Night, these bosses required proper strategizing among teammates thanks to their high HP count which could take minutes of dealing damage to finally slay. Furthermore, certain bosses, such as Galamoth and R.Count (from the retro Castlevania stage) could even send out projectiles to attack players outside of the boss room!

Final Thoughts on Castlevania

Castlevania and its boss fights evolved with the times. Throughout the years, it went from bosses with fairly predictable and stiff movements to boss fights against powerful demons and even mechas. Their ever-changing patterns and high damage punishment made games in the latter titles even greater than their predecessors. Furthermore, the boss battles against rival characters, such as the Belmonts themselves, usually ended up being among the hardest.

No matter if Death was facing Richter or Maria, he would yell out, “face me, boy!”

Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained Series

Koji Igarashi formed his own studio, ArtPlay, after leaving Konami. Having developed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, you can find more of his genius designs in this game. Additionally, Inti Creates developed two 8-bit retro spinoffs, the Curse of the Moon series, to accompany Ritual of the Night.

These games offer their own twist on the Castlevania boss formula with a more elaborate pattern akin to something like Shovel Knight. WayForward also developed the Classic Mode in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night which featured a major throwback to the original NES Castlevania.

There’s nothing bad to take away from the original boss fights. However, after the fairly easier titles in the original Metroidvania (or IGAvania) titles, the DS titles easily had some of the best boss fights in the series. I daresay they set a new standard for boss fights in platformers thanks to their challenging, yet balanced, level of difficulty. Their quality spritework, animations, and creative ways of defeating them left DS fans some of the best boss fights in gaming history. But until Konami ever revives the series I recommend investing time into IGA’s Bloodstained titles.

Which Castlevania game do you believe had the best boss fights overall? Let us know in the replies below. Finally, be sure to Like our main page and follow our social media channels for more quality gaming content!

Until next time!

What Were the 6 Best Metroid Games?

When the Metroid series debuted in 1986, on the NES, space warrior Samus Aran took the galaxy by storm. The Metroid series has underwent evolutions several times. Moreover, it’s gone through near decade-long hiatuses several times since its inception.

Therefore, as a long-time Metroid fan, I want to address the best Metroid games in the series. While Nintendo’s intergalactic series remains highly prolific, the gap between the chaff and the wheat might greatly surprise you.

Super Metroid

It comes as no surprise that Super Metroid remains the series’ standard. Longtime fans swear by Super Metroid as the epitome of the series. Evolving from its 8-bit predecessors, this title introduced the mapping system, beam-stacking, and some colossal boss fights.

Super Metroid not only redefined the Metroid series but also gaming as a whole. At the time of its 1994 release, this 24-megabit title was Nintendo’s largest game to date. It also began the modern-day Metroidvania formula thanks to its use of a mini-map. While Metroid on NES introduced gaining abilities to open up new paths, Super Metroid perfected that formula.

The title was known for its massive boss fights, beautiful animation, and diversity in level designs. From the caverns of Planet Zebes to the underwater terrain of Maridia, Super Metroid created incredible and varied worlds. Even though it could be beaten in 8 hours or less, Super Metroid offered replay value for speedrunners, item hunters, and those who simply wanted to pick up and play it again. Best of all, it was polished in a way that still holds the series’ standard. As a result, Super Metroid remains one of the best games on the SNES.

You can play Super Metroid on the Nintendo Switch Online SNES library as well as the 3DS eShop.

Metroid Prime

After Super Metroid, the series spent eight years in hiatus before returning to the Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance. Metroid Prime not only debuted the series in 3D but in first-person as well. Dubbed a “First-Person Adventure” by Nintendo, this title offered more elements than your standard FPS title. Exploration, platforming, and puzzle-solving made up the game’s core concepts.

Metroid Prime continued much of the same action Super Metroid introduced players to. The familiar beams from past titles offered new abilities. Wave Beam was electric and Plasma Beam was fire. These were key in not only solving puzzles but utilizing strategies against enemy weaknesses as well. Furthermore, Missile upgrades allowed these weapons to utilize more powerful abilities such as the Wavebuster and the Flamethrower.

Additionally, Metroid Prime featured more fearsome, gigantic bosses and massive locales. While the artifact hunt near the end might have added some unnecessary padding to the game, Metroid Prime was indeed the longest game in the series at the time. With that being said, Metroid Prime became one of GameCube’s finest hallmarks and a defining title of the 2000s.

Metroid Fusion

The sequel to Super Metroid released on Game Boy Advance at the same time as Metroid Prime. While Prime served as a midquel within the series, Fusion (dubbed “Metroid 4” in the opening) saw Samus taking on the Biologic Space Labs (BSL) to hunt down the X-Parasites.

Metroid Fusion brought much of Super Metroid’s wonderful gameplay and animations to the handheld system. Samus would also gain new weaponry such as the Ice Missiles and Diffusion Missiles.

But what made Metroid Fusion stand out more than anything was its sense of terror. The atmosphere in Fusion indicated you were being stalked by a powerful clone known as the SA-X. This killing machine could end Samus’ life with only a few hits. Along with the music and the bosses that destroyed entire sections, Fusion had the player gripping their handhelds in suspense throughout the game.

Metroid: Zero Mission

Developed as the remake to the original NES Metroid, Zero Mission offered a new story with the upgrades seen in more recent titles. Not only did it feature the gameplay similar to Super and Fusion, such as maps, but it played incredibly fast.

Zero Mission not only served as a wonderful reimagining of the original Metroid, however. It also added a new chapter after the battle with Mother Brain. This new part featured a stealth mission that would also show the origin in Samus’ story.

Moreover, Zero Mission did incredible justice to the boss battles, powerups, and locales of the original Metroid. It was a massive improvement in every way to the original title. As with Fusion, Zero Mission was a stellar game for the GBA.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

The Metroid series’ debut on Wii featured a new control scheme. Developed around using the Wiimote + Nunchuck, players could aim with the controller for accurate precision aiming. Corruption also introduced a new suit power which would briefly power up Samus.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption included voice acting for the first time in the series. This served as a vehicle for one of the most plot-driven entries in the series. Samus met new hunters that were part of her mission and would even interact with them.

Much like the games before it, Corruption featured impressive boss battles, abilities, and gorgeous locales. Unlike Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, however, the player wasn’t forced to get lost and look around for nothing for over an hour. It also did not include a massive fetch quest divided between two worlds. Corruption flowed wonderfully by taking the best parts of its predecessors.

Metroid: Samus Returns

Much like Zero Mission, Samus Returns serves as a reimagining of a previous game. This remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy) was done by Mercury Steam. However, the developers also collaborated with series creator Yoshio Sakamoto as well as one of the composers of Super Metroid.

Samus Returns was fittingly named as it ended the second major hiatus of the Metroid series. Featuring larger areas and Aeion abilities, Samus Returns continued to build upon the formula. While reintroducing Metroid evolutions, these served as boss battles with various patterns to challenge the player.

While Samus Returns wasn’t the prettiest game, one could suggest the visuals weren’t as gorgeous due to the limitations of the 3DS hardware. However, Samus Returns played incredibly well and featured the fast-paced gameplay Metroid fans enjoyed. Moreover, the final boss was an incredible surprise for players including those who had played Metroid II for Game Boy.

Final Thoughts

Three years after the release of Samus Returns, I’m eagerly awaiting Nintendo to announce a new Metroid game. Even if we get a 2D title before Metroid Prime 4 – more likely than not at this point – I’m always ready for more. I feel that the series had its ups and downs. While the lower points of the series weren’t exactly stellar, the best games were among some of the greatest of all time.

What’s your favorite Metroid game? Do you have a favorite boss fight? Let us know in the comments below.

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