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!

Watch Baki If You’re Looking for Your Next Combat Anime Fix

I recently finished the Netflix anime series Baki. Recommended by the good guys who run the Manime panel at Anime Weekend Atlanta, my girlfriend picked this one out for us. She picked this right after we finished Kengan Ashura, another stellar combat anime series I recommend.

With that being said, Baki has its ups and downs. But I will say those downs don’t really hit until the end which I’ll get to shortly. For what it’s worth though, this anime kicks ass. The animation, the music, the character design, and even the narrative history on martial arts and other tidbits of trivia hit a high note.

You’ll enjoy the grossly exaggerated feats.

For those wondering, this adaptation of Baki does not take place at the beginning of the manga. This anime begins with the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc. The previous tournament arc is essentially recapped right in the opening.

With that being said, I would love to get to the point on why I recommend Baki.

What to Expect from Baki

Baki the Grappler is a martial arts shonen manga released in Japan in 1991. It features the young martial artist, Baki, who seeks to defeat his father, Yujiro Hanma, also known as the Strongest Living Creature. Having murdered Baki’s mother, he seeks revenge while training and fighting against many powerful martial artists.

Yujiro Hanma is also known as The Ogre.

Compared to your contemporary shonen anime, however, Baki is a great deal more violent and geared towards a more mature audience. Think more like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in terms of violence because it pushes on horror levels of gore. On the flipside, Baki also offers insightful trivia on martial arts, history, as well as some grossly exaggerated anatomical feats such as surviving bullets to the face.

The fighters can engage each other anywhere at any time.

The Netflix arc focuses not just on Baki but on a myriad of fighters. The Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc features five fugitives who escaped the death penalty and traveled to Tokyo in order to seek defeat. These convicts fight against Baki as well as his fellow martial artists including Doppo Orochi, Kaioh Retsu, and Gouki Shibukawa, among others.

Stellar Work of Animation and Narrative

Being released in 2018, Baki features some of the most cutting-edge animation. Many of the fights feature some incredibly hard-hitting blows and fast-paced fighting. Along with the stellar character detail, I can’t say enough good things about it.

Every fighter in this series is a true badass. Fighters like Biscuit Oliva and Jack Hanma are among the most intimidating people introduced alongside the already frightening Death Row Convicts. Not to mention some of the convicts are just downright sick in the head, like Spec, who will surely disturb you.

I enjoyed watching the dub which featured prominent voice talents like Steve Blum as Doppo Orochi. However, feel free to pick whichever language suits you.

Baki brings a wonderful notion of dread especially throughout the first part of the Death Row Convicts arc. The villains are seemingly unbeatable at first and the fights involve a number of grotesque sequences. For a martial arts series, I daresay the level of violence might blow your mind.

A Couple of Drops in Writing

However, Baki isn’t a perfect anime. I feel there were a few studders here and there with the writing. Naturally, whether it’s the same as in the manga or not, I’m not sure. I certainly don’t fault the anime production team for bringing this to life. Regardless, the writing dips once during the first arc and essentially the second half of the last arc.

**SPOILERS BELOW**

For starters, Dorian’s defeat egged me a little bit. He was soundly defeated by Doppo Orochi. Yet he retaliates in a sneak attack against Orochi only to be defeated quickly by Kaioh Retsu. As such, he loses his mind and regresses to a childlike persona. I don’t know why that was ever necessary when it could have ended at Orochi.

This problem also extends similarly to my least favorite arc, the Muhammad Ali Jr. arc. While the manga pays great tribute to Ali, his son initially starts off as an incarnation of Ali, but younger, in the Baki series. Beating down tough fighters using Ali’s skills, Ali Jr. quickly becomes a dominant fighter. Where does that lead us?

I will say, however, that the series pays tremendous respsect to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

After his utter defeat, he is rematched by and loses to the 3 competitors he previously defeated. Suddenly, he’s going to challenge Baki Hanma and expect to win? After his inevitable defeat, he’s reduced to a crying mess. While I’m all for an arc where a powerful character is humbled and grows from it, nothing came of this ass-whooping that Ali Jr. received.  It felt like a pointless direction. And to make matters worse, the arc ends on the cliffhanger of Baki and Yujiro finally going to battle.

**END SPOILERS**

The Ali Jr. arc in itself wasn’t terrible. But it didn’t live up to the Raitai Tournament and certainly not the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc which I found epic. It still had plenty of gorgeously animated visceral scenes but it lacked the tension of the previous arcs as well as building up a prominent fighter just to drop him like a basket of eggs.

Final Thoughts

I especially enjoyed the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc. I loved the premise of a life-or-death tournament where a battle could happen at any time. These frightening convicts with superhuman strength were fighting to kill and the series wasn’t afraid to gross you out with it. The latter arcs were endearing with their fights and animation but nothing quite hit like the first one.

With that being said, Baki isn’t perfect but it’s certainly worth watching. For shonen and martial arts enthusiasts, definitely give this one a watch. If you’re interested even further, seek out the manga or the older anime series to catch up on what happened before the Netflix series.

If big muscles, hand-to-hand combat, and gory deaths excite you, Baki will surely deliver. While I would disagree with the direction of writing in a couple of places, I still found myself entertained throughout. The Death Row Convicts and Raitai Tournament arcs were surely exciting.

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The Nintendo Switch Features We Want to See Most.

Nintendo recently released version 10.0.0 for the Nintendo Switch. The new update features a controller button mapping system, news bookmarks, and the ability to transfer software data between the console and the MicroSD card. If you were expecting more from the update, then I’m afraid that’s all there really is. As the Nintendo Switch has been out since March 2017, people have been clamoring for numerous features to be added to Nintendo’s latest console.

Unfortunately, even after three years worth of updates, Nintendo Switch shows itself as a gaming console with bare-bones features otherwise. While Nintendo’s previous handheld, the 3DS, was capable of multiple features, Nintendo seems much more conservative with updating the Switch for reasons unknown. With that said, we’ll go over some of the most demanded features players want Nintendo to implement.

Themes

Topping the list of most wanted features, people have wanted Themes on Switch for years. While themes have been a part of consoles since the Sony PlayStation 3‘s release in 2006, even Nintendo’s handheld, the 3DS, implemented them within 2 years of the system’s release. Featuring a pretty background with music accompanying it, themes add all kinds of life to your menu. Unfortunately, the Switch only has two themes: Light and Dark. Despite fans clamoring for it for years, Nintendo has remained silent on the subject.

Apps

Netflix, Crunchyroll, WWE Network, and other streaming apps all appear on modern consoles like PS4 and Xbox One. Even the Wii U, Nintendo’s last generation console, had Netflix on it. With the Nintendo Switch, it’s entirely possible to take the system with you and it should be able to play most of the same apps as other systems. Yet for some reason, Nintendo has once again decided to take a step back on their console’s possibilities. The only multimedia apps available for the Switch right now are Hulu and YouTube.

Avatars

While Nintendo featured avatars from Mario, Zelda, and Kirby, fans believed that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would open the floodgates for dozens of profile pictures to be featured. Yet again, Nintendo failed to deliver on an opportunity. Even with the release of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Nintendo never bothered to update their avatars with the game’s characters. But at least Nintendo updated it with Animal Crossing: New Horizons characters, right?

Folders

If Nintendo added folders, this would make it much easier and more compact to find the games you want to play. Yet another feature missing from the 3DS, folders allowed for easy organization for games. Instead, you have to scroll all the way to the right of the menu just to pull up the library and find the game you want to play.

Music for eShop

The eShop in Wii U and 3DS played catchy music. In fact, this even dates back to the Wii’s Shop. The music was so catchy it was even added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a remix. Why the eShop remains silent to this day no one knows. Much like with Themes, this would bring out more life in the Switch’s potential.

Pro Controller Disconnect

Specifically for Smash and potential fighting game players, Pro Controller Disconnect would become a massive help for the tournament scene at large. Right now, the only way to desync your Pro Controller is manually. Otherwise, you’ll have a synced Pro Controller prevent a character select screen from progressing into the tournament match just because the controller is still active. Without a way to immediately desync controllers by simply removing the USB cable from the Switch, this will continue being a nightmare for tournament organizers and pool captains wishing to go home from an event.

A Georgia Smash tournament even used it as a name for their event.

Final Thoughts

The list itself isn’t big by any means. It’s a few simple requests which Nintendo has chosen to stay silent about. Even after a 10.0.0 update, “stability enhancements” are about the most constructive thing Nintendo has done with the console save for one or two little features, such as zoom. While people will continue supporting the console due to its extensive software library, many fans remain skeptical that Nintendo will ever bother updating the system with the aforementioned features. But if the day comes, better late than never, right?

Which features would you like implemented most? Let us know in the comments below.