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!

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection: New to the Series? Here’s a Quick Primer to Get You Started!

Capcom is set to release their upcoming platformer, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, for the Nintendo Switch next month. First debuting at The Game Awards 2020, the upcoming title marks the first entry in over a decade. Known for its brutal and punishing difficulty, the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series continues to charm players with its soundtracks and monster designs.

This series features you playing as Sir Arthur, a knight who must rescue the Princess from the demons of hell. These hordes of monsters take many forms with some surprisingly twisted and terrifying for such a bright and colorful game. The end of each game features a showdown against the demon lord which usually comes from Biblical and mythical origins, such as Samael and Astaroth.

Much like Konami’s Castlevania, the series features a gothic horror approach albeit a bit more colorful and less bloody. Arthur can also equip different weapons which include throwing daggers and even firebombs which act like the series’ own Holy Water. 2D side-scrolling aficionados will immediately feel at home playing this title.

Did You Say Hard?

Yes, I did say this game is hard. It’s a daunting and unforgiving series dating back to the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins release in the mid-80s. Arthur can only take two hits before he’s reduced to a pile of bones.

Fear not because later titles, like Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for SNES, offered easier difficulty levels and extra lives. For the unsuspecting player, though, Normal will rip them to shreds on just the first stage. Though, coming from Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, I can safely tell you that it is the hardest stage in the game before the final. The rest are moderately difficult but not spawn-zombies-in-your-face difficult. You can learn more about the difficulty settings and new modes here.

I’m not going to say something outlandish like “Ghosts ‘n Goblins is the Dark Souls of 2D platformers” even though that wouldn’t be far from the contextual truth. The series is, in fact, soul-crushing at times. Fortunately, Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for SNES is quite fair in that it punishes your mistakes but rewards good play. It comes down to more than just stage memorization. Your reflexes, proper item choosing, and your ability to time your jumps carefully will reward your play in time.

Can I just say that I adore Shinkiro‘s art?

Curious About Trying the Series Before Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection?

If you own a Switch and have an online subscription, you have access to the NES and SNES libraries. As such, you can try Ghosts ‘n Goblins for NES and Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for SNES. Unless Switch ever adds a Sega Genesis library ala the Virtual Console from past Nintendo consoles, you might have to emulate to get Ghouls ‘n Ghosts.

Sony’s PlayStation Portable also featured Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins which released in 2006. This was the first rebirth of the series before its long slumber. This title also added easier difficulties.

With that being said, I only recommend Ghosts ‘n Goblins on NES if you’re a complete masochist. You do not have a double jump and movement is much stiffer. If you want to play a quality platformer, then I strongly recommend Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on SNES. It’s an enjoyable game with some great music and a reasonably difficult challenge for platforming enthusiasts. Don’t feel bad if you’re new to the series and want to try an easy difficulty either.

Brief Timeline of the Series

If you’re interested in the release order, take a look here!

Ghosts ‘n Goblins came out in the Arcades in 1985 and NES in 1986. Known for its tremendously difficult platforming action, the series would kickoff with Arthur rescuing the Princess from the clutches of the demon Astaroth.

Ghouls ‘n Ghosts debuted on Arcade machines in 1988. The sequel to Ghosts ‘n Goblins actually featured a backstory of a demonic genocide to include the life of the Princess. While ported on multiple systems, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is perhaps best known for appearing on the Sega Genesis.

Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts came out on SNES in 1991. This key title featured quality-of-life improvements to control, giving Arthur a double jump, and began to round out the difficulty. The title received a Game Boy Advance port in 2002 as well featuring new level designs.

Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins is the first reboot of the series. Not affiliated as a direct sequel to any game, Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins brought the series to PSP in 2006. This version brought new difficulty modes which affected level designs. Plus it featured a new equipping system allowing Arthur to store his weapons. The title received a Japanese-exclusive re-release as well.

Capcom releaesed the ever rare Makaimura for Wonderswan in the 90s as well as two mobile apps, titled Gold Knights, for mobile devices. The series also spun-off into titles such as Gargolye’s Quest. This culminated into the popular SNES title, Demon’s Crest. Additionally, Capcom also developed the Maximo titles for PS2, a sister series which took the formula into 3D.

Final Thoughts

I’m eager to try Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection. I feel Switch has been hurting for games over the past year and Capcom’s helping inject some life (and death) into the library. Plus nothing feels quite as good as seeing an old franchise revived once more. We haven’t seen Arthur since his inclusion in Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite.

But Infinite is ugly so we’ll show you Marvel vs. Capcom 3 instead.

Capcom will also release Capcom Arcade Stadium for Nintendo Switch in February. This title will feature 32 Capcom classics including Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Super Street Fighter II Turbo. You can also choose to buy them in bundles instead of the whole game at once.

ACT Capcom Arcade Stadium

Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection will come out for Nintendo Switch on February 25, 2021. Within a month away, you may want to check out Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and see what the fuss is about. Be sure to follow our social media channels below for our latest gaming content!

Until next time!

Super Mario 3D World: Nintendo introduces Bowser’s Fury in a new trailer for Switch.

Earlier today, Nintendo unveiled their latest trailer for Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. While Super Mario 3D World, a port of the 2013 Nintendo Wii U title, was showcased last year, Nintendo has now featured Bowser’s Fury mode. This new campaign seems to feature an open-world structure and all-new challenges for players while accompanied by Bowser Jr.

Bowser’s Fury seems to show a new, powerful form of Bowser. Fans of past Mario games know of Bowser’s ability to grow into a giant. That also extends to the Smash Bros. series where Bowser can become Giga Bowser. However, this new form is a darker, spikier, and more menacing form of Bowser. Not to mention it’s not often you hear a symphonic metal track playing in a Mario game.

The Bowser’s Fury campaign also features new goals such as collecting Cat icon medals, enemies like Cat Piranha Plants, and even features Bowser Jr’s Magic Paintbrush from Super Mario Sunshine return.

What makes Super Mario 3D World charming?

Super Mario 3D World spawned from its 3DS predecessor, Super Mario 3D Land, while making a number of improvements to the formula. It takes the 4-player co-op of New Super Mario Bros., adds Peach as a playable character, and is designed by the team behind the Super Mario Galaxy titles. Peach’s addition marks the first time she’s been playable in a mainline Mario title since Super Mario Bros. 2.

Another reference to Super Mario Bros. 2.

The stage design in 3D World is nothing short of perfect. There’s a stage dedicated to Super Mario Kart, a snow stage where you can wear a Goomba’s Shoe variant with skates, and even explore a Boo Mansion with a haunting filter. Every stage in the game caters to 1 to 4 players without sacrificing mobility, pacing, or design choices that could compromise the enjoyment based on the player count.

The lush visuals, stellar level design, and enemy variety, awesome soundtrack, boss battles, and powerups offer some of the single best gameplay in a Nintendo title to date. The multiple suits, including Tanooki, Cat, Boomerang, and even Gold Cat, bring back the days of hunting down suits in Super Mario Bros. 3!

The release of this software on Nintendo’s failed Wii U console does not do the software justice. As with past Wii U hits before it, this amazing title finally finds its way home on Nintendo’s Switch. Every attention to detail, from the controls to the secrets, were polished with the finest care and made the game enjoyable from start to finish and beyond.

With that being said, I would daresay that it was the best game on the console. As such, this upcoming release should be missed by absolutely no one. If you were a fan of Super Mario Galaxy, I cannot stress this enough: You will absolutely adore 3D World.

I assure you the soundtrack is just as good as in the Galaxy titles.

Release Date

Super Mario 3D World comes to Nintendo Switch on February 12, 2021. You can preorder the title from retailers as well as the Nintendo eShop. Nintendo is also releasing a specially themed Mario edition Switch releasing on the same day.

Also, be sure to check out these Cat Mario and Cat Peach amiibos coming out on the game’s release date!

Follow us on our social media links below. Be sure to keep up with us as we update you with the latest info on Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury!

Balan Wonderworld, New 3D Platformer Developed by Sonic the Hedgehog Creators, Coming in 2021.

Balan Wonderworld is an upcoming 3D platformer developed by the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog. Helmed by Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima, Square-Enix’s upcoming title will herald the return of two platforming legends from the heydays of Sega and Sonic Team. This will also debut their new development studio, Balan Company.

What makes Balan Wonderworld significant?

Naoto Ohshima created Sonic the Hedgehog while Yuji Naka programmed the original Genesis titles. Yuji Naka would later lead Sonic Team in developing Sonic titles before leaving Sega in 2006. His last original platformer that featured a mascot character was Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg for GameCube in 2003. Perhaps the most striking resemblance this has to Naka’s past work, however, is NiGHTS into dreams…

While Naoto Ohshima had continued developing games outside of Sega since 2001, he would find success in creating his own mascot platformer, Blinx the Time Sweeper, for Xbox. His studio, Artoon, would later go on to develop Yoshi’s Island DS. Once Artoon disbanded, Ohshima founded Azrest, which would develop games for Nintendo franchises, such as Yoshi’s New Island and Hey! Pikmin for 3DS.

With that being said, this is the first time Naka and Ohshima have teamed up together in decades. For fans of classic Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS Into dreams…, this game feels like the return of an important era.

You can learn more about the title from the official website here.

Releasing in the perfect timeframe.

Balan Wonderworld will release during an era where 3D platforms have seen a massive boom. While Nintendo has pressed on with successful titles, like Super Mario Odyssey, only in the last few years have 3D platformers seen mainstream success in the gaming market once more.

Former Banjo-Kazooie developers founded Playtonic Games, creating Yooka-Laylee. Independent studios, such as Playful Studios, succeeded with games like New Super Lucky’s Tale for Nintendo Switch.

Meanwhile, Insomniac Studios‘ reboot of Ratchet and Clank in 2016 set the groundwork for the upcoming title Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Plus, developers Vicarious Visions and Toys for Bob remade classic PlayStation titles in the form of Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, respectively. In the former’s case, Toys for Bob is currently developing Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Final Thoughts

As a longtime platforming fan, I’m glad to see the creators of Sonic working on a new project. I’m almost intrigued to play Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg and NiGHTS into dreams…, the latter being released on the PlayStation Store for PS3. If nothing else, I suppose I could watch a playthrough on YouTube.

It would be fun to delve into Yuji Naka’s earlier works before this title comes out. While Sega has catered to fans with references to both games over the years, fans truly loved these original titles and want to see their creativity return.

While some 3D platformers have floundered with titles, like Sonic Forces in 2017, their releases have otherwise come few and far in between. However, thanks to the efforts of Insomniac Studios, Toys for Bob, and now Balan Company, platforming fans can rest assured; the era is back.

Look forward to Balan Wonderworld when it comes out for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, and Nintendo Switch in Spring 2021. Keep up with us and follow our site for incoming updates on Balan Wonderworld!

Koji Igarashi Announces Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2.

Earlier this week, Koji Igarashi (IGA), founder of ArtPlay, announced a sequel to 2017’s retro 8-bit love-letter to the classic Castlevania series, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. The title will receive a sequel featuring Zangetsu, main character of the first adventure, as well as three new playable characters replacing the playable cast from the first title.

About Bloodstained

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon serves as the spin-off precursor IGA’s larger project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. With the former title, developed by Inti Creates, it served as a tribute to the NES Castlevania titles. Ritual of the Night, however, served as a successor to IGA’s own produced Castlevania titles. Bloodstained Curse of the Moon 2, however, already shows more promise given the trailer’s use of new stage design choices.

While Curse of the Moon felt like a proper love-letter to the original Castlevania titles, its design scope felt limited beyond a few incentives to replay. The sequel, however, already shows the kind of promise you might expect from a quality indie platformer such as Shovel Knight.

What makes Bloodstained special?

The NES Castlevania titles were known for their critically-acclaimed platforming. The original Castlevania title remains a favorite among NES fans to this day. The first entry featured Simon Belmont, the gothic horror enemies, 5 different sub-weapons, a killer soundtrack, and the first of many epic battles against Lord Dracula.

Koji Igarashi’s Metrodivania titles integrated even more storyline into the narrative ranging from Alucard fighting his father, Dracula, to Soma Cruz, protagonist of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, discovering he was Dracula’s reincarnation. The exploration and map system borrowed heavily from Nintendo’s Metroid series while the RPG elements allowed you to equip weapons, armor, spells, and level up with EXP.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon continued the former’s tradition by allowing you to switch characters like in Castlevania III. Ritual of the Night took over Symphony of the Night and onward’s formula, allowing you to explore the castle to your heart’s content. Also note that Circle of the Moon (CotM) itself is a reference to Castlevania: Circle of the Moon which was released on GBA in 2001.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy platforming titles, we strongly recommend checking out Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. As with Shovel Knight, it serves as a love-letter to classic 8-bit platforming with a polished sheen, epic boss battles, and even replay incentives.

I found Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night to be a fine game. The series already shows that it features the spirit of Castlevania in many ways. As someone who also feels great disappointment in Konami’s performance – or lack thereof – over the past decade, IGA has yet to let us down.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 will release on July 10th, 2020. Keep up with us as we cover ArtPlay and IntiCreates‘ latest title. The title will also feature a 2-player co-op mode. If you are seeking more info on Bloodstained, follow us on our social media links below. We’ll keep you updated with Curse of the Moon 2 here.