Things are looking up for Konami in a very specific area. On October 26, 2018, two things are happening. One, Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood is dropping on the PlayStation Network. Two, season two of the Castlevania Netflix show will premiere. It’s a Castlevania double-header, and Konami is taking advantage of the hype.
Here’s another important example. When the Nintendo Switch launched, one of the earliest titles was a little game called Super Bomberman R. At this point, the Metal Gear drama and loud ousting of Hideo Kojima had occurred, and the common phrase was “F*ck Konami.” But here was this game, the first Bomberman game in several years, using the classic title of some of the greatest multiplayer games of the 16-bit era. It wasn’t amazing, and truthfully had some big flaws. It sold well being on the switch, but even most hopeful people wrote it off.
Then Konami shocked everyone by updating it. And Konami didn’t just fix some performance features. Konami added content. Then Konami added even more content. Super Bomberman R is still being supported over a year later, and the roster has blown up with several characters, some representing consoles after the game was ported and others being drawn from the four corners of Konami history. Included, in a big way, is Castlevania, the company’s longest-running and arguably most troubled IP that many gamers still have a great fondness for. But that’s not all!
Konami also leapt into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in a huge way. There are music tracks, so many music tracks, three characters, and Bomberman! It’s wild, not only that Bomberman and Simon Belmont make an appearance, but Richter Belmont and Alucard as well. Oh, and by the way, Richter and Alucard are the leads in Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night respectively, with Alucard also being a big part of the Castlevania Netflix show. Coincidence? Hell no.
We need to jump back to Castlevania Requiem, because that release is also significant. This isn’t the first time either of these games have been ported, with both being on the PSP, Symphony making it to the PSOne Classics line, and the Xbox 360 version. But this is the first time Konami isn’t simply just porting the games without any bells and whistles. Konami is actually working with developers at Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios to emulate these games, while incorporating bonus emulation techniques, wrapping it in a proper shell, and having trophies. It’s a digital-only release with a budget-friendly price, but it feels important, and letting an industry-important developer in is big in terms of optics.
So what does this mean? Konami has long been facing a lot of gamer rage due to its penchant for turning classic IP into pachinko machines and the whole Metal Gear fiasco. But now the company, after taking a weird break from pushing video games, seems to have leapt back into the pool with a splash. Not only that, but Konami is bringing its older IP back, but doing so in a way that doesn’t feel like desperate flinging towards western tastes. Sure it’s a re-release, but it’s a far cry from all the meandering that happened with Lord of Shadows.
But then I look back at Bomberman, and Super Smash Bros., and I see new representations of these characters that are firmly rooted in their classic forms. I see the Castlevania TV show and notice how much it attempts to work off the series’ classic art, as it become known for in the 90's. Konami, rather than desperately trying to adapt and insert itself in the AAA space, seems to have humbled a bit, perhaps due to its recent failures, and is treating its historic IP with not only more of a reverence, but a sense of realism.
A big, western-style AAA Castlevania didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean the series needs to be doomed to fuzzy Nintendo Virtual Console emulation either. Somewhere in the middle is a good idea, and testing the waters with a respectable port/bundle is a great idea. Smash Bros. will only help, and I’m sure Bloodstained was a motivating factor as well.
Say what you will about Konami, but that brand has a legacy that is just as important to video game history as many of its peers, more so in some cases. The Metal Gear situation was ugly, but don’t forget Silent Hill is all but dead as well. It was a frustrating time for sure, but someone in that company seems to have learned a little something along the way. I for one am willing to hear that person out for a bit and see what happens.