As Challenging as Castlevania? Koji Igarashi Explains “Bloodstained” Delay, Side-scroller Games not Dead

The legendary creator of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Koji “IGA” Igarashi, cracking his whip in front of Filipino fans was easily one of the highlights of ESGS (E-sports and Gaming Summit) 2016.

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Iga’s appearance marks his first visit in the Philippines since the announcement of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Announced back in 2015, it’s his formal comeback to his signature genre fondly called by fans as “Igavania” – a nod to his work in the Castlevania series.

Bloodstained is arguably something fans of the genre will go crazy over – it’s a side-scrolling adventure game studded with gothic art designed by the godfather of the genre. It features a new heroine named Miriam, which is a breather from your typical long-haired pretty boy (bishounen) hero. Cursed by magic, she explores a demonic castle.

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The game also marks his return after leaving Konami in 2014, literally backed up by fans via an immensely successfully Kickstarter campaign. Bloodstained already received $5 million on the crowdfunding site when it was originally aiming for only $500,000. TechPorn had a chance to talk to Igarashi about the status of his much-awaited comeback, why there will no games about robots anytime soon, his Gothic roots and hints on a sequel.

First of all, I am trying very hard from saying the lines from (Castlevania) Symphony of Night. I am a big fan and I bet people here in ESGS are happy you graced ESGS. 

KOJI: I really didn’t expect that we will be received this warmly. When we created games, we usually marketed it in North America and Europe. Seeing that we have fans from the Philippines is surprising and humbling. It’s also refreshing to see women here who are fans. In the past, most fans who approached me are men – fathers who were teens not so long ago who played Castlevania.

Can you describe Bloodstained in three words?

KOJI: (Stares blankly at me for a few seconds) Gothic horror. Wait that’s two words. (laughter) Gothic, exploration and action. That got me thinking.

Can you talk about the consistency of your art style? Ever thought of moving out from Gothic-inspired games?

KOJI: The reason why Bloodstained is so similar to previous Castlevania is because we started this as a Kickstarter campaign. We heard the fans saying they want to play the same kind of Castlevania game eight years ago. I am just answering on their requests that’s why Bloodstained has that same feel.

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When we were creating Bloodstained, we thought that we can’t design a game featuring robots and science fiction all of a sudden. First things first, it has to be Gothic horror and then it has to be 2D side scroller / platformer game. Symphony of the Night has a big influence on me so similarities are inevitable.

The genre of this game is generally called “Igavania.” But looking back, there has only been a few side scroller games like this released in the past few years. Your thoughts?

KOJI: Any genre has encountered ups and downs. I believe that side scrollers or any genre, really, will never go out as long as there are gamers who are passionate about it and developers who love the genre and willing to create games. There is a big fan base out there just waiting to play a good game. I hope Bloodstained could contribute in building the momentum and love again for this genre.

For the completionists reading TechPorn, can we expect Bloodstained to be as challenging as Castlevania?

KOJI: When we started working on (Castlevania) Symphony of the Night, that’s the first game in the series I worked on, its actually a lot easier. The difficulty is much lower than the previous Castlevanias. The reason for this is that I want a challenging game but at the same time I want everyone to play.

If they take their time, anyone can clear Symphony of the Night and that’s the way I want the game to be. It shouldn’t be just for the people who are very skilled.  For Bloodstained, I don’t think that it will be more difficult. The challenge is reasonable and there are ways for players to make the gameplay more challenging for their tastes. A good game is a game enjoyed by people.

Why bring the game to Kickstarter instead of partnering with a big game publisher?

KOJI: When I left Konami, I actually had a publisher that was supposed to fund Bloodstained. But after leaving and trying to make this work, the publisher said that they can’t fund us because the company policy changed. That’s why I searched for other publishers – big, medium, and small sized publishers – to fund the game but I didn’t find any in the end. That’s when I decided to go to Kickstarter campaign and show these publishers that there are so many fans who want Bloodstained to happen.

Is it liberating to be able to develop this kind of game again with your ideas backed by Kickstarter instead of a traditional publisher?

KOJI: For me, I always think about my fans first and what they want to play. For me this is my biggest passion. I felt that I have more freedom to pursue my ideas and Kickstarter allowed me to be closer with my fans and also hear their opinions in a very personal way.

What’s stood out the most from your experience working on Bloodstained so far?

KOJI: Feedback. You get unfiltered feedback from the fans supporting you. It’s a very intimate relationship and I am amazed not just on the amount of support and love Bloodstained got but also on how invested fans are to make this game better. It’s like having a new boss.

How much of Bloodstained have you completed? You’ve previously announced it has been delayed to the first half of 2018.

KOJI: Right now, we are in the middle of reconstructing our gaming development. We are also changing our development team so right now we are around 10 – 20% complete with Bloodstained. I have a benchmark of quality to meet and I think we are on track to meet this once we have new staff on board.

Can you tease us on a sequel Bloodstained?

KOJI: All depends on the fans and the reception. But to be honest, I am definitely up for it. But now, we are focusing all our talent and time on Bloodstained. I don’t want to fail my fans and those who believe and support me. No promises, but it is on the table.

How about a new game?

KOJI: I have some ideas but I am not sure if I’ll be able to create it. There are some concepts in mind but I feel that the fans or supporters will not like it as much as I do. Let’s see how Bloodstained will turn out first. That’s the most important thing to accomplish so far.

“Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night” is scheduled to hit the market in 2018 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC and Mac. You can still pledge at least $5 to the project or $28 to secure a digital copy of the game. A $60 pledge will get you a physical copy, while a maximum pledge of $10,000 gets you a special collector’s edition with goodies, a free dinner and a chance to play games with Igarashi on a live stream.

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