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Last night I finished reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the original vampire novel from 1897. My interest in picking up the book was linked directly to the ending of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, my longtime interest in Castlevania in general, and my fascination with classic movie monsters. Discovering his renowned literature via a video game is not likely the way Stoker intended folks to enjoy his novel, but I’m happy I got around to it. Now I’m not only a fan of Castlevania’s iconic last boss, but an enthusiast of Dracula proper. My appreciation of the Count has me thinking he deserves to be more than a recycled enemy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the idea of Dracula being the ringleader of evil since the NES Castlevania. Even though I didn’t defeat the Prince of Darkness in the original 1986 title until relatively recently, I was enamored with the idea. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night reinforced my appreciation by allowing me to face off with Dracula right away as Richter Belmont, lending that much more drive to Alucard’s quest to kill his father.
Upon seeing the ending (Spoilers!) to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, I fell in love with the idea of Belmont becoming Dracula. I’m very excited to see where the series takes the character, especially given that the next entry is hinted to take place in present day (I hope Konami saves it for a sequel and doesn’t blow it all on some lame DLC, though).
Before Castlevania became Castlevania, it was Haunted Castle. And it needed some work...
Castlevania has done much in the way of making Dracula a fun, love-to-hate bad guy, but it doesn’t pay due tribute to Stoker’s monster. Van Helsing, Harker, and company set out on one of the most intriguing and harrowing adventures ever told. Quick wits, incredible foresight, and ingenuity were paramount in defeating the undead Count, to a degree that hack-n-slash and side-scrolling action games just can’t do justice.
Dracula made one of his first appearances in King’s Quest II, an early PC adventure title. In it, you must creep through Dracula’s lair and find him sleeping in his coffin. Though the appearance is little more than a cameo within the context of the King’s Quest series, the feeling of sneaking through the Count’s estate and catacombs was atmospheric and tense. Finding his coffin lid open meant that he was free, which caused imaginations to run wild with the cruelty he could be planning.
How could so few pixels be so terrifying?
The point and click series begun by Dracula: Resurrection attempted to expand on the afterwards of Bram Stoker’s tale with little luck. Too-easy puzzles and an overly brief playtime couldn’t be made up for by moody environments and memorable characters. A fourth adventure game in the series, Dracula 4, is reported to be in development, but if the past in any indication we should look to new horizons to hope.
A decade of subpar adventure games may have you thinking Dracula can only exist as an interesting character when someone is lashing a whip at his undead face. I say we shouldn’t give up on adventure titles. Telltale Games has succeeded in handling well known licenses expertly. They have successfully turned properties like Wallace & Gromit, Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, and Back to the Future into fun games, and have carried the adventure game torch for beloved series like Sam & Max and Monkey Island. They have their work cut out for them with the untitled Jurassic Park game, but if they succeed in capturing the dark, oppressive, moody atmosphere of the first film then I have faith they could develop a retelling of Bram Stoker’s original story that would be to die for.
Even in the game adaptation of the movie adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula the Count morphs into a giant beast. Why!?
I want to explore the dark and decrepit Castle Dracula as Harker, experiencing his terror and fear as he evades the Count and his mistresses. I want to step into the shoes of Van Helsing as he works to discover the cause of Lucy Westenra’s mysterious maladies and eventually plot against Dracula’s London migration. Adventure games have always been about using uncommon means to necessary ends. Doesn’t shoving Holy Communion wafers into the hinges of a mausoleum to block a spirit’s passage sound perfect for an adventure game? How about interviewing the lunatic Renfield in a claustrophobic asylum cell as Dr. Seward? There are many possibilities, and Bram Stoker’s novel is paced so well and divided into such distinct acts that episodic entries would be absolutely possible. Taking note of Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s treatment of first-person horror could do wonders for exploring the castle interior.
If you appreciate vampires at all or have an appreciation of Dracula sparked by his role in popular culture, I recommend giving the original novel a read. Hell, you can read it for free right here. Make sure to at least get through the first four chapters before passing judgment. I’m sure you’ll be dying to be immersed in Stoker’s world and see Dracula in his true form as much as I am.