Koji Igarashi (who is often referred to as “Iga”) made a name for himself at Konami in the 1990s as a programmer, writer and assistant director for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night before becoming lead producer for the series until 2011’s Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.
Although there have been numerous Castlevania games since then have abandoned the side-scrolling style, his name is still closely associated with the classic series and original gameplay design. So much so that he often brings a leather whip (the signature weapon of the Castlevania series) with him to events.
When Igarashi left Konami in 2014 to found ArtPlay, the company’s first project was Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which was brought to Kickstarter in 2015 as a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night. The Kickstarter campaign was meant to demonstrate how there was still a high demand for classic side scrolling “metroidvania” (a term that combines the game Metroid with Castlevania) action games, which was proven by how it raised over $5.5 million from backers (more than 11 times the original $500,000 goal).
Speaking with AListDaily, Igarashi described Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night as “an old-school 2D exploration-based action side scroller.” The horror game, set in 18th century England, is expected to release next year. Players will be able to take the role of Miriam—a girl who fights demons summoned by a man named Gebel, who was once her dear friend. While she’s fighting demons, Miriam must also overcome a curse that is slowly turning her skin into crystal.
“The gameplay is 2D with 3D graphics. We’re aiming to create rich music and art for the game,” said Igarashi, who is producing Bloodstained. “I am hoping to deliver a game that promises a reassuring and consistent gameplay that defines this genre.”
Although Bloodstained is largely crowdfunded, Igarashi announced last fall that 505 Games would handle the game’s marketing and publishing.
“505 Games believes in our work and lets us develop freely,” said Igarashi, discussing whether or not publisher involvement put backers’ minds at ease. “Honestly, I don’t know if having a publisher reassures the backers, but it’s greatly appreciated on our end because with their help, we know for a fact that we can deliver this game 100 percent.”
Igarashi explained that ArtPlay has been engaging with fans using a variety of social platforms that include the Bloodstained community forums, Twitter, Facebook and the voice application Discord through its communication manager and 505 Games’ brand staff. But once the game comes out next year, both the developer and publisher will be faced with the challenge of growing the audience past the initial group of backers and classic Castlevania fans.
“I think it’s very important for more people to know about this kind of game,” Igarashi said, explaining how he hoped the game would continue to grow. “When people think of side-scrolling action games, they tend to believe they’re very difficult. That image leads people to avoid the game when, in reality, it’s not as difficult [as they think]. That’s why it’s important to be informed about it.”
Bloodstained will face the additional task of having to stand out in a genre that the Castlevania series helped originate at a time when metroidvania-style games are becoming more popular in the indie game community.
“[At] this time, we [are prioritizing] traditional gameplay,” Igarashi explained. “We weren’t very conscious of other similar games. We believe it’s important to create and deliver the game we envision first. Of course, we will add new elements that would differentiate Bloodstained from other games, but first we need to deliver a well-made, fun game.”
Things seem to be in Bloodstained’s favor, as the Castlevania name got a renewed boost in July when the animated Castlevania TV show premiered on Netflix to high acclaim.
“The series is very well made,” Igarashi said. “If it increases the interest for Bloodstained, that would make us really happy.”
The game designer also said that he thinks one of the reasons why the classic Castlevania games have inspired such a strong following is because the series provides solid gameplay.
“The gothic world and narrative also enhances the appeal for many people,” Igarashi added. “It makes me remember how important it is to build a good concept.”