Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls

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After over five years, the Castlevania series finally got a new game. And it’s a mobile app with microtransactions released in Canada…

Console Android, iOS
Developer Konami
Publisher Konami
Genre Hack and slash, platformer, RPG
Release Year 2019
Free Download for QooApp (for those who want to download games outside of US) Download from QooApp website.

Was there ever a point where you’re baffled by a certain game’s existence, it made you question if you’re in the right timeline? Well, there’s something like Castlevania Judgment, a 3D fighting game with artwork by the manga author of Death Note (and it wasn’t good). But that’s not what I’m here to talk about!

Instead, I’m going to talk about Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, the THIRD mobile game with the Castlevania name (after Order of Shadows and Puzzle: Encore of the Night). Yeah, there were THREE Castlevania mobile games!

So what is it about this game I found baffling?

  1. For some reason, the full base game was soft-launched in Canada, but doesn’t even have a Japanese release. And I can’t even change to any other language besides English. And no plans for international releases either.
    • Canada is commonly a testing ground for newly launched apps, according to this article from Mashable. And it’s still relevant information today. This would explain why Grimoire of Souls didn’t get a Japanese release, because it’ll likely yield very different statistics from countries like the U.S. and Canada.
  2. Apparently, there was a closed beta version of this game in Japan that was made available in May 2018 and it looked quite different. And it was all in Japanese? What’s going on here? Did they take the Japanese option out?
  3. Nonexistent marketing. Seriously, why didn’t Konami bother to advertise this game? There’s even a website for it! The only reason I know of it is because I regularly check the Castlevania Wiki for info about games I’ll review in the future. Some Castlevania fans out there didn’t even know Grimoire of Souls existed!
  4. The full base game came out in 2019 and is based on the original Castlevania canon, meaning this is the first true followup to that canon since the release of Order of Ecclesia in 2008.
  5. It’s a Castlevania mobile game with microtransactions. Because of course one of these must exist since all major game franchises had to at some point…
  6. The fact that Konami thought it could still cash in on a mostly dead video game franchise, that it itself killed off over a decade ago.
  7. The negative stigma that stuck to the game due to Konami’s poor reputation in the late 2010s. It’s to the point where fans ignored the game in favor of Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained series.
  8. It shut down on September 9th this year, likely due to poor revenue and a small playerbase. So it was up for only one year and we will never see a release to a larger audience. What the actual hell, Konami.

Since I was very busy with real-life stuff this year (and 2020 being 2020, ugh…), I didn’t get the chance to talk about this game until now. So, here it is. Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, the brief revival of a beloved classic Konami series.

Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls mobile game Canada only

So as someone living in the United States, I had to rely on QooApp to install a Canadian game onto my Android phone. Using QooApp, you can install mobile games that are not native to your country, including popular Japanese games like Granblue Fantasy.

Alternatively, you can find the APK file for Grimoire of Souls and manually install it yourself, but you would also have to manually apply updates for each new version released.

The funny thing about this game is that I wasn’t originally planning to download it until it gets an international release. But once I had an easy way to play out-of-region games, I decided to try it out during spring of this year. Since then. I’ve been making slow progress and eventually tried out about everything this game has to offer.

So is Grimoire of Souls a worthwhile venture into the mobile gaming market? Let’s see!

 

A History of Vampire Hunters

So here’s our oddball story for the game:

Count Dracula

Prophesized to rise every hundred years, descending the world into darkness.

But there are those who stand before the rising tide, heroes all.

After centuries of battle, Dracula’s Castle was finally sealed within the solar eclipse of 1999.

Count Dracula was destroyed, but then, one day…

While working with national security, Genya Arikado receives a mysterious envelope.

Unknown to many, his identity is Alucard, the son of Dracula.

Within the envelope is a letter…

“The Grimoire has awoken.”

“The darkness comes.”

Beset by doubts, Alucard diligently checks the moonlit sky to ensure Dracula’s Castle has not reappeared, before setting out on a journey to find the sender of the letter.

This is the story of the Grimoire of Souls, a new page of a tragic history.

So, funny thing. “Prophesized” isn’t a real word. It’s actually supposed to be “prophesied.” Also, a new page of a tragic history that will never be finished because of Konami’s tragic history of bad business decisions in favor of pachislot/pachinko machines and other easy cash grabs. Whoops.

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So as you may have guessed, the actual time period for Grimoire of Souls would have to be in the 2030s, the decade in which Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow took place. Along the way to find the sender of the letter, Arikado fought some monsters. Then he meets Lucy Westenra, one of the game’s original characters and a member of the Elgos Order.

This organization’s mission is to record and preserve the history of Count Dracula and his mysterious castle. But for some reason, the grimoires containing this information overflow with dark powers, causing monsters to materialize into the real world. Furthermore, Dracula’s right-hand man Death decided to get involved as well, using this opportunity to resurrect his master.

So what’s the solution to this problem? Well, Arikado has to team up with vampire hunters across time (clones summoned using magic) and go inside the grimoires themselves and defeat some kind of boss monster (who possesses a “Vital Soul”) to “purge the darkness” or some shit. Except this time, all the characters (including Arikado, who takes on his original appearance as Alucard) are weaker because some kind of dark magic. Furthermore, Lucy would have to directly write in their abilities into the grimoires using magic, or else they’ll fail horribly.

…Why not just destroy the grimoires? Why did they have to be magical anyway? Why can’t someone just make multiple copies of the events in the grimoires and put them together as normal, non-magical books? Or put them on the Internet! It’s the 2030s after all. Does the Internet not exist in this alternate future timeline?

What, and ruin the plot?

Yeah, as you may have guessed, this is an Excuse Plot to justify multiple characters from various time periods coming together to save the world. By entering books and killing monsters within them. Seems kinda counterproductive, don’t you think?

The odd thing is that this plot borrows an element from Harmony of Despair, a similar game that brought together Castlevania protagonists to go fight monsters inside a grimoire. Except that game doesn’t really have a story to go with it.

So yeah, there’s a character named Lucy Westenra and her boss is a man named Seward. Hmmmmmmm.

Bram Stoker's Dracula Trivia with Spoilers

Lucy Westenra was actually a character from the 1897 Dracula novel. She was a beautiful young woman from a wealthy family who had three suitors:

  1. Arthur Holmwood (later her fiancé)
  2. Quincey Morris (in Castlevania canon, he’s the father of John Morris and grandfather of Jonathan Morris)
  3. John Seward

She was bitten by Dracula and turned into a vampire herself. Later on, Arthur is the one to drive a stake into Lucy’s heart, ending her life and allowing her soul passage to Heaven.

The confusing thing about Lucy’s appearance in Grimoire of Souls is that Bram Stoker’s Dracula is apparently a part of Castlevania canon, since Castlevania: Bloodlines exists. So either this Lucy is not the same as the one in Bram Stoker’s Dracula or there’s some weird shit going on.

[collapse]

 

The Basics

Once you get to the actual gameplay, you’ll realize that Grimoire of Souls isn’t your typical Castlevania. It’s actually a linear hack and slash platformer with major RPG mechanics. Some people described it as the mobile version of Harmony of Despair, though that’s not entirely accurate. Here’s some footage of the closed beta as a demonstration:

So yeah, how much has changed since the closed beta? Not much, except for some music and graphics. Now let’s go over the actual gameplay.

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On the left side of the screen, you can:

  • Move your character
  • Duck and move below certain platforms
  • Dodge
  • Use an Assist Character (once the feature is unlocked)

And on the right:

  • Attack enemies (unless auto-attack is on)
  • Press the jump button
  • Press the slide attack button (useful for guarding enemies)
  • Use a character’s special ability (example: Alucard can turn into a bat and quickly tackle forward)
  • Use a subweapon
  • Use a Weapon Skill (differs depending on which weapons you have equipped)
  • For some characters, you can press down on the touch screen for a couple of seconds to use a launch attack, which can send an enemy airborne and make it vulnerable to air combos

Yeah, quite a LOT to remember. But once you start unlocking more features and play a lot of levels, you’ll adjust to it eventually.

Of course, you can connect a game controller wirelessly and play it like that. From experience though, I had issues with button latency and there are more functions to map than there are buttons on an Xbox One or PS4 controller. Because of this annoying issue, I decided to suck it up and rely on the touchscreen for controls. It took a while to get used to.

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The levels are structured like a 2D version of the ones in Lament of Innocence. For the most part, it’s just a straight shot to the end of the level with gauntlets along the way. There will be scripted ambushes where you’re trapped in an arena while a bunch of monsters spawn to try to kill you. There is also one at the very end of each level, usually a miniboss or a large force. So no matter how weak or strong your character is, you have to go through these ambushes to proceed. And once you complete the levels, you can reap the rewards.

And let me tell you, there are a ridiculous number of minor currencies to purchase certain items or improve your current equipment. But we’ll get to that in a sec. There’s a lot to micromanage before you do a decent job in the game.

 

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Strength in Numbers (and Gatcha Mechanics)

Being a gacha game, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls does have a high difficulty curve that will prevent newer players from getting too far. And if you’re not sure about how to enhance your characters, you won’t get very far at all.

Luckily, all of the playable characters themselves are not locked behind random chance. Instead, you unlock them throughout the story. There are a total of five playable characters, each with his/her unique weapons and skills.

  1. Alucard – speedy sword fighter who can shapeshift into a bat, wolf or a cloud of fog. Subweapons: holy water, throwing knives
  2. Simon Belmont – slow whip fighter with massive attack range. Subweapons: axes, throwing knives
  3. Maria Renard (young) – familiar summoner who can throw birds at enemies while moving. Subweapons: cats, crosses
  4. Charlotte Aulin – mage who attacks from a distance and can summon powerful spells. Subweapons: holy water, crosses
    • Portrait of Ruin
  5. Shanoa – spear fighter with long air combos and can use some magic. Subweapons: cats, guns
    • Order of Ecclesia

There was going to be Soma Cruz from Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow, but the game never got updated to the point where you can unlock him. It’s too bad because his ability to utilize monster souls for an almost endless number of abilities would’ve been great to see in a newer Castlevania game.

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Helping the main characters from the sidelines, there are also assist summon characters who you can summon anytime during gameplay to unleash a special ability. Like the others, these are also unlocked by playing through the main story.

  1. Jonathan Morris – unleashes Aura Blast; protects playable characters from dying
    • Portrait of Ruin
  2. Richter Belmont – unleashes Hydro Storm; increases damage from Skills
  3. Maria Renard (adult) – uses the Four Sacred Beasts to to heal allies and decrease cooldown time for Weapon Skills
    • Symphony of the Night
  4. Albus – unleashes a powerful attack with his gun Agartha; reduces enemy attack power
    • Order of Ecclesia

And like with Soma Cruz, Trevor Belmont was another planned character to be an assist summon, but never made it into the game. Not even as a speaking role.

While there’s a good cast to pick from, you still need to summon new weapons, armor, and subweapons to get far in this game. It’s not enough to just level up your characters. You also need to level up your equipment and place all sorts of enhancements on them to make the best out of your characters. And this is where the Summon feature comes in.

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Every day, you can get a free Summon for either a weapon, a subweapon or a piece of armor. Otherwise, you’d have to pay 300 Gems (the main premium currency) to do a Summon (or 3,000 Gems for 10 Summons with at least one guaranteed 4-star+ Summon). Alternatively, you can use Parchment Fusion to summon equipment, which requires 300 Equipment Parchment Fragments of the same star rating. So if you don’t feel like using Limit Break on a weapon or don’t want to synthesize one, you can put your extra Parchment Fragments towards new summons.

And whatever items you get, you can’t go wrong with anything. The lowest tier you can summon is 3-star. While 4-star and 5-star equipment are preferable, you can still get some good usage out of 3-star equipment (assuming you got duplicate Summons and use Limit Break often).

Higher tier equipment will have better Weapon Skills (which you can use an unlimited number of times during gameplay, but all have cooldown periods). They also have higher level limits (5-star lets you go up to level 35, 4-star goes up to 25, etc.) But if you don’t have many 4-star or 5-star equipment, then using Limit Break on your common 3-star equipment is the way to go.

Don’t bother with 1-star or 2-star equipment you start out with or create from Parchment Fragments. Ditch them as soon as you get better gear.

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Previously, Gems could be bought with real money. But since the announcement of the game’s closure on 07/08/20, you could no longer buy Gems. You’d have to get them from daily logins, Quests, Daily Orders and completing all story-based missions.

So yeah, imagine that. Every equipment summon you get is worth roughly 3 Canadian dollars each. And the game hands out daily summons, many ways to get Gems and other giveaways like candy. I think it’s no wonder this game isn’t making much money. It’s a bit too generous with how you acquire better equipment, even when you’re a F2P player.

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Aside from Gems to summon new equipment, there are a number of other currencies/credits/materials to keep track of. A lot of them.

  • Rank Points/Equipment Level Limit – gained as you play through the game. Automatically unlocks new options and abilities, such as raising equipment level limits, more Trials and being able to equip another secondary weapon for an extra Weapon Skill. Also restores Ether and raises maximum Ether limit. Maximum level is 70.
  • Ether – the “stamina meter” of the game; you use some Ether up each time you play a story-based mission, Daily Order or a multiplayer game session. Restores itself over time, but can be immediately restored by raising Equipment Level Limit or paying 60 Gems (not worth it).
  • Gold – used for Enchantments, Limit Breaks and purchasing items from the Trade Shop. You need to save up as much as possible, since weapon Enchantments can be expensive.
  • Enhancement Runes – used to level up your equipment. Easily the most important material for making your characters stronger.
  • Ability Points (AP) – gained from leveling up your characters; used for the Develop Abilities menu, where you could purchase new character abilities.
  • Record Fragments – gained from leveling up and completing Special Missions, character-specific material; sometimes required to purchase new abilities from the Develop Abilities menu; can also be purchased from the Trade Shop and Event Market (requires extensive multiplayer gaming).
  • Equipment Parchment Fragments – gained randomly during gameplay. You can also get 100 of a certain piece of equipment if you summon a duplicate. Can be used to create new equipment, activate Limit Break on an existing equipment (heavily recommended), summon new equipment using Parchment Fusion instead of using Gems (also recommended), purchase items at the trade shop or convert to Astral Atraments.
  • Monster Souls – required for Enchantments for your equipment, granting you more HP/MP and strengthening Weapon Skills; different equipment needs different souls.
  • Trial Quills – used to purchase extra Trials in a day, since you can only participate in each of the Trials three times per day.
  • Astral Atraments – can only be obtained by converting extra Equipment Parchment Fragments; used to purchase unique items.
  • Bounty Coins – rewards for Bounty Hunt, Duel Hunt and Hunter Ranking events. Used to purchase items.
  • Medals – rewards for completing a Hunter Ranking session; used to buy items from the Event Market whenever it’s open.

A lot to keep track of, but it’s another one of those things you get used to, which brings us to the daily grind.

 

The Daily Grind

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So every day, there’s quite a bit to do.

  1. You get your free equipment Summon.
  2. You complete the daily Trials, which are grindy by nature (you earn Enhancement Runes, EXP and Gold). If you achieve an S rank for a Trial, you can “Skip” it to reap the rewards without having to do the Trial.
  3. You complete the Daily Order, which is a different map and different task every day (can give great rewards). It uses up 20 Ether for each run, so be careful with trying to take on a higher difficulty tier. You barely get enough time to complete it as is.
  4. You complete the story missions to unlock more content. Completing all challenges for a story mission will allow you to easily “Skip” it later. Each run for Normal difficulty uses up 5 Ether. Each run for Hard difficulty uses up 10.
  5. To use up the rest of your Ether, you can use the “Skip” option for all story missions you already completed, to grind for Monster Souls, Equipment Parchment Fragments, EXP and Gold without having to play through the levels. You can skip up to 50 times daily.
  6. Alternatively, you can spend some extra Ether on doing multiplayer sessions, mainly Bounty Hunt, to score even more rewards.
  7. Upgrade your equipment. If you want to have the smoothest experience possible, you need to constantly upgrade. Otherwise, you’ll hit a wall and your characters will be doing 1 HP damage per hit against enemies. And trust me, it’s not fun playing the game this way. I had less than 10,000 overall stats on Alucard by Chapter 4. Chapter 4 recommended you need over 20,000 average to get through.
    • If you did hit a wall, there’s a way to get around it. If you’re just going single-player and have an online connection, you can borrow another player’s character as a Quest Supporter. Alternatively, the game has a co-op mode.

While the graphics can be a bit rough (like looking at an old PS2 game), they’re faithful to the original games. You get to see some of the familiar locations from past games reimagined. Plus we got some beautifully made character portraits by long-time series character designer Ayami Kojima. She hadn’t worked on Castlevania since the release of Harmony of Despair in 2010, so it’s absolutely great that she got to work on another game.

The soundtrack is fine. After all, this is Michiru Yamane we’re talking about, who is also a series’ veteran. However, most of it was recycled from past games, including Harmony of DespairCastlevania: The ArcadeJudgmentThe Dracula X Chronicles and the games of origin (ex: “Crystal Teardrops” straight from Symphony of the Night). There are very few new arrangements here. It’s a little disappointing, but I won’t complain too much. It’s Castlevania music. You can’t go wrong.

The voice acting is alright. Alucard has a deep voice but not iconic like Robert Belgrade’s. I did like his voice better here than Yuri Lowenthal’s (sorry, Yuri).

Simon’s voice stood out to me. He sounded more like how I imagined the character to sound like (more so than Simon’s voice in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate). I usually get hyped up whenever he shouts, “TO ARMS!” Gives me life.

Maria Renard’s voice is actually really good. It’s probably the closest to a little girl’s voice that she ever had in the series, At least, when talking about the English voices.

Charlotte is… okay, I guess. I think I just prefer Stephanie Sheh’s voice, who adds more confidence and aggression to the character. In my opinion, it fits more, since Charlotte is a snobby genius type.

Shanoa is fine. I don’t know if it’s Michelle Ruff voicing her again, but it definitely sounds like Shanoa. No complaints here.

Other than what I described as the “daily grind,” the single-player story is structured as “Books.” Each Book has 16 levels, with the final one being the boss who possesses the Vital Soul. There are a total of 5 Books on normal difficulty and 3 Books on hard difficulty.

Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls mobile game Book VI never released

And it’s so frustrating having to wait for Book VI to release, only for it to never come. I believe I read somewhere that people have been waiting for this Book since December 2019. And it’s never a good sign if big content updates just stop coming.

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The multiplayer aspect of Grimoire of Souls is… flawed. If your phone isn’t stable enough, trying to play multiplayer will be a frame-rate nightmare. And even with a stable connection, you’ll usually be outmatched by a player with greater stats and a greater skill level due to a complete lack of matchmaking.

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And I really do mean that. Look at this crap.

So for players just starting out, they’re not getting far in this mode at all.

The main multiplayer mode is Bounty Hunt, where you traverse through an open-ended map where you must kill enemies and get the highest score possible. This is a competitive co-op mode, so PvP is not possible (thankfully).

The biggest obstacle is having to go through the map itself, especially when you’re not familiar with the layout. You NEED ranged weapons that can phase through walls to do well in this mode. For Alucard and Simon players, you need throwing knives with homing capabilities (any Stiletto subweapon). For Charlotte and Maria players, a cross that summons a large beam of light (like the Holy Rosario). And for Shanoa players, a gun with homing bullets.

It also helps to make your character more mobile. Alucard’s bat form will get you around fast. Simon needs to swing around the area with his whip. Maria needs Suzaku to get a jumping boost. Charlotte needs to float in the air with her broomstick. And Shanoa needs to use gravity to give her a jump boost. Without these abilities, you’re going to have a hard time getting around.

It really helps if you play through this mode with the map zoomed out, so you can see where all the monsters spawn. But this is only practical if your characters are highly mobile and can attack enemies from far away.

But if you do well in Bounty Hunt, you’ll get lots of good rewards. You can buy new and unique 5-star weapons, some much needed Record Fragments to unlock new abilities and costumes. Also, it feels great if you somehow managed to seize 1st place against players who clearly had a lot more time in this game than you. Tee-hee.

There’s also Hunter Ranking mode, which sometimes replaces Bounty Hunt as the weekly event. It is exactly like Bounty Hunt except with a revised version of the same arena map. Usually, the map’s theme and enemies reflects on one of the five elements (Fire, Ice, Lightning, Holy, Dark). So with new obstacles, it’ll be harder to go through. In this mode, you can gain even more rewards than you get from a typical Bounty Hunt session.

There’s another mode called Duel Hunt, which is a 1V1 competitive co-op mode. I had very few opportunities to play this one since I rarely found other players to play with. Basically, both you and your partner need to go through a series of gauntlets and see who can reach the end and defeat the boss at the end. There are also small quests to complete to net even more rewards. And it requires you to play multiple sessions of Duel Hunt to get them…

So you can see the problem here. More players flock to Bounty Hunt over Duel Hunt, so chances are that you wouldn’t get much from playing this mode.

Overall, multiplayer definitely needed work. It takes a while to get a new session going and you’ll often come across unfair matchups. If you completed all the single-player content, this is all that’s left. And it’s not really worth it unless you really want to get that 90,000+ character.

One of the biggest strengths of Grimoire of Souls is its writing. While the story itself isn’t all that spectacular, it’s serviceable. Basically, it’s Alucard and the vampire hunters going inside grimoires to defeat monsters with Vital Souls. At the beginning of the next Book, Lucy Westenra screams, “Oh no, another grimoire is turning evil!” and one of the main cast is in danger of disappearing because their history is a part of that grimoire.

While the game itself is a celebration of past Castlevania titles, only a few select titles get acknowledged. While characters like Juste Belmont and Hector didn’t make it into the game, they had cameos by being featured in artwork for pieces of armor. Any of the games not present in Koji Igarashi’s timeline of the series aren’t present, so no references to Castlevania 64/Legacy of Darkness, Legends, Circle of the Moon or Order of Shadows. And of course, the Lords of Shadow games exist on an entirely different continuity, so they don’t count either. However, canon games like The AdventureBelmont’s Revenge, and Lament of Innocence have no acknowledgements at all.

But my god, the character interactions. That’s the good shit there!

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After several games of virtually no dialogue, Simon Belmont is given an actual personality. And seeing him with a lot of dialogue showing his courageous and moral sides brings me joy. And the other heroes getting his approval? Great stuff.

Alucard reunites with the ghosts of his past, namely Richter Belmont and Maria Renard (whose past romance was teased). Simon and Richter become good friends. Jonathan Morris gets encouragement from his progenitors, the Belmonts, as a worthy successor to the Vampire Killer whip. Younger Maria speaking to her older self from Symphony of the Night. Richter hearing about what kind of person he becomes in Symphony of the Night. Charlotte being offended by Alucard for not knowing who she is. Shanoa finally gets to see her brother Albus again.

There’s just something special about these cutscenes. Namely, that this is a crossover of games that makes sense. All these people from different time periods in the same room. Ancestors, descendants, past and future selves… just talking to one another. And of course, some silly dialogue and fan service referencing past games. It’s great stuff that I wished to see more of.

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Alas, being an incomplete game in development, this won’t ever come to fruition. We’ve been teased with an evil Soma Cruz possessed by Dracula and the main villain Hermina finally appearing in person. We learned that Hermina was a former member of the Elgos Order before she defected, and we currently have no idea what her motive is for stealing the Grimoire of Souls.

And then, on 07/08/20, we got this…

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Goddamnit.

 

Back to the Grave

While Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls has its glaring flaws, it’s surprisingly a solid action game. I just wished Konami was more upfront with the game so that more players could join in. Furthermore, it could be a way to show that Konami does at least care one tiny bit for the Castlevania series to have a new game. Even pretending to care is better than nothing.

Also, did it really need to be a mobile app? Come on…

But we do live in a cruel reality. Especially concerning the year 2020. For fuck’s sake.

So, here it is. Some of my final accomplishments and moments for Grimoire of Souls.

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Oddly enough, I hadn’t turned on Google Play Games for Grimoire of Souls until much later. I forgot it was a feature, so I went through all the achievements. User ID 429-734-936 has all 10 achievements. Late to the party, but whatever. There’s my proof that I did play through the whole game.

I also took screenshots of my characters’ final statistics, while in silly costumes. Alucard and Simon being my most powerful, while Charlotte being the weakest.

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Welp, farewell, vampire hunters. I’ll miss you.

Some other achievements I can be proud of:

  • I managed to summon five different 5-star armor pieces, which are extremely helpful to have. I got a couple of duplicates too, so I was able to use Limit Break on them.
  • I got four different 5-star weapons for Alucard, but I ended up using a 4-star Sword of Hador with maxed Limit Breaks for my final build.
  • I got three 5-star weapons for Maria. Funnily enough, she’s my least favorite playable character in this game.
  • I actually collected over 100 Equipment Parchment Fragments for Simon’s Naga Whip. It took a long time to save up, but it was worth it.
  • Each character has at least one 5-star weapon, either from a lucky Summon or purchasing from the Trade Shop.
  • By the end, all of my characters sit in the 50,000 – 71,000 range in average stats. For the most part, it’s more than enough to conquer the single-player content. Unfortunately, I never got to the 90,000 – 100,000 range like some of the older players managed to, which would probably require multiple 5-star equipment with Limit Breaks. I wasn’t as lucky and I didn’t spend any money on the game, so oh well. It is what it is.

So there you go. As of 09/09/20, Grimoire of Souls shut down in an incomplete state (version 1.1.4). What a damn shame.

Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls mobile game suspension/shutdown

And the story was starting to get good too! I actually wanted to know what would happen next. So, I decided to put some thought into it and figure where the story could’ve taken, had it continued. If you want a read, click the spoiler button.

How the Story Could've Gone

Towards the end, we learned that Hermina is using the Grimoire of Souls to corrupt the other grimoires, thus attempting to change history. She managed to summon an alternate version of Soma Cruz, the one who was reborn as Dracula.

We also learned that Hermina is a powerful witch who research led to the creation of the Grimoire of Souls, as well as allowing the Elgos Order to keep records of past vampire hunters. With this magic, the Elgos Order could summon vampire hunters, exactly as they were recorded in history.

As for Hermina’s motive, this would the straightforward, typical Castlevania fare: she is the true mastermind behind the creation of the Elgos Order, as well as the Grimoire of Souls. She’s a worshipper of Dracula who had been chronicling his whole history and was waiting for the moment when Soma Cruz’s history gets recorded, so she could summon an alternate version of him to resurrect Dracula. Using the monsters in the books, she grants Soma Cruz immense power and allowed Dracula to possess him. Death volunteered to be a part of this plan.

Another way we could approach this is that Hermina is not a real villain, but a misunderstood antagonist with good intentions. She wanted to preserve the long history between the vampire hunters and Dracula, thus researching a way to resurrect long-gone heroes to fight in the name of light once again. The Soma Cruz she summoned was not actually Dracula, but a figure who serves her to fulfill her dirty work. But thanks to Death’s meddling and corrupting the grimoires with monsters, Hermina was blamed for causing the Grimoire of Souls to go out of control.

Lucy Westenra and Seward are exactly like the other characters who were summoned: people who once lived in another time period before they faced Dracula. They were based on their incarnations before they faced Dracula in real life. The real Lucy was turned into a vampire by Dracula, and slain by vampire hunters Abraham Van Helsing and Arthur Holmwood.

Hermina possesses the same power as Lucy to summon people from the past. Hermina uses Lucy and Seward as pawns (aware or not) to contact Genya Arikado, so that he may speed up Dracula’s resurrection by collecting souls.

Realizing this, Alucard and his band of historical heroes continue to purge the grimoires of darkness, until they recruit more allies along the way (the real Soma Cruz, Trevor Belmont and maybe even more…)

If Hermina is a villain all along, the vampire hunters defeat her and Death. In a bigger twist, she might use Lucy Westenra and force her into a vampire state. There, you’re forced to kill Lucy, just like how it happened to her real self. As a last resort, Hermina uses what’s left of her power to try to summon Dracula, offering herself as a sacrifice. A corrupt version of Dracula appears and the group defeats him.

If Hermina is an anti-hero, she dies in battle against the vampire hunters, but confessed the truth behind her theft of the Grimoire of Souls. She actually wanted to prevent the resurrection of Dracula, but failed when Death seized the Grimoire from her. So Death has the means to resurrect his fallen master, a version of Dracula at his most powerful state. The vampire hunters defeat him, once again ending his threat for good.

In a tragic ending, the Grimoire of Souls got destroyed, which was what allowed the vampire hunters to exist. So everyone except Alucard and Soma faded away from existence, believing that their sacrifices were for a worthy cause to prevent Dracula from coming back to life once again.

Alternatively, in a good ending, Lucy Westenra is alive and finds a way to preserve everyone’s existence while purging the darkness of the Grimoire of Souls. With the grimoire no longer being a threat, the heroes who faced Dracula are alive once again and become official members of the Elgos Order. The world is now a much safer place, as the world’s greatest vampire hunters now keep watch over it.

Keep in mind, this is just a huge “what if” scenario if the story continued. It’s meant to tie some elements from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” into the lore, since Lucy Westenra and Seward were based on characters from that novel. And with all the heroes of Castlevania’s past together, the series will see a true sendoff.

Alas, we can’t have nice things. Can we, Konami?

[collapse]

Where does the future go from here? Does Castlevania even have a future?

Well, there is the highly successful Castlevania animated series on Netflix, which recently got renewed for a 4th season. But it seems there are no plans to put a new game onto a home console. Furthermore, one of the series’ key people, Koji Igarashi, is no longer affiliated with Konami.

And speaking of which, he moved on to work on the Bloodstained series, the spiritual successor to Castlevania.

It’s such a strange and bittersweet feeling to sink so many hours into a game, in hopes that it’ll eventually flourish into something greater. But in a stroke of misfortune, the game is going away. Even though you’re glad you experienced it, it’ll still make you think about what could’ve been. The potential it had and what could’ve come of it. This game has quite a few fans and there was definitely interest in watching it flourish.

But unfortunately, this is the eventual ending of all MMORPGs and mobile games that rely on huge online communities. Once the next big thing shows up, that game is done for. No revenue, no updates and no sizable playerbase means no more game. For Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, it never truly took off. So in a year, it’s already gone.

And it’s out of your control. Unlike single player games where you just buy a cartridge/disc and it’s yours to keep forever, a digital downloadable game has no form. You’d have to hope someone out there keeps the files for it so that pirates can still play it long after a game was delisted. Long after its console of origin had already reached the end of its life cycle (like how games like Castlevania: Order of Shadows and Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth are no longer available for purchase).

What’s make it even worse is that a game as a “service” is even more difficult to preserve, since it’s no longer updated and its online services cease to exist. If you miss out on it, then that’s pretty much it.

I know this is a long article and I’m bringing attention to a dead mobile game. But I’d thought it’d be interesting to retell my experiences with it anyway, so that those who missed out on it would know what it’s like. For a short time, the Castlevania video game series was revived, only to be put back in the grave. Or so I thought…

*sighs*

Goddamnit, Konami…

Will we ever get a new Castlevania game for a home console? And will Konami give the IP the respect it deserves? Or sell it to a company that would make better use of it? Who the hell knows. I’m just tired of Konami being so willfully ignorant of its customers and stripping away what we liked about their products in the first place.

So I hope this retrospective of Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls is an entertaining and educational read for you. And with that said, RIP Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls.

Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls

No Longer Available (Delisted)
8.5

GAMEPLAY

8.0/10

STORY

8.5/10

GRAPHICS

8.5/10

SOUNDTRACK

9.0/10

Pros

  • Other than some clunky controls, solid gameplay mechanics.
  • In-game graphics are alright and faithful to the original Castlevania aesthetic. Artwork by Ayami Kojima is a nice bonus.
  • A good soundtrack, despite most of it being recycled from past Castlevania games.
  • The character interactions throughout the story. With vampire hunters that never would've met under normal circumstances, seeing these people together is fantastic fan service.

Cons

  • The fact that the game itself is a "service" that only lasted a year.
  • Controls can be clunky at times, since you need strict precision to master the touch screen controls. With a gamepad, there are some button latency issues.
  • The game never saw completion. For a long time, it didn't receive new content updates, so plans to add a playable Soma Cruz and new books have never come to fruition.
  • Multiplayer is flawed, with unbalanced matchmaking and favors frame-perfect attacks to increase your score.
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