There have been numerous attempts at adapting video games onto the big and small screen over the years, and such endeavors always seem to be hit or miss. Unfortunately, the majority of these adaptations have been misses. Though, in recent years, there have been a few surprising hits. Sonic the Hedgehog may have had a rocky start with the titular character’s initial design causing a (justified) outrage among fans, but the final product was so well received that the sequel was all but assured. Pokémon Detective Pikachu, though only loosely based on the Pokémon games, was an absolute smash hit at the box office as well, pulling in nostalgic audiences while welcoming new fans. Even more recently, Netflix seems to have struck gold with two video game adaptations. The Witcher, despite some initial fan displeasure over a few minor design details, had a solid debut season and is due to have its second season release in late 2021 to much eager anticipation. But really, the most incredible adaptation to have graced our screens has to be Netflix’s Castlevania.
Based on the Konami video games, Castlevania’s first two seasons loosely follow the 1989 Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse storyline by introducing viewers to the trio of protagonists in the short but well-crafted first season – Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, and Adrian Tepes (aka Alucard). These three unite to defend the nation of Wallachia against Dracula and his hordes of vampires and night creatures as he seeks revenge for the murder of his wife. The latter two seasons diverged from the video game lore, but the show’s incredible writing not only held its own while striking out into new territory, but it also went above and beyond to deliver a story that dared to question morality, explore philosophy, and demonstrate that even those who believe they are beyond redemption have a chance at happiness. The icing on the cake is Powerhouse Animation Studios’ beautiful art and animation style, drawing inspiration from Japanese anime and Castlevania game artist Ayami Kojima’s work to breathe life into its colorful cast. The real treat is in the final season, in my opinion, as it’s clear that the team behind the show held nothing back as the story was drawing to a close. Very rarely have I found myself brought to tears by how beautiful animation can be, especially when backed by an emotional orchestral soundtrack and held together by characters who never once felt flat or underwhelming. Not once did the pacing feel rushed, or a character feel forgotten, or decisions feel like they had no weight. The stakes (pun absolutely intended) were high and the tension was palpable. And the ending was perfect.
Though the show has concluded and the adventures of Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard have come to a close, season four is not the last we’ll be seeing of Castlevania’s world. A new series set during the French Revolution and following Richter Belmont, a descendant of Trevor and Sypha, is currently in the works at Netflix.