Early on in video game history Konami had already established their name as a front-runner in games producing arcade hits like Frogger and Super Cobra from 1983 onward they would expand and set up divisions to cater to the home market starting out with the MSX Konami would soon become one of the biggest players in the industry with a big production force of approximately 200 developers spread among multiple divisions each operated independently with their own workflow their high profile reputation made it a dream to work there for many aspiring game developers Konami had thus more job applications than there were actual positions an exam consisting of a job interview and written exam were required for all applicants as most members hired were fresh out of college there was an overall youthful energy during the 80s bursting with passion and exuberance sales and marketing were done in Tokyo while development was done in their HQ in Kobe housed in a modern building with an array of facilities like fitness rooms and a sauna to make the long nights at work a little more bearable between 1985 and 88 the video game industry saw an explosion in new IPs that would become lasting franchises Konami’s started hit series like Gradius, Contra and Castlevania ip’s were first and foremost part of the company portfolio and there was still no sense of ownership for an employee over their creation once a game got successful a completely different team could be asked to deliver the sequel or ports without involvement of the original team Hitoshi Akamatsu, one of the father’s behind Castlevania, did continue his involvement on the NES outings however when it came to installments on other platforms they were in the hands of separate teams At the start of the 16-bit era Konami’s Tokyo office started its own development division and part of the production force from Kobe was relocated to this new studio Castlevania 3 would still be developed in Kobe led by the series creator Hitoshi Akamatsu over in Tokyo a completely separate team would brainstorm ideas for the first Super NES outing most members came from the NES division working on projects like Tiny Toon Adventures and the port of Metal Gear Programmer Masahiro Ueno would lead the new 16-bit Castlevania project as they didn’t work with dedicated game designers he would have to contribute to the gameplay and story line with with Castlevania 3 still under development his only references were the original game, Vampire Killer, Haunted Castle and the RPG infused sequel Simon’s Quest He had a great appreciation for the original Castlevania and thus chose to keep true to its streamlined game experience the new 16-bit Hardware was both exciting and challenging for developers it meant less restrictions to implement ideas but expectations were also sky-high the team would first brainstorm concepts for new thrilling gameplay situations that would make full use of the new hardware they came up with a rafting sequence, scaling boss and a rotating room to name a few combined with the overall vision for the project they were bundled inside a compact initial design document that helped to get management excited during pre-production the story of the game and how it would fit in the existing timeline hadn’t been decided yet it depended on the project and style of the director whether or not the storyline would be a key part of the projects identity for this 16-bit entry, dubbed Castlevania IV, the control scheme and game design had taken center stage another focal point was the difficulty level like many games from the 8-bit generation the original Castlevania games posed a real challenge Masahiro Ueno made the choice to go for a less frustrating experience while still keeping it intact as a healthy challenge this was done by giving the player a greater control over the characters actions being able to strike the whip diagonally was actually already considered for the original Castlevania but wouldn’t be fully implemented until this 16-bit installment Mitsuru Yaida, a programmer on the team was in charge of implementing the players movements he experimented with a routine that allowed for full control over the character’s whip other ideas like being able to grab objects with your weapons sling them towards enemies were also considered in this early conceptual stage Nintendo was still working on Super NES dev kits forcing the crew to do the initial prototyping on NES hardware when the first dev kits were distributed among Nintendo’s third parties they were still somewhat buggy leading to more headaches early on the original Castlevania had been the main source of reference for the team partly because Castlevania 3 was still under development as Castlevania IV moved from pre-production to production it had been decided to base the story on the original game and retell the battle between Simon Belmont and Dracula

As development went along the rough initial ideas were further tweaked and streamlined for example the concept for a river themed level would still be implemented but the rafting element was dropped the scaling Gollum boss battle that would occur in this level was moved to a later part of the game various ideas for special effects segments were bundled inside the trick Tower where they would make more sense conceptually one of the strengths of Konami developers was their sense of pacing when it came to level design The Castlevania for team kept things fresh by splitting levels up in smaller chapters as well as continually introducing hazards and enemies throughout the entire game this helped to give each area its own distinct feel meanwhile Castlevania 3 had hit the market and a few of its elements would make its way to the Super NES project including a statue of the character Sypha Konami had its own in-house developed paint tools praised among its employees to be among the best in the industry a group of three artists would be responsible for all ingame graphics led by Kazumichi Ishihara they went for a moody spooky atmosphere with a de-saturated color palette their goal was to add more interactivity and liveliness to the environments compared to the 8-bit games music would add another layer of atmosphere as well Konami’s internal audio department consisted of a sizable team of talented composers and programmers three musicians were assigned to the project thanks to the consoles advanced audio chip that could replicate a full orchestra including flutes brass and strings the art direction, soundtrack and sound effects combined greatly contributed to the unique feel of this Castlevania the graphics and sound capabilities of the Super NES were a huge step up but for the programmers the main CPU with its own quirks was harder to work with it was a struggle for the Konami programmers to keep slowdown to a minimum in these early snes projects as they had to learn all of the ins and outs of the hardware while also developing the game Masahiro Ueno would be responsible for the core programming he also came up with rough ideas for bosses dedicated enemy programmers would take his ideas and further implement detailed routines to realize the dynamic animations the sales and marketing teams inside Konami would start to warm up retail the company had international offices that would cater to their own local market for Castlevania IV they produced VHS tapes showcasing some of the new exciting features consumers could expect “with Konami’s Castlevania IV you can count on spellbinding sales” they would also provide stores with handy fact sheets outlining the strong features of each of the new releases this helped to get retail up to speed and convinced them to carry their games in their stores meanwhile the development crew fought their own battle to finish the game in time and meet the high expectations while in the middle of a six-month crunch period all aspects would still undergo major updates the initial planned 4 megabits of cartridge space had been doubled to provide more room for audio samples and graphics despite their packed work schedule they were able to sneak in a couple of secrets like an old man who weeps after you kill his beloved dog the concept of branching paths that was introduced in Castlevania 3 had also been considered but was a bridge too far and had to be abandoned the time had also come to start thinking about localization as was expected all of the religious symbols nudity and blood had to be removed this was in line with Nintendo of America’s regulations but Konami’s North American CEO wasn’t a fan of violence in their games either box art was another point of discussion while Konami and Japan had their own in-house art team their us office mainly worked with freelance illustrators the copywriter for the manual took some Liberty with translating the enemy names the severed horse head was named mr. Hed a reference to mr. ad the talking horse from the 60s TV show a number of bosses were given peculiar names for instance these spectral dancers were called Paula Abghoul and Fred Ascare, puns on to famed dancers Castlevania for hit the market during Halloween of 1991 in Japan the game would simply be titled Akumajō Dracula in this region exactly the same as the original in the west the adjective “super” was added late in the process to clearly communicate to consumers that it was a Super Nintendo game Super Castlevania IV not only met expectations but greatly surpassed them the concept of a streamlined and accessible Castlevania lifted to the 16-bit standards worked spectacularly this highly polished outing in the series set the bar high not only for future Castlevania teams but all developers of 16-bit games in general

for the game’s designer Ueno and lead designer Ishihara it would be a project to never forget they had developed a blossoming romance on the work floor of Konami and got married during the game’s production working for a big company like Konami came with its ups and downs on one hand you worked alongside top talent with the facilities to do the best job possible backed up by marketing that would ensure your game would generally be played by millions on the other hand a company like Konami was highly profit driven especially the Nintendo teams meaning some developers who failed to deliver commercial hits were transferred to other lower positions it was IPs like Ninja Turtles that sold well and were given a higher priority within the company a small number of employees quit Konami and started their own company named Treasure to develop games according to their own vision among them was one of the Castlevania IV programmers Mitsuru Yaida At Konami multiple divisions were encouraged to develop their own chapter in this already highly successful series in the console market konami had been catering exclusively to nintendo platforms in the 80s by 1991 they started to work for competing platforms starting with the NEC pc engine console which would get its own Castlevania that same yearSonic the Hedgehog boosted sales of Sega’s consoles immensely there was no denying that it would be a lucrative market for Konami in 1992 they signed on to become an official third-party developer for Sega and started working on multiple titles Nintendo’s third-party contract restricted them from directly porting their Nintendo exclusive releases to competing platforms their arcade titles didn’t fall under these rules and were therefore low hanging fruit to release on the Mega Drive by the end of the year two of them hit the Mega Drive Sunset Riders and an adaptation of their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game but this was only the beginning it was the intention to release a new game every three months for Sega’s 16-bit machine among the lineup was Rocket Knight Adventures a stellar platformer with some slight Gradius influences introducing the character sparkster while this new title was in the middle of development in early 93 planning for an exclusive Castlevania game began Programmer Toshiki Yamamura and designer Teisaku Seki from the NES team wrapped up Batman Returns and started to conceptualize this new Castlevania like the director of Super Castlevania IV the two weren’t previously involved in a series but had great appreciation for its legacy they therefore wanted to keep true to the straight forward action platforming the series was known for but meanwhile also added their personal twist unlike the Super NES project this time the story was decided early on and would help to shape the game and give it its own identity lead programmer and director of the project Yamamura was inspired by a novel he read a couple years prior that featured a female vampire this kick-started his idea for an antagonist based on the historical figure Elizabeth Bartley who according to legend bathed in blood Yamamura studied a variety of books related to Dracula like the Bram Stoker novel as well as literature on the history of Europe he wrote an interesting backstory tying in Elizabeth Bartley’s plans to resurrect Dracula with the events leading up to World War One the game would not bear the Akumajo Dracula title in Japan and thus gave them a dose of freedom when it came to the storyline during initial planning multiple playable characters were conceptualized John Morris son of Quincy Morris who was featured in the Stoker novel and heir of the Belmont vampire killer whip secondly Eric Lecarde wielder of the Alucard spear who seeks revenge against Bartley for turning his love into a vampire two additional characters were considered but didn’t pass the conceptual stage the powerful Bolt Ericsson wielding a deadly hammer and the acrobatic Yoko Belnades descendant of Sypha from Castlevania 3 Yoko would ultimately make her first appearance years later in Aria of Sorrow as the concept of the game took shape composer Michiru Yamane was asked to join the project she was honoured but felt a huge burden as the series was already known for its excellent music Yamane had been active at the company for over six years and was well experienced in classical music this project would be the start of her long lasting involvement in the series as a new twist the Battle of our vampire hunters would not be limited to Transylvania our hero’s journey leads them across Europe from the fictional Atlantis to real locations like the Palace of Versailles and the Tower of Pisa these locations were well researched resulting in a pretty faithful pixel art representation inside the game

the various areas of the Palace of Versailles in particular closely matched their real counterparts the amount of detail indesign documents varied from company to company and even team to team some segments were specified on paper in great detail to communicate an idea to the artists and programmers including animation timing and memory specifications while the framework of the new Castlevania started to take shape Rocket Knight Adventures wrapped up and a number of talent joined the team the first announcements in magazines hit late spring in 1993 and a few months later it would be demoed at the Tokyo Toy Show as Vampire Killer in the West the project started to be branded Castlevania Bloodlines the crew had concentrated their efforts on the action-packed opening stage it featured a number of interesting set pieces and set the high pace for the game two months later the first two levels of the game were already nearing their final look Dracula’s ruins featured the classic Castlevania skeletons zombies and bats while the Atlantis stage was filled with monsters based in Greek mythology Like Minotaur, Medusa and Harpies the latter would be transferred over to the Pisa level in a later stage of development to spread the introduction of enemies to expand the number of enemies konami organized a special design contest together with the japanese magazine Mega Drive Fan inside their june issue they called for the talent and creativity to come up with interesting enemies and stage traps their mail boxes were flooded with responses over 800 entries were submitted over the following months ranging from horror themed monsters and traps to comical or bizarre creatures inside the September issue the winning entries were announced the Flying Beetle Roller from a 15 year old designer won the Grand prize in the enemy category runner-up was the skeleton monkey that would give players of real headache in the stage trap category one entry in particular stood out the silhouette demon this sub boss was inspired by an optical effect in which one picture could be interpreted in two ways in this case a vase or two faces the winner of Silver Award in the trap category came up with ideas for rotating blades that the player had to carefully maneuver through all four entries ended up in the final game and its designers were awarded golden and silver cartridges Michiru Yamane had been productive to compose the game’s score Konami had their own dedicated department that handled sound related development they therefore weren’t reliant on the audio drivers and tools provided by Sega but could cater them to their own needs the Mega Drive and Super NES each had their own strengths and weaknesses when it came to audio replicating a full orchestra was harder to pull off with these six FM channels of the Mega Drive for instance Yamane’s solution was to focus on one instrument the organ and let it drive the main melody this way she could dedicate up to three audio channels to this instrument and give it body and its reverb sound of the remaining three channels one was dedicated to sound effects while the other two provided bass and percussion to add some punch to this stellar soundtrack to visually compete with Super Castlevania IV the developers needed to pull off some clever trickery for starters they programmed complex animation routines for a number of bosses pushing around large numbers of sprites was one of the console strengths even more impressive was a breaking statue and the Leaning Tower of Pisa the basis for these effects was altering the scroll position of a background layer mid frame to break it up into segments this could create interesting offset effects that simulated rotation by October when production should have wrapped up the game was still under heavy development during the past months production had hit several setbacks the team had joked that they were cursed by an evil tapestry which they had hung on the wall as inspiration the decision was made to postpone its release by three months to give them the time they needed to polish the game the first three stages were nearing completion but ideas for the second half were still not set in stone for instance a stage called the Phantom ship of Dover featuring a spectral vessel was scrapped for the German Metal Factory stage a couple of segments were removed as the game underwent large modifications a smelter and german zeppelin were already implemented in the game but replaced by completely different sub stages one of the biggest struggles for the team was memory space the game already featured a number of big set pieces that required a lot of dedicated graphic tiles and thus memory they could have been used to implement more levels but instead the team went for impact it was a time when action platformers were at their peak

and the 16-bit games were starting to push the limits innovation and graphical impact were required from developers in order to stand out from the crowd during the final stretch the gameplay was improved in several areas for example being able to jump from stairs sped up the action and reduced frustration all blood included in the game’s title had to be removed for the PAL version due to strict German regulations this all meant to some extra work for the dev team to finish up the three versions the game was launched worldwide in March of 1994 and gave Sega fans the worthy Castlevania entry they had been waiting for development of the game was a fair bit longer than Konami’s other Mega Drive releases but the extra time was well worth it resulting in an excellent entry worthy of its legacy it’s always a gamble to handover a proven franchise to a different development team but in the case of the 16-bit Castlevania titles it turned out great the teams added their own personal twist but still greatly respected the source material together with Rondo of Blood for the PC engine CD the Castlevania series was well represented on consoles in the 16-bit era with each outing having its own distinct flavor it was time to say goodbye to the format of the original Castlevania that had still worked so well in these 16-bit titles the following years Konami would rapidly expand and open up new development offices once again spreading the development of the Castlevania games it was the modest ideas of Toru Hagihara and scenario writer Koji Igarashi for a 2d Castlevania that would ultimately have the biggest impact on the future of the franchise