TGS 2019: Hands-On With ‘Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls’

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from this year’s show, but I didn’t think my favorite mobile game from the floor would be at Konami’s booth. My expectations were pretty low for Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls based on Konami’s mobile history and their recent treatment of the brand, but after spending some time playing it, I think this game has potential. At the very least, it’s going to bring back a gameplay style I never thought we would see again.

There were two versions of the game that players could choose to try at Konami’s booth at the show. The single-player story mode has you bringing your character of choice through pre-built stages, battling enemies and bosses while also doing a little light platforming. The other mode is a multiplayer co-op campaign that is more or less a high-resolution version of Harmony of Despair, the last Castlevania game from the man who worked on Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow, and Lament of Innocence. That was a quirky downloadable title that re-used assets from a wide range of games to create an absolutely unique multiplayer game, and I never thought we’d see another run at it ever.

That said, the wait time was shorter for the single-player demo, so that’s the one I picked. You start off as Genya Arikado from Aria of Sorrow, who is (15-year-old spoiler) actually Alucard in disguise. He’s more or less a tutorial character, and after a brief intro with him, we switch over to Alucard in his more familiar Symphony of the Night look. The graphics are crisp and high-resolution, and it’s great to see the character sporting that visual update. A combination of virtual buttons and swipes gives us access to a wide range of abilities and attacks, and you’ll have to use them carefully to take out the variety of enemies you’ll come across.

As the game is free to play, there must be monetization somewhere. Indeed, extra characters, costumes (like the Arikado look), and equipment seem likely sources of income depending on how the final version is set up. As for the roster, it seems the game will launch with Alucard, Simon Belmont, Charlotte (from Portrait of Ruin), Shanoa (from Order of Ecclesia), and the child version of Maria (from Rondo of Blood). If nothing else, I appreciate that the game is faithful in some ways to many of the beloved classic games, even as the core gameplay itself has been adapted to the mobile gaming lifestyle. It’s fun enough to play and provided nothing gets too messed up with its monetization, I’ll definitely be there when the game launches.