Netflix’s New ‘Castlevania’ Impresses at First Bite

While the show gets a lot of things right, it may leave a lifelong Castlevania fan with an unquenchable thirst and a slightly unsatisfied hunger.

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Jul 7 2017, 2:33pm

‘Castlevania’ image courtesy of Netflix.

I've waited all bloody year for this, and it's nothing more than four 25-minute episodes. That's our lot. I've got to admit, I'm a little gutted with what Netflix's Castlevania has delivered—but as a long-term fan of the game series it's based on, I'm all too aware of the fact it could've been a lot worse.

I love Castlevania. I like the N64 games without a trace of irony. I actually really rate the two 3D PS2 titles, and I don't completely hate Lords of Shadow 2. And yet, I've been worried that this Netflix series would somehow disappoint. Even after hearing that writer Warren Ellis and producer Adi Shankar were set to be involved with the project, and that it was going to be drawing narrative cues from Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (the first Castlevania game to have some actual characters in it), I was still wary of how it would turn out.

And here we are, a mere four, short episodes later, and I'm left wanting more. Which is a good thing, of course. But also a sign that the animated Castlevania doesn't quite leave me satisfied, so far.

It's a fairly easy watch, even for those who don't know their Grant Danastys from their Rinaldo Gandolfis, setting aside an entire episode to show Dracula's motives and give viewers a chance to get invested in this world of angry religious types and satanic beasts. It rarely travels down any strictly "fan service" paths, offering a few nods here and there to some more niche aspects of Castlevania lore, but nothing that really has the fanboy inside of you screaming at the TV, angrily brandishing your replica Vampire Killer. (And if those really are available, please tell me immediately.)

Above: The teaser trailer for Netflix's 'Castlevania'

There's no flying medusa heads or candelabras being knocked off walls, but Netflix's show does star a Belmont fighting Dracula's army with a whip, and its story is told in a manner that should allow for anyone, whatever their franchise experience or expertise, to get involved. And, boy, is it ever ridiculously violent, way more so than any of the Castlevania games. Not an episode goes by without a good disembowelment.

It's a shame, then, that it all ends just as things are about to get going. The takeaway impression is that of a four-episode long prologue for a fuller run, later down the line, rather than a proper series itself.

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Castlevania's only significant disappointment is its soundtrack. The Emmy-winning Trevor Morris is the man responsible for it, whose previous credits include TV shows like The Tudors, Vikings and Iron Fist—but beyond the each episode's introductory sequence there's nothing here resembling the legendary music from 30 years' worth of video games.

It's all bland, supposedly "epic"-sounding orchestral pieces, or atmospheric cues that are a far cry from the memorable motifs Castlevania is known for. If they flashed up a shot of Dracula with a take on "Bloody Tears" playing in the background, I'd have done a backflip. Alas…

Castlevania's four episodes are undeniably enjoyable, and I do want more. Not just more episodes, but more Castlevania in general, come the already confirmed second season. Give me more Belmont fighting Dracula. Give me some of that amazing music. Hell, give me some of those bloody medusa heads. Anything that brings what's a pretty promising proposition as it stands that bit closer to the iconic games that inspired it.

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