I played the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, though I did not finish it. Partway in, I just began to feel a little “meh” on the whole thing. “Perhaps,” I thought, “this reboot is not for me.” So it was much to my surprise when word emerged of a new Castlevania for the Nintendo 3DS, one which would continue the Lords of Shadow reboot, called Mirror of Fate.
The reason for my interest is perhaps a silly one. Granted, I didn’t dislike the combat of the console game too intently, and the promise of greater exploration certainly has its appeal. But for some reason, there is one element which has drawn me to this game like a moth to a flame…
To me, Simon and Castlevania are somewhat synonymous; after all, he is the original hero, and has perhaps starred in more of the series’ games than any other hero, Belmont or not, though many of those were remakes in some form or fashion. Despite its name, for example, Super Castlevania IV is actually a more thorough retelling of the original game. Likewise, Castlevania Chronicles/Castlevania X68000 is another remake, with Vampire Killer for the MSX2 and the arcade game Haunted Castle being further variants.
Of course, Simon would also get a sequel in the ever-controversial Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, which happens to be one of my favorite games. Frankly, I think people overreact to how “difficult” the game is to decipher, but perhaps that’s another matter for another day. And while Symphony of the Night gets all the credit for turning Castlevania into a free-roaming RPG/platformer, Simon’s Quest did it first.
Despite being the original, despite all of these appearances, it has long felt like Simon is the red-headed stepchild of the series, at least since Koji Igarashi took over as Producer. In fact, Chronicles, the remake developed under his watchful eye, quite literally made him red-headed, a sharp contrast to the blonde locks he had previously sported.
I say this because it felt like Simon never quite got the love, characterization, or place in history that others in the series lore did– especially his forefather, Trevor Belmont, who Igarashi has shown a great affinity for. Trevor may not have starred in as many games as Simon, but he has appeared in a comparable number, and with an almost legendary status as one of the spirits of the magical Vampire Killer whip the Belmonts use to fight Dracula. In fact, Castlevania Judgment even goes so far as to make the two relatives function similarly while giving Trevor the superior stats.
Incidentally, the less said about Simon’s design in that game, the better. But that goes for just about everyone in that title.
Anyway, the point is that it feels like Simon has been treated as an inferior hero for a while, and he’s never really had a good title to perhaps allow fans to get to know anything about him. All this while still being the face of the franchise in such titles as DreamMix TV World Fighters and New International Track & Field.
Being the face of the franchise did allow him some characterization in other media, however, though how good it was is left up to interpretation. One such instance was in the Scholastic Worlds of Power series, which wasn’t so bad; aside from the kid sidekick who travels from our world to the world of “Castlevania,” he is portrayed as good and virtuous to a fault, and with little grasp on such things as “sarcasm” or “humor.” Well, that isn’t to say he’s humorless, but much of it goes over his head until it’s either explained or dawns on him. All said, it’s actually a somewhat endearing portrayal, but not quite official.
Somewhat more official, and definitely more mainstream, would be his role as a member of the N-Team on DiC’s Captain N: The Game Master. Many deride this version for completely ignoring the appearance of the character when designing him for animation (though as Gauntlet points out, it seems they actually paid quite a bit of attention– and they even got the enchanted whip thing right before most of us even knew it was canon!), to say nothing of being an egotistical, womanizing coward. And yet, that has been the closest we’ve had to “official” characterization for Simon for the better part of 20 years.
Truth be told, I actually began to embrace it. The character had his moments in the cartoon, and in my mind, he had the appearance of the games but the voice and personality of his Captain N counterpart. If you’re like me and occasionally put words into the mouths of voiceless characters, then there is definitely some fun to be had from this mix. But even so, it’s kind of sad to see Simon relegated to this, if only due to a seeming lack of care.
Personally speaking, I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed for a remake of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest which tidies up the ambiguous clues a bit and gives Simon a bit more personality in some way (while talking to sketchy villagers would be perfect). But with the fate of the old Castlevania timeline under Igarashi unknown, I’m willing to settle for the next best thing.
And then we come to E3 2012. Well, just before, actually, as Nintendo Power revealed just days beforehand that a new game in the Lords of Shadow series would be coming to the Nintendo 3DS. And guess who is in it?
Finding out that Mirror of Fate would star not only Trevor, but Simon as well, was music to my ears. Finally, at long last, the original Belmont (in terms of the franchise, not the timeline) would finally get his due! And he’s got the Scottish accent going on, too, so that’s cool.
The developers at MercurySteam seem rather intent on making the two as distinct as can be, too, so perhaps they will no longer be seen as mere clones of one-another. Producer David Cox describes the pair like so:
Trevor is very similar to (Lords of Shadow star) Gabriel in temperament– cool, calm, and collected. A fearsome warrior who rarely loses control, a gentleman with honor on a righteous quest. Simon, on the other hand, is the complete opposite– quick to anger, an aggressive warrior who is brash and wild. A barbarian who doesn’t care for honor but fights like a man possessed looking for revenge and [has no mercy for] anyone who gets in his way. This difference in character is the result of very different upbringing between the two of them, which is explained in the story.
The differences go beyond temperaments, too; Trevor sports darker hair and is dressed in what could be described as more gentlemanly attire, whereas Simon has the furs and fiery red hair (and a full beard to match) given to him by Ayami Kojima for Chronicles. Their weapons differ as well, with Trevor wielding a version of Gabriel’s Combat Cross, while Simon takes up the series’ iconic Vampire Killer whip.
Granted, I never really saw Simon as the savage warrior type… but then, what did I ever really have to go on?
Of course, I realize that this isn’t the same Simon we saw in the original Castlevania games, but is instead a reimagining. But if this is to be the future of the franchise, then I’m happy to see Simon getting in on things early. It’s kind of a shame that it has to be as one of four costars in a side-story of sorts, but that’s better than nothing.
On another personal note, part of me wants to see Simon somehow wind up with Gabriel’s armor from the first Lords of Shadow, or a lookalike set, at least. After all, it was inspired by Simon’s own Castlevania II attire, so it’s only fitting, is it not?
26 years after the series began, Simon finally gets his due and will hopefully now stand out among his comrades in vampire hunting. And, at the moment, I couldn’t be happier (though I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for a Simon’s Quest remake).