Who would have thought that BloodRayne: Betrayal would be such a polarizing game? When I wrote my review over the weekend I figured that everybody would love it, after all I called it "the best BloodRayne game ever made" and didn't mean it as a backhanded compliment. Yet here I read Jim Sterling's review and wonder if we played the same game. It looks like you either love or loathe WayForward's newest game, there's very little middle ground. But there's one thing we can all agree on -- BloodRayne: Betrayal is a huge rip-off of Konami's Castlevania series.
I use the term "rip-off" in the most loving sense. It's been a long time since Konami made an old school Castlevania game. These days all we get are Metroid knock-offs, where players explore a huge castle looking for items to advance their quest. Ever since Symphony of the Night, every Castlevania game has fit into this mold. While I definitely love exploring huge, intricately laid-out castles, I also enjoy the linear, straight-forward action of Castlevania I - IV.
With Konami taking a break from making old school Castlevania games, this has left the front gate wide open for other developers to carry the torch. And that's where BloodRayne: Betrayal comes in. Here's a game that practically squeals with delight at how similar it is to old Castlevania. I've decided to point out a few of the most egregious examples to help prove my point.
"RAISE THE CASTLE!!"
At first BloodRayne: Betrayal doesn't look like much of a Castlevania knock-off. You start in a forest battling guards in blue jackets and dodging the lamp light. These are all things that could be in just about any game; there's certainly nothing pointing the finger at the Belmont clan.
However, all this changes about an hour into the story when we're introduced to a caped man with magical powers. Not only does this man finally give us some much needed context to the story, but he summons a castle out of thin air. That's right; he raises a spooky castle with the snap of his fingers. He even says the words "Raise the Caslte" making the whole thing even goofier.
So let me get this straight, we have a dark man in a cape who literally raises a castle out of thin air. Does that remind you of anybody? Well it should, because that's basically the plot line of every Castlevania game ever made. We don't always get to see the castle raising, but we know it happens.
When he raised the castle it forever changed the ancient map the game had been using. The peaceful village located next to the large body of water was now dwarfed by a skyscraper of a castle. Fans of Castlevania will remember that the exact same thing happened in Dracula's Curse for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Not long after the castle has been raised, Rayne finds herself caged up like a wild animal. Here she is left to stew over being betrayed by those she trusted the most. It's here that she is conveniently given the ability to transform into a bird and fly far, far away. This new ability is just the thing she needs to make her way to the final boss fight.
Transformation has played a major role in the Castlevania series, especially with the introduction of Alucard. Once the power has been acquired, players are able to shift to and from a bat at any time. This will help reach high areas and cramped corridors. Sometimes Alucard's bat will even have the ability to attack enemies, not unlike Rayne's bird.
One could argue that both Alucard and Rayne are vampires, so the idea of transforming isn't out of the question. While it's true that both could be referencing the same source material, you can't overlook how they're implemented in the game. In both games you earn this ability. What's more, this is usually the ability that allows you to advance in your quest. It's also worth noting that Rayne doesn't turn into a bat, throwing traditional vampire mythology out the window entirely.
Boss Fight in Outer Space
All of these similarities could be accepted as nothing more than tropes of the genre. Castlevania doesn't have an exclusive contract with character morphing and castles being raised out of thin air, these are things any game series can take freely. Where I draw the line is the final boss, arguably the most damning evidence against BloodRayne: Betrayal.
At the end of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Richter Belmont goes head-to-head against Dracula. Of course, Drac has a few tricks up his cape. After getting pummeled by the trusted Belmont whip, the vampire turns into a large horned demon that stands on two legs and shoots fire. Just about everybody has seen this boss fight in one form or another. Even those who missed out on Rondo of Blood saw it when they started up Symphony of the Night.
It turns out that BloodRayne: Betrayal ends in exactly the same fashion. The large demon you fight may not have wings, but everything else is nearly the same. Between the spikes, size and stance, BloodRayne's final boss is a spitting image of Rondo of Blood. To make it even more obvious, BloodRayne's boss destroys the side of the castle to reveal that we're fighting in space. Dracula does the exact same thing. The only difference here is the art style.
One of these days Konami will wake-up and remember to make a traditional old school Castlevania game. It may not happen this year or next, but we'll eventually see the series return to form. Thankfully we have BloodRayne: Betrayal to remind us how good those older games were. These are just some of the many similarities between these two games, go out there and see if you can come up with a few more!