Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Koji Igarashi Launches Kickstarter, Nostalgia For 1997 Ensues

When Koji Igarashi left Konami in 2014, fans of his work were left stunned and concerned. I was one such fan who has been worried about the direction of the Castlevania series for some time as it seemed that the games seemed to be pulled in a different direction. I was sure Igarashi would land somewhere, but I wasn't sure where or what he would be doing. Soon, it became clear that the man who married the gothic action adventure gameplay of Castlevania with the seamless, expansive level design of Metroid was about to do something very big.

It was been noted since his departure from Konami that Igarashi was seemingly trapped in a cycle of working on projects that he was nowhere near interested in being a part of. Igarashi wanted to work on more "Metroidvania" titles, but higher ups at his former employer determined that nobody wanted those types of gameplay elements anymore. With that, it was no surprise that Igarashi began work on a "spiritual successor" to his heralded Castlevania titles. This game is titled Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and a Kickstarter campaign was started to fund the initial development of the title.

It's safe to say, if there was any question involving the viability of a game of this type in the current age of gaming it was quelled with the Kickstarter campaign for Bloodstained raising almost $2.7 million more than it's initial goal of $500,000. Does this prove that nostalgia is just as strong among gamers as it's ever been, that we still want games that harken to the days where we clamored for the latest big thing from Japanese developers, or that a title featuring a female protagonist can truly garner this level of grassroots interest from the gaming public? Maybe all three.

The last time I saw a title that was still technically vaporware starring a female character garner this much buzz without seeing any actual gameplay was when a teaser for a possible Beyond Good and Evil sequel popped up on an Ubisoft sizzle reel during E3 a few years ago. Knowing that such a big positive response came from a title like this may not trigger a ripple effect among major publishers who don't seem to get that the ballooning budgets they command for their upcoming titles aren't necessarily vital to big sales numbers. That's quite a sobering thought.

If the last few years have shown us anything it might be that gamers don't always need ridiculously realistic games filled to the brim with tropes that got old when the Atari 800 was cutting edge. Legends in gaming are stepping out of their corporate safe spaces to take chances in the indy realm. Tim Schafer, Keiji Inafune, and now Koji Igarashi are a part of an ever growing list of big names in game development who are essentially doing a new version of what the founders of Activision did in the early 80s. They're making games that they and (as evident by the response to their fund raising efforts illustrate) gamers in general want to play. These games don't get big name voice actors, huge advertisement budgets, and the other trappings that the average "AAA" title enjoy, but they have something those games tend to severely lack. That thing is a soul, and because of that I'm waiting with great anticipation for Bloodstained.