Dracula as he appears in Symphony of the Night, artwork by Ayami Kojima
|First appearance||Castlevania (1986)|
|Created by||Hitoshi Akamatsu|
|Designed by||Noriyasu Togakushi (original design)|
Ayami Kojima (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night onwards)
Dracula Vlad Țepeș (ドラキュラ・ヴラド・ツェペシュ Dorakyura Vurado Tsepeshu) or simply known as Dracula (ドラキュラ Dorakyura) is a fictional character from the multi-platform Castlevania video game series. A vampire and a magician, he is the main antagonist of the series and the final boss of almost every installment. He is the overall primary protagonist in the rebooted Castlevania trilogy Lords of Shadow – though he takes on his classical antagonistic role in the game Mirror of Fate— where his origin is heavily altered, as he is reimagined as being part of a holy order who eventually falls from grace and becomes the vampire Dracula.
The Dracula of Castlevania is based on Bram Stoker's character in the novel of the same name, who was in turn likely named for Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia. The Castlevania Dracula draws some history from both, but instead of only preying on maidens, this version threatens whole realms with his armies at the least, and at worst is presented as the very embodiment of evil. He is, however, capable of loving relationships (his evil nature is partly fuelled by the loss of two women he loved) and, despite their differences, he loves his son Alucard.
In the series reboot Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Dracula is reimagined as an 11th-century holy knight named Gabriel Belmont and serves as the central character of the game and its two sequels. The Lords of Shadow series tell the story of Gabriel's quest to save the world, fall into darkness and journey of redemption. The series portrays Dracula in a more sympathetic light, compared to his original counterpart.
Conception and design
Dracula's appearance is very inconsistent throughout the series' history. In just about every game, he wears very aristocratic clothing, whether it be a tuxedo or some sort of royal garb (complete with medals and medallions). He is 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) tall and his face has evolved into many different forms. Initially, his face resembled that of Bela Lugosi's Dracula in the first few games (this appearance was reused in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin). Every few games, his appearance changed from one sort to another. In Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and the beginning of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, he had the form of an anime character with medium length, purple hair. He has a more demonic look in Castlevania: Dracula X and Castlevania: Bloodlines. The more recent look of Dracula, starting with Symphony of the Night, gives him a beard or goatee of some sort and longer hair. His hair color still changes between a dark brown or black and a gray color. His facial proportions also change. He has a very heavyset and muscular looking face in the Nintendo 64 Castlevania games, whereas he has a more thin and elegant face in Symphony of the Night and the first two hand held games. In Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, Dracula wears a long robe of some sort, with a more realistic version of the Symphony of the Night face.
His most common form of attack is to teleport from one part of the screen to another, then opening his cape to fire a spread of three small fireballs at the player, whereas in later games he can also fire larger, meteor-like fireballs: these attacks are called "HellFire" and "Dark Inferno" respectively. Usually, he can only be damaged with strikes to the head or neck area. After being defeated in his humanoid form, Dracula usually morphs into a larger, more powerful demon-like dragon or dinosaur form. In some games, such as Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, Dracula consists of three forms in total. This is in contrast to Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, where he only has one form. This battle with Dracula does feature multiple phases of combat, however: in the first phase he acts as described above yet shoots a barrage of fireballs for Hellfire and even adds a new attack called "Fatal Ray" to his repertoire, which he performs after he uses Dark Inferno. With this attack he shoots beams of dark energy into the air which cascade down shortly afterwards. In the second phase, his tactics and the attacks he uses change dramatically. If playing as Shanoa, the battle enters a third phase when the second is completed: here he cannot be damaged and a certain Glyph Union must be performed before he unleashes "Giga Demonic Megiddo", which can easily kill Shanoa with one blast (a weaker version of this attack features in Portrait of Ruin, during the Dracula and Death stage of the battle).
For the Lords of Shadow series where Dracula is playable, his design was influenced by Robert Carlyle. Carlyle complimented Dave Cox's work while Cox said that thanks to Carlyle's own work, Gabriel's design was changed more. Producer Dave Cox used Tony Soprano from the television drama The Sopranos as an example in regards to Dracula's characterization. By Lords of Shadow 2, Dracula himself also starts questioning his actions. Kojima's input included advising Cox's team to redesign some of the lead character, Gabriel, who he felt needed a "more heroic face". Originally, Gabriel's design resembled a classic barbarian, before Kojima then advised the staff to refine him into a character that was more relatable for the player. Cox mentioned that the voice acting provided by Robert Carlyle helped humanize Gabriel's character.
Dracula first appeared in 1986's Castlevania, set in 1691. At this point the plot of the series was very simple – Simon Belmont took up his ancestral weapon, the Vampire Killer whip, and ventured into Dracula's castle to defeat its proprietor. The original game had no in-game text to drive the story along. The plot of Castlevania was re-used in the remakes Vampire Killer, Haunted Castle, Super Castlevania IV and Castlevania Chronicles.
In the manual of the second game, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, it is revealed that, in his dying moments at the end of the first game, Dracula had placed a curse on Simon, which condemned him to slowly die of his wounds. In 1698, Simon set out to gather Dracula's scattered body parts and use them to resurrect the Count in the ruins of his castle. Simon then defeated the reborn Dracula once again. Ironically, the best ending hints that although Simon defeated Dracula and dispelled his curse, Dracula nonetheless ended up reviving himself, and each ending reveals that Simon dies as a result of the final confrontation.
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was a prequel to the original game, starring Simon's ancestor Trevor in 1476. This game introduced Alucard, Dracula's estranged son. In Dracula's Curse, it is stated that Dracula "practiced sorcery in order to create a bad world filled with evil". The people of Transylvania secured the aid of Trevor Belmont, who journeyed to Castlevania and met up with several allies along the way, including Alucard, Sypha Belnades and Grant Danasty.
Concurrent to the release of Nintendo Entertainment System trilogy were two games on the Game Boy. In Castlevania: The Adventure, set in 1576, Christopher Belmont defeated Dracula in typical circumstances. It is later revealed that Dracula escaped and survived until 1591, when he kidnapped Christopher's son Soleiyu and tried to turn him against his father. In Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge, Christopher defeated Dracula again and saved his son.
The Castlevania series took a dramatic turn with the PC Engine game Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (remade for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System as Castlevania: Dracula X and later remade and ported for the PlayStation Portable as Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles). This game took place in 1792 and starred a new Belmont named Richter. This was the first game in the series to use substantial voice acting to further the narrative. Dracula is resurrected by a cult led by a dark priest named Shaft. He proceeds to kidnap several villagers including Richter's girlfriend Annette (who was renamed to Annet Renard in Castlevania: Dracula X and became Maria's sister) and Maria Renard. In the "best" ending of the game, Richter saves all the kidnapped women and defeats Dracula.
Rondo of Blood was followed by a critically acclaimed PlayStation sequel, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The protagonist of this game was Alucard, who entered Castlevania in 1797 following the disappearance of Richter. Symphony of the Night introduced the character of Lisa, Alucard's mother and Dracula's wife who had been executed as a witch for preparing medicine to help the sick. As the game progressed, Alucard discovered that Shaft had placed Richter under a dark spell, the idea being that Richter would destroy all other enemies of Dracula. Alucard defeated Shaft then faced his resurrected father. They exchanged words before Alucard defeated Dracula, telling him Lisa's last words: "Do not hate humans. If you cannot live with them, then at least do them no harm, for theirs is already a hard lot". Dracula cried out for Lisa's forgiveness as he returned to the abyss.
A loose prequel to Symphony of the Night was released for the Game Boy called Castlevania Legends. In this game, Sonia Belmont, heavily implied to be Trevor's mother, faces Dracula circa 1450. Alucard is also featured in the game, and it appears that Sonia and Alucard were lovers. Series producer Koji Igarashi, who was not involved with Legends' development, has declared it to not be an official part of the Castlevania canon.
The Mega Drive received one Castlevania game, Castlevania: Bloodlines (known as Castlevania: The New Generation in Europe and Australia). This title was set in 1917 and attempted to tie the series closer to Bram Stoker's novel. The protagonists were John Morris and Eric Lecarde. John was intended to be the son of Quincey Morris from the novel. This game introduced Dracula's niece, Elizabeth Bartley, named for Elizabeth Báthory. It was implied that Bartley arranged the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in order to precipitate World War I. She resurrected Dracula, but she and her uncle were defeated by John and Eric.
The two Nintendo 64 games, Castlevania and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, took place in the mid-19th century. In these games, Dracula's return is accomplished through the unusual method of having him reincarnated as a child named Malus.
The first Castlevania title for the Game Boy Advance was Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. Set in the early 1800s, Circle of the Moon explained how Dracula had been recently defeated by vampire hunter Morris Baldwin. At the start of the game, Dracula is resurrected by his disciple Camilla. The player assumes the role of Nathan Graves, a student of Morris Baldwin, who once again defeats the newly resurrected Dracula.
The second GBA title was Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, which took place in 1748. Simon's grandson Juste was the main character. He entered Castlevania to save his childhood friend Lydie Erlanger. Their friend Maxim Kischine resurrected Dracula in order to prove his worth as a vampire hunter. As usual, Dracula was defeated by Juste.
The third and final GBA title was Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, which featured a deeper plot than the previous two. Set in 2035, the game starred Soma Cruz, a high school exchange student visiting Japan with his friend Mina. The villain of this game was not Dracula, as he had died a real death over 30 years ago, but Graham Jones, a cult leader who believed himself to be Dracula's reincarnation. The game also introduced the amnesiac Julius Belmont, who defeated Dracula for the last time in 1999. As the game progressed, it was revealed that Soma himself was actually Dracula's reincarnation, and possessed the Count's power to absorb the souls of various monsters and thereby assume their powers. In the best ending of the game, Soma overcomes the darkness and defeats Graham.
The first Castlevania game to be released on the PlayStation 2 was Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. This prequel journeyed back further than any previous game, taking place in 1094. The game introduced Crusaders Leon Belmont and Mathias Cronqvist. In 1093, they returned from a campaign to find that Mathias' wife Elisabetha had died. He became bedridden with grief. A year later, Leon's fiancée Sara disappeared. Mathias told Leon that she had been kidnapped by a vampire named Walter Bernhard, who lived in a castle in the Forest of Eternal Night. Leon forsook his title and arms in order to venture into the castle and save Sara. He was given a weapon known as the Whip of Alchemy by an alchemist named Rinaldo Gandolfi, who lived in castle's grounds. Leon eventually rescued Sara, but she had already been infected with the vampire's curse. She sacrificed her soul to imbue the Whip of Alchemy with the power to destroy Walter, turning it into the Vampire Killer seen in later games. Leon then returned to the castle and defeated Walter. Walter, who possessed an artifact known as the Crimson Stone, believed that he would return from the dead, but Death appeared and informed Walter that he no longer held power over death. Mathias then appeared and revealed that he had orchestrated the entire scheme in order to gain possession of the Crimson Stone. Mathias blamed God for Elisabetha's death, and planned to revenge himself upon God by becoming immortal. He offered Leon the chance to join him in eternal life, which Leon refused. Disappointed, Mathias escaped, leaving Leon to battle Death. Leon defeated Death and sent him with a message to Mathias that "the Belmont clan will hunt the night". Series producer Koji Igarashi has confirmed that Mathias eventually becomes Dracula.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness was released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Curse of Darkness was a sequel to Castlevania III, taking place in 1479. The main character is Hector, a "Devil Forgemaster" who had served Dracula but left his service just prior to his defeat at the hands of Trevor. With his dying words, Dracula had placed a curse upon the land. Hector planned to live peacefully amongst humans, but his wife Rosalie was executed for witchcraft at the behest of fellow Forgemaster Isaac. Hector swore revenge upon Isaac, but it transpired that this was a ploy – Isaac intended to use Hector as the vessel for Dracula's return. Hector defeated Isaac, who himself became the vessel. Hector then faced Dracula, defeated him, and used his powers to dispel the curse.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, for the Nintendo DS, was a sequel to Aria of Sorrow and once again starred Soma Cruz. This time, Soma faced a cult led by Celia Fortner who wished to resurrect Dracula in order to bring about the arrival of the ultimate good to balance the ultimate evil. In the "bad" ending of the game, Soma succumbs to Dracula's power and kills Celia in cold blood: this unlocks a non-canon storyline called "Julius Mode" in which Julius ventures through the castle and defeats Soma. If Soma equips Mina's talisman beforehand, he resists the transformation (and is snapped out of it by Arikado), but his power of dominance is copied by Dmitri Blinov, one of Celia's accomplices, and he and Celia escape underground. Celia still dies, however: Dmitri sacrifices her to corrupt Arikado's power and render him unable to fight. Dmitri attempts to become the new Dracula like Graham before him so he may understand his power, but he loses control of the power of dominance and was consumed by it. This transforms him into a gargantuan creature called Menace, which Soma vanquishes. This results in the "good" ending, in which Soma is reassured that even if there is a need for a dark lord, it does not need to be him.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin was a sequel to Bloodlines. The player takes control of Jonathan Morris, John Morris' son, and Charlotte Aulin. In this game, Dracula's castle is resurrected by vampire artist Brauner during World War II. At the end of this game, Dracula takes the unusual step of fighting alongside Death, before fusing with Death and morphing into a final, demonic form.
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia was set around 1800 and featured a holy order named Ecclesia which had apparently created a power named Dominus with the ability to defeat Dracula. However, it transpired that Dominus was actually constructed from Dracula's own power, and the Order made Dominus to break the seal on the casket imprisoning his soul, as their leader Barlowe believed Dracula's return was secretly mankind's greatest desire. Ecclesia's chief researcher Albus had stolen the Dominus glyph in an attempt to protect the main character, Shanoa, who had been raised as his younger sister, but became possessed by Dracula when he absorbed one part of the glyph. After Dracula's resurrection Shanoa faces and defeats him.
Lords of Shadow reboot series
Dracula appears in the post-credits scene of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, a reboot of the series. The game follows Gabriel Belmont in the year 1047, but the epilogue reveals that in modern times Gabriel has become a vampire who identifies himself by saying "Eu sunt Dracul" in Romanian which can roughly translate based on how much etymology research is done to "I am the Dragon", "I am the Devil" or more popularly "I am Dracula". A secondary character, Zobek, finds Dracula hiding in a ruined church and tries to win his support against the acolytes of Satan. Before Gabriel disappears, Zobek tells him he will free him of his immortality if he helps him. It is explained through the game's two DLC Packages Reverie and Resurrection that after the defeat of the Lords of Shadow a powerful demon they locked away called the Forgotten One had begun to break free. In order to enter the demon's prison dimension Gabriel somewhat reluctantly allowed himself to be turned into a vampire followed by defeating the demon by absorbing its power and killing it in a single blow, completely sacrificing his humanity in the process.
In Mirror of Fate Gabriel returns as Dracula. His goal is to destroy the Brotherhood of Light in order to "remake" the world, as he believes the Brotherhood is evil and corrupt, as well as the Brotherhood manipulated him and allowed his wife to be killed when they could've prevented it. It's been revealed the brotherhood believed Gabriel was the chosen one, and would redeem mankind. The Brotherhood however knew of his descent into darkness so they raised his son, Trevor, kept from him in secret by Marie, as a member of the brotherhood in order to combat his father. Later Trevor would track down his father and attempt to avenge the death of his mother. He is impaled with his own Combat Cross. While dying, Trevor looks into the Mirror of Fate and sees what actually happened to Gabriel. Feeling sorry for him, he calls him his father. After looking into the mirror and learning the truth, Dracula panics and desperately attempts to revive him by giving him his own blood. After it does not seem to work, he puts Trevor in a coffin with the name Alucard as he never knew his son's true name. At the end of the game Dracula faces his son, now revived, and his grandson Simon. The end of the battle sees him disappear and Alucard says that's not how a vampire is supposed to die.
Gabriel returns as the main character in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, where he refers to himself as the dragon, Dracul. Having abandoned his quest for vengeance, his goal is to put an end to his immortal existence.
In other media
Dracula appears as a recurring villain in the 1989 animated series Captain N: The Game Master, voiced by Garry Chalk. He is never referred to by name, only being addressed as "The Count". He is depicted as a lanky vampire in a yellow suit, later changed to black and blue in the show's third season. He seeks to terrorize the land of Castlevania, but is typically thwarted by Simon Belmont and the N Team. He has a strained relationship with his teenage son Alucard.
Dracula appears as a central character in the 2017 animated series Castlevania, voiced by Graham McTavish. The series adapts the events of Castlevania III and reveals how Dracula first comes to meet his human wife, Lisa, and later how her unjust execution drives him to wage extinction on mankind.
Dracula appears as a boss in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. He is encountered at the end of Classic Mode while playing as Simon, Richter, Luigi, or Pac-Man, also appearing in the game's Adventure Mode: World of Light as the boss at the end of a Castlevania-themed map.
Dracula has become one of gaming's most popular villains based on his role on the franchise. He was listed as the third top villain of 2006 by Game Informer. He was also listed as the number 7 most recurring video game character who has died repeatedly and been resurrected. He is ranked third on EGM’s Top Ten Badass Undead. GameDaily ranked him number sixteen in their "Top 25 Evil Masterminds of All Time" article, noting his persistence. His persistence resulted in him being ranked amongst the most persistent video game villains of all time by GameDaily. IGN listed him eight in their "Top 10 Most Memorable Villains" article, noting his grudge against the Belmonts and calling him "the Timex of villains." In a later article, they listed him as one of their favorite monsters in video gaming, stating a preference for the Castlevania representation of Dracula over others due to him having "a sense of fashion and style that few other versions possess." They would also list him as the 23rd best video game villain, calling him one of the most prolific video game villains ever. GamesRadar listed him first on their list of video game villains who never stay dead, stating that he has died more than any other video game villain ever and that like The Legend of Zelda antagonist Ganon, he never learns from his previous battles.
Journalists also commented on others characterizations of Dracula; Gabriel Belmont was listed as the fourth best video game hero who becomes evil by What Culture citing the twist in how the character becomes Dracula. Similarly, GamesRadar listed Gabriel seventh in their "Top 7... fallen heroes that became awesome villains" mentioning how his personality changed in the franchise when becoming a vampire. For the animated Castlevania series, Anime News Network writer Zac Bertschy noted that one of its charms was that in contrast to many vampire series, Dracula was not the original real villain but instead the Church that killed his wife which causes Dracula to become evil. Bertschy also highly praised English voice actor Graham McTavish for providing Dracula's voice as he "makes Dracula sound at once worldly and feral, aristocratic and satanic". The Verge agreed in regards to Dracula's characterization finding him as a "sympathetic character as opposed to cartoonish villain with no real motivation beyond an unjustified drive to be evil". Dave Trumbore of Collider found Dracula's thirst of revenge understandable despite the chaos he makes. Dan Seitz at Uproxx was more negative citing how Dracula's revenge serves about the series' writers' thoughts about organized religions despite making finding Dracula interesting.
In an interview regarding Dracula's humanization, Anime News Network told the Netflix staff, Dracula's humanization in the Netflix was better than the ones from other anti-villains like Magneto or Thanos which Executive Producer Adi Shankar found as an accomplishment.
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Zobek: An unusual hiding place, for the Prince of Darkness. Don't you think? / Gabriel: Zobek... / Zobek: Yes, old friend. It is I. / Gabriel: Where have you been, all this time? / Zobek: Out there, amongst the living. And what of you? Why have you been hiding all this time... ... Gabriel? / Gabriel: Don't you dare call me that! Eu sunt Dracul!
- MercurySteam (5 October 2010). Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Konami.
Zobek: Satan's acolytes are readying for his imminent return. He's unlikely to welcome both of us with open arms, don't you think? Help me stop him... or you and I will become his favorite pets for all eternity.
- MercurySteam (5 October 2010). Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Konami.
Zobek: Help me, and I can free you of your immortality.
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