I thought I’d switch things up a bit here, and start a new section of the blog where I take an in-depth look at many different Catholic/Christian influences found in pop culture. This week I’m taking a look one of my favorite video game series, Castlevania!
In this action adventure series, you typically play as one of the many vampire hunters belonging to the Belmont clan (there’s been a few surprises), who have dedicated their lives to fighting the forces of darkness summoned forth by the legendary vampire himself, Dracula. I’ll be exploring a number of different catholic influences I’ve begun to discover through my time spent playing the series.
In these pop culture articles, I’m hoping for some folks out there that it will inspire you to return to the Catholic faith, and remind you of our Church’s rich heritage and amazing influence on culture. For fans, it could highlight some cool religious imagery you might have missed and make you appreciate the game further. And for others, it could even peak your interest and hopefully cause you to look into the faith and remind them to pursuit God in their lives.
Regardless, please enjoy!
1. Kyrie Eleison—
Beginning with Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, a couple games in the series have taken to a mysteriously fitting Greek chant titled simply, “Requiem.” Roman Catholics will instantly recognize the chant derived from Catholic Liturgy as the prayer chant: Kyrie Eleison, meaning “Lord have mercy.” It’s a powerful, beautiful chant and the Castlevania rendition is quite well done. One would wonder the intention of it in-game but I believe it serves as a way of cleansing oneself through prayer before battling the forces of darkness, much like the intro to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Speaking of which…
2. Intro to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse—
The third game in this epic series begins with Trevor Belmont kneeling and praying before the Cross at the altar of an old cathedral in ruins, perhaps destroyed in part by Dracula’s forces. Before the hero begins his quest, he prays to God for assistance in his mission. It doesn’t get much more Christian and epic than that, folks!
This remains one of my favorite intros to any video game, even despite the age of the game. It’s from the old 8-bit NES era, but the scene is just so well done. Just the simple act of praying to our Almighty God before he embarks on his adventure remains by far one of the coolest intros ever.
Sacrementals are religious items blessed by a priest in the Catholic Church. They range anywhere from crosses, crucifixes, holy water, rosaries, and scapulars–just to name a few. With their blessing, they can be used to ward off evil and in turn bless and protect the user of said items. In the game series, they are used primarily as sub-weapons, substitute or rather secondary weapons, you can use in battle.
Here’s a list of some of the items including the Holy Bible itself:
- Holy Water: A splash of this blessed water attacks and lingers on the enemy, damaging them for a set period of time. Interesting enough, the splash of water appears on screen as fire which could relate to this verse when John the Baptist preaches: “John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).
Pro-tip: It can also freeze them dead in their tracks in the older NES games and allow you to pass through them unscathed.
- The Cross: One of the best sub-weapons in the game. Used like a boomerang and serves up multiple hits. Essential for battling the Grim Reaper/Death. Get it? Jesus leads us to eternal life with his holy sacrifice and defeats the power of death. 🙂
- The Crucifix, a.k.a. in game as, Grand Cross: A special attack of the cross. It’s extremely powerful and features a glorious animation to behold.
- Rosary: Defeats all enemies on the screen at once. An awesome testament to the power of this holy item and its prayer in overcoming evil.
- Holy Bible: Protects the user from enemy attacks like a shield.
*Source for all sub-weapon icons: http://castlevania.wikia.com/wiki/Castlevania_Wiki
4. Confessional Booth found in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night—
In the hugely popular Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, tucked away inside Dracula’s Castle is a majestic cathedral. If you explore this area further, you’ll discover a confessional hidden in the back.
In Catholicism, confessionals are where we go to confess are mortal sins to a priest to be absolved of them in the blessed Sacrament of Reconciliation; one of the many blessed Sacraments given to the church by Jesus.
What’s even cooler in the game is that you can actually interact with the confessional. On one side, you can go in as the common laity confessing your sins and a ghostly priest will appear to listen to you then disappear. If you go on the priest’s side, a ghost will appear and confess their sins to you. Another bonus: there’s even a random chance for an in-game healing item of grape juice/wine appearing after confessing to the priest, which is a reference to the drink used for the Holy Eucharist in Catholic Mass!
5. Storylines and Enemies—
The Belmont Clan, once banished from their home country from fear of their unknown powers, is recruited by the Catholic Church for help. I think this is a really cool way of incorporating the church into the storyline and it gives the Vampire Hunters’ nifty ties to the church and their obvious religious affiliation. The third game in the series mentions this specific storyline and the church has a few further cameos in later games, particularly in the more recent Nintendo DS games.
SPOILER WARNING for the next few storylines:
Satan himself makes a surprise appearance as the key puppet master behind all the events in the conclusion of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Also, at the end of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, right as Dracula is defeated, he ironically quotes this famous verse from the Bible as he perishes:
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Also worth mentioning, there’s a few other demons (fallen angels) found in the series based off of a few mentioned in the Bible, like Beezelbub and Lilith, that I’ve noticed.
And the legion of demons that Jesus exorcised makes an appearance in several of the games as a boss battle. The boss’ description in-game even pays homage to the bible verse itself. “Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many” (Mark 5:9).
6. Churches used for healing in Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest–
Castlevania II started many firsts for the series including a new open world, exploration style gameplay including RPG elements where you could level-up your character and obtain better equipment. As you explore, each new town serves as a resting hub to purchase new gear, talk to locals, and even rest at the local church! When you go inside, the priest ministers to you to heal your health. I loved this mechanic in-game because it also speaks deeper meanings: church heals your mind and spirit. God is our spiritual physician and he keeps us spiritually healthy by visiting his holy house on a weekly basis.
You’ll also notice that the castle itself is loaded with tons and tons of gothic Christian imagery ranging from crosses galore in many pieces of its architecture, and even stain-glassed windows depicting angels and other popular Christian images. A statue of Mother Mary is even located in the save rooms of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow! Also worth mentioning, in the same game at one of the final boss fights, there’s a statue of Mary eerily crying a river of blood which is referencing the weeping statue phenomena.
Well, those are just a few of the many Catholic influences I noticed in the Castlevania series. I hope this got you interested in learning more about our wonderful church! If you noticed any other cool references that I failed to mention, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I hope you enjoyed this special look at Castlevania and please click that Follow button to stay tuned for more of my blog entries in the future. Thanks for reading!
Take care and God bless,