Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Twenty six years after Dracula's first real defeat at the hands of Sonia Belmont (if we include her game, Castlevania: Legends, in continuity, something Konami refuses to do), Dracula rose from the grave. Having raised a new army of the undead to aid him in his quest to take over all of Romania (and presumably the world), he prepared for his final, decisive victory over humanity. The townspeople, appropriately fearful of having their lands under the control of an evil vampire, sent a request out to call in a member of the only clan to ever defeat the Lord of Darkness: the Belmonts.
Trevor Belmont, current owner of the famed Vampire Killer whip, rode to town to immediately take on the forced of darkness. Arriving at Dracula's castle, ready to take on the Dark Lord, the lone hunter prepared for the battle ahead, ready to do what his mother had only just done a few brief decades before. But the hunter found he wouldn't be on that journey alone; along the way he encountered three other heroes willing to aid in the quest... although first he had to free them from Dracula's powers:
- Grant DaNasty, the pirate. When Dracula killed his family, Grant went to Dracula's castle to destroy the vampire. He failed, and instead was captured, cursed, and put to work defending Dracula's castle (at the Inverted Dungeon, we would classify that as a "catastrophic failure," or, in common parlance, a "royal cock-up"). He was freed when Trevor defeated him in combat.
- Sypha Belnades, female vampire hunter and sorceress. She went to Dracula's castle to defeat the vampire, of course, and like Grant, she failed. She was turned to stone by the Cyclops and left out as a statue until Trevor freed her (by defeating the evil Cyclops, breaking the magic that held Sypha within the statue).
- Alucard, son of Dracula, who was opposed to all Dracula stood for. He was brainwashed magically by Dracula and put to work in the castle as an area guard (with a fight not unlike a proper Dracula battle seen throughout the series). As with Grant, he was freed when Trevor defeated him in combat, although the hero did graciously spare his life).
Aided by his new companions, Trevor went on to scale the heart of the castle, all in the lead up to the final Keep. There, heroes faced off against the Dark Lord himself, Dracula, in an epic and difficult battle that took all their strength and will to survive. Dracula was defeated, proving the power of the Belmont clan and the heart of the heroes. It also showed that the townspeople couldn't get rid of the Belmont clan as they were essential for the safety of the countryside, especially with the looming specter of Dracula's potential return at any moment.
After the battle, the heroes went their own ways. Trevor and Sypha got married and continued the Belmont clan. Grant worked to rebuild Romania and otherwise was never heard from again (sorry Grant). Alucard, meanwhile, went into one of his many periods of slumber, hoping to rid the land of his power (and thus Dracula's power as well), fearing it was too dangerous to be unleashed on the world if left unchecked.
This game is important to the series for a few reasons. Firstly, it stars a character other than Simon Belmont on a home console. Simon Belmont was the star of the first two games in the series' release history, Castlevania and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, and while Christopher Belmont had starred the previous year in his own adventure on the Game Boy, The Castlevania Adventure, Trevor was the first real glimpse many game players had that there was more to the clan of vampire hunters than just Simon.
It's worth pointing out that the US translation/rewrite of the Adventure instruction manual was rather vague as to if that game was about Simon or not, which only muddied those waters further. That meant that, as far as fans in the West knew, every game in the series starred Simon Belmont. From that perspective, then, this really was the first game with any other member of the clan picking up the fabled whip.
It was also the first game to have a female character in a lead role. Sypha Belnades was a trailblazer back in the day, and although the instruction manual and the game's translation both referred to her as a dude, she was, in fact, female. Or Trevor just swung both ways as the two of them clearly get together at the end of the game. (We here at the Inverted Dungeon do not judge -- we are all about video game character equality.)
This game also unleashed Alucard on the continuity. Some may lament how often Alucard has been used since this first game, as he has appeared in easily half the games to come out in the main series, but at the time seeing Dracula have a kid, and having that kid fight Dracula, was considered "cool" (or at least, cool to people playing video games in their mother's basement, which was all of us back then).
Of course, Alucard really shouldn't be named Alucard. If he was following proper naming conventions, taking Dracula's name would have meant he'd be named "Draculaa" (remember, the ending "a" implies "son of"). Instead, Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards (and is a reference to the Universal picture Son of Dracula, which, amusingly, actually didn't feature the Son of Dracula, just Dracula going under a different name).
Meanwhile, the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow continuity also features Trevor Belmont, famed vampire hunter and knight in the Brotherhood of Light. His adventure, though, takes place 300 year prior to Dracula's Curse (and also in an alternate continuity, of course). Interestingly, Trevor ends up becoming Alucard in that sub-series, leading to a weird, circular feel for his character arc.