Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls
Konami certainly doesn't seem to care much about the Castlevania series at this point. That, at least, is the opinion of fans of the series as of 2020 AD. Once the series saw regular updates, consistent releases that might not have always pushed the series in new directions but did, at least, deliver reliable game play. In recent years, though, the series languished in the hands of the original studio. The last big releases were all part of a barely-connected spin-off series, Lords of Shadow, and the rest of the materials to come out were all pachinko gambling machines or repackages of previous games. The last proper release for the series was Castlevania: Harmony of Despair ten years prior.
But then Konami decided to put out Grimoire of Souls, a game in the vein of Harmony of Dissonance -- a mobile title, yes, but developed for co-op play with plenty of new levels, new action, and much for the characters to do. Yes, sure, it was meant to be a platform for micro-transactions, a way to bleed money out of the fan base, but at least it was actual new content that wasn't going to be Japan exclusive (like the pachinko machines). Surely Konami would finally treat the series right again, in some way.
But then, a year after the game was put in open beta in (primarily in Canada) with only a selection of the planned playable chapters completed, the game was canceled, consigned to the dustbin of Konami's indifference (or, at least, so we thought). What happened? Why has the game gone the way of only a few Castlevania games before it (The Bloodletting, Castlevania Resurrection, and Castlevania '08)?
Well, for starters, the game itself doesn't seem to have been much loved by the fans that played it. The basic action was perfectly, fine, adequate even, with controls that worked well enough considering the medium. As it was a game designed for mobile phones, all the controls are done on screen, with a touch-pad "analog stick", attack, and guard "buttons". Although you could use a plug-in controller for the game, the game play was designed around these on-screen controls and that affected the basic playability of the title.
Because of the controls, much of the series' expected action had to be toned down. Sure, you're still exploring stages, killing enemies with regularity (your weapon dealing damage, slicing off their health bars, as little numbers float up). But when you compare this game to Harmony of Despair, or even any of the classic titles, the levels feel more sparse, the action less intense. The game goes through the motions of a Castlevania title, but the substance in there to make it special is missing.
Likewise the heroes were missing something as well. The characters felt floaty, especially if you got them in one of their air combos. As this was a post-Lords of Shadow title, the game seemed to try and strike a balance between the classic-era heroes and the new-school fighting of the spin-off series. This goes a long way towards explaining why some characters, like the Belmonts, are so combo heavy -- they feel like the vampire hunters from Lords of Shadow even if they look like their classic counterparts. They don't feel like they should, at all.
Like Harmony of Despair, the game does feature equipment and items drops from enemies and plenty of things to collect. Players just couldn't expect to get a lot of the good, or rare, stuff in the game without a lot of grinding. That's because the goal was to get players to pay for all the good stuff -- pay for loot boxes, pay for time, pay for gems. If Konami couldn't milk as much money out of the players as possible there was something wrong with Grimoire of Souls.
And that's probably why the game was originally canceled: there wasn't enough to do in the game; five relatively short chapters by the time the game was canceled without a lot of new content additions or characters to play with. Players would easily get bored and stop paying (or playing) until the next chapter was added, but the chapters took time and money to develop and, at a certain point the money coming in from players probably wasn't enough for Konami to justify further development... at the time.
Since that cancellation, fans wondered if there might be some way for the game to come back. And then, in August of 2021 Konami announced that the game was, indeed, coming back and, no less, it would be available Worldwide via the Apple store. That did limit it's access to players that had Apple products -- iPhones, iPads, and Macs -- but it also meant the game would live again. Currently the game is released in its original (seemingly unfinished) form (the creators of the site don't have Apple products so we're going on hearsay right now), although the hope is that the game will see some further competition at some point. There were still three more quests that were supposed to be released for the game and fans would love to get the finished story. Plus, the Apple version had all the mobile translations removed from it, making it a better version of the game to play with.
It's actually amazing that the game was released at all, in any form, for mass consumption. That said, it tracks with reports that Konami has refocused their game development group. Whether this means further Castlevania adventures are truly expected still remains to be seen (and in what form they'd take if they were released).