Honestly I do feel vaguely guilty riffing on this. Once upon a time, I was commissioned to write a promotional comic book for children (don’t bother looking for it, dammit!) and the end result probably did bring shame to my ancestors. But it is hard to do, especially when you’re chained down by a dozen editorial mandates and no one, especially not you, has any illusions that artistic merit has got anything to do with it. It especially couldn’t have been easy given that the subject matter is Castlevania; even the shallow, 8-bit video game isn’t all that far removed from its many horror inspirations.
On the other hand…
“Look – anyway, this is a joke, right? Everyone has ganged up on me ’cause they know I’m an ace Castlevania player and I’m being persecuted for my hobby.”
There is the matter of Tim. By the way, for all his bragging, I bet he couldn’t get through Stage 17 in the original on one life.
Anyway, when last we left our “ace Castlevania player,” he was confronted by a bondage-geared man in the boys’ bathroom of his school, claiming to be a character from his video game. Rather than seeking help or saying his prayers, Tim stops to listen to him.
Here was Simon Belmont, the Hero of Castlevania, standing before him, square jaw jutting earnestly, broad chest heaving with purpose. Yes, this was Simon all right. Tim even noticed now that gripped feverishly in Simon’s fist was a whip.
To his credit, Tim is a bit skeptical, until Simon shows that he can answer one of Tim’s questions: the name of Simon’s girlfriend, Linda Entwhistle. Only she doesn’t exist anywhere in the actual game series, and even so it’s the sort of trivia a child murderer would be able to learn, even in the Dark Age of P.G. (PreGoogle).
Oh well, I guess Tim is just grateful it’s obviously not this Simon Belmont.
Anyway, once the matter of credentials is settled, Simon has Tim touch his whip, which magically teleports them both back to his bedroom…okay, seriously, how is this not a really disturbing allegory?
Stepping away from that disturbing line of thought, there is something else about this set-up that I find troubling. Simon Belmont is apparently aware that he’s a video game character. There’s none of that “Your video game/novel/comic creators were inspired by what they thought was their imagination, but really they were tapping into my world” kind of thing that you see in these kinds of affairs. Simon even hails Tim as “the best Castlevania player in this dimension.” Like Princess Toadstool and her lack of concern that her entire universe is not the “real world,” Simon seems unperturbed that his entire artificial existence is endlessly manipulated for the entertainment through countless unseen hands. (And in case you think I’m not the only person who thought of this, it’s the kind of question that’s part of the premise of this fan sequel to Captain N where a cosmic horror is slowly wiping out Videoland by simply showing its denizens the truth of their existence. It’s…rather brilliant, actually. )
Anyway, the book is (loosely…very, very, very loosely) based on the plot of Castlevania II. Simon tells Tim that Dracula was killed and his body divided into five parts (wait, the author can’t talk about bloodsucking but he can make slicing up a corpse a plot point?), but a curse Dracula placed on Simon remains in effect. The greatest departure from the game’s premise is that the curse doesn’t mean Simon is in danger of dying young and that he’s constantly harassed by zombies at night (while the player themselves are damned to read “What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse” over and over again); instead Simon is slowly being possessed by Dracula. Plus, Dracula’s got his girl.
I knew something was wrong when my beautiful Linda, whom Dracula had captured, did not come back to me!
I know this is a book for children, but I think even kids, unless they’ve been raised on nothing but Sesame Street, would assume that Simon’s “beautiful Linda” is deader than a necrophiliac’s dream date.
Anyway, over the course of the explanation, Simon takes Tim to Casltevania, which “looked like a cluster of medieval towns, but drawn by a madman in a depression…”, which is about as much of a description as we get. We don’t even have an idea of where Tim and Simon are standing once they enter the fantasy world that was supposed to be the entire point of this book. Luckily, here Dracula does what many a video game villain should do and tries to take care of the problem before said problem can gain levels or find special weapons or whathaveyou:
…Simon Belmont was no longer totally Simon Belmont. “Greetings, mortal!” said the voice of Count Dracula. “Come to Castlevania for an early and unpleasant death, I take it?”
Admittedly, I did get a kick out of imagining Christopher Lee forcing out that line.