Castlevania and Doom are two of the most legendary gaming series out there. So what might happen if you smash the two together? You get Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny, a completely free, standalone, non-profit fangame (or “Total Conversion” as some people call them) built in GZDoom — an enhanced, modern take on the original Doom engine. This might be all some of you need to hear before you get downloading, so if you want to jump straight into the action, here’s the link.
Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny has actually been around in one form or another since 2017, but for some reason that remains unclear it’s been a hot topic of discussion on social media for the last few days. And so here we are.
Author Andrea Gori — better known as “Batandy” — notes that the original intent behind Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny was to “reinvent the very first NES title of the franchise with nostalgic yet brand new first-person gameplay”. To that end, he has reimagined all of the main levels of the original NES game in first-person 3D — including a number of infuriating platform sections. It just wouldn’t be Castlevania without them.
In Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny, you take control of Simon Belmont as he attempts to infiltrate Dracula’s castle. Initially armed with only a whip, as you progress you’ll encounter all manner of familiar Castlevania mechanics reimagined from a first-person perspective: all of the subweapons are present and correct and work exactly how you’d expect, you can upgrade the whip as you progress — and you can even whip out certain blocks in the walls for some delicious meaty treats. And yes, Medusa heads are just as horrible to deal with in first-person as you would have imagined them to be.
Being based on such a proven and beloved engine, Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny of course plays well. Those of you who haven’t used GZDoom before may want to tinker with the setting a little in order to get the game looking its best; at the very least, you’ll want to go into the Display Options menu and set the texture filtering to one of the “None” settings, as this will ensure interface elements and sprites have lovely crisp pixelated edges rather than being a blurry mess.
Be warned, though, this game is tough — as well it should be as an adaptation of Castlevania. Remember that the original Castlevania games were intended to be taken at a fairly deliberate pace, so approach this in the same way and you’ll have a great time. At least you can quicksave in this one if you’re really struggling to make it through a level in one go!
The quality of Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny cannot be overstated; it wouldn’t have looked out of place alongside the numerous commercial spin-offs of Doom back in the day — particularly titles like Raven Software’s excellent Heretic and Hexen games. Perhaps in a parallel universe, Konami might have commissioned a project like this themselves to help keep the series alive. We can dream, huh? At least we got that Anniversary Collection a while back, as well as some clunky PC releases.
Gori is clearly a big fan of doing clever things with GZDoom; his other projects available for free on Itch include three “Doom: The Golden Souls” games (the third of which is still in active development), which mash up Doom’s classic first-person shooter gameplay with the colourful joy of ‘90s collectathon platformers; and a lo-fi GZDoom demake of Hideo Kojima’s classic P.T. Playable Teaser.
Gori’s also paying homage to the massive Doom modding community as part of his Doom: The Golden Souls 3 project by creating an in-game “modseum” — curated by none other than a rather pixelated John Romero. As you progress through Doom: The Golden Souls 3, you’ll be able to collect trophies that represent characters from popular Doom mods, which will gradually fill the modseum with exhibits. You’ll be able to see character profiles as well as framed “artwork” depicting some of the scene’s most popular maps from over the years.
Gori isn’t taking payment for his mods due to their nature as “fangames” based on copyrighted IPs; Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny in particular uses a variety of music and sound effects pulled directly from various incarnations of Castlevania from over the years. But if you do want to support his work, he has a Patreon page. He’s keen to stress that supporting him there doesn’t provide access to any exclusive content — but doubtless it will help keep him motivated to produce some of the best Doom mods out there for many more years to come.
Oh, and don’t expect a GZDoom-powered take on Symphony of the Night any time soon; to quote Gori himself, “that game is a masterpiece, it’s perfectly crafted in every single possible way, and even getting remotely close to it would be a really hard task”. So just go play it again. In fact, I might go and do that right now.
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