Castlevania director Koji Igarashi left Konami last year to strike out on his own as an independent developer and create the kind of games he’s fond of making. This eventually led him to create Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a side-scrolling Castlevania-esque game set inside a castle populated by monsters and the occult.
Bloodstained’s lead character is a lady by the name of Miriam. Inside Miriam are cursed magi-crystals that were fused with her body at a young age by a group of evil Alchemists. As the curse matures over a period of ten years, Miriam lies in slumber until she finally awakens to a world where a demonic castle from hell has been summoned by Gebel, and old friend of hers that was subjected to the same curse as her. Now, left partial amnesia and the powers conferred upon her by the magi-crystals, Miriam sets out to stop the chaos.
Miriam sounds like an interesting character, but the scant few tidbits of information available on her don’t provide much of an account of her personality or her past—and so, Siliconera got in touch with Bloodstained project lead Koji Igarashi to talk about who she is and what her motivations are.
Miriam sounds like an interesting character. Her mission is fuelled by tragedy like so many other heroes, but you point out that she does have loved ones and friends that she cares about. Who are these people, exactly? Give us an idea of Miriam’s relationships and what her life is like.
Koji Igarashi, Project Lead: The Alchemists’ process of grafting magi-crystals into her flesh has turned her into a beacon that calls demons down to earth—an experimental puppet. And there are dozens more like her, abandoned children and orphans whose disappearance no one would ever notice. When the Alchemists took the children in, they formed friendships with each other—the only others dealing with the same situation. Gebel was one of Miriam’s closest friends.
Johannes. Johannes was an apprentice Alchemist whose disgust with his guild masters’ experiments got him thrown out of the guild.
These new humans were a step forward in human development, in that they possessed powers and abilities that others do not, but the Alchemists’ plot to call demons down—to demonstrate that only Alchemists could protect humankind—turned this step forward into a colossal step backward when the Alchemists could not stop what they had begun.
The magi-crystal process was never perfected, and the summoning ceremony that Miriam was forced into left her in a trance—a kind of hibernation that suspended time while the crystals took root. None of the other children survived their trance—none except for Miriam and Gebel, who survived to vow revenge on the Alchemists who had created him. A year after the demons appeared, he did—only Johannes survived.
A decade after the demons, a dark castle appeared at the site of the old Alchemist’s Guild, and Miriam awoke with the certainty that Gebel was behind it—and that he must be stopped. Fortunately, Johannes never stopped developing his own skills during her slumber, and the glyphs he etches onto her skin keep the curse at bay… for now.
You’ve said that Miriam has partial amnesia. Just how much of her memories has she retained and which parts of it are missing?
We haven’t locked her background down completely, but the idea is that her trance has blended all her memories into a kind of fog of confusion. She remembers what happened to her, but she confuses the events and the cause and effect. When she wakes up she’s forgotten a great deal of the abilities she used to know.
There are obviously similarities between Miriam and Shanoa from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. Did you have any particular attachment to Shanoa?
Attachment isn’t the right word. I think there are very few strong female leads, so Miriam also being a powerful female lead naturally creates that association. In reality they are two very different characters with very different motivations.
Is there any reason the tiara-like piece Miriam has equipped on her head makes her look like she has horns? Where did the inspiration for Miriam’s design come from?
That was a concept the character designer thought of. Right now the tiara doesn’t really have any function, except as a visual accessory, but I did like the resemblance to horns… something that’s associated with devils or demons. We wanted to give her a hint of the wicked from a visual standpoint, and I really liked it.
You refer to the game’s genre as “Igavania,” not “Metroidvania”. Which Castlevania games are you looking to draw inspiration from, in terms of how stages are designed?
The original design had the main character exploring a wide variety of different locations around the world, but the more I thought about the key concept of exploration it became clear that a vast castle would emphasize it better than a variety of locations. It maintains the Gothic style that has been present in most of my games, and allows the player to keep digging through the crawlspaces and contraptions and hallways hidden inside castles.
The Kickstarter page for Bloodstained says that you’ve already managed to procure partial funding for the game, and that Kickstarter funds will be used to elevate the game’s budget and manufacture backer rewards. Where did the initial funding come from?
After over a year of talking with just about every publisher and having them pass, we finally secured investment to cover 90% of the game, but it was conditional: We had to prove there was a market for another game like this. Now that we’ve cleared so many stretch goals we’ll be able to make a game with much more content than the one I’d hoped to make.
You left Konami in 2014. How’s life as an indie developer been treating you since? Now that you don’t have the backing of a large company any more, do you find yourself worrying about finances or how to put food on the table?
It takes guts to leave a stable job behind and strike out on your own, so I’m curious what your experience has been.
As far as my reasons for going independent… I think it’s quite obvious that I hadn’t been able to move any of my designs forward at my previous employer. While that was happening I saw what Inafune-san was doing on Kickstarter, and shortly after that his agent reached out to me, saying we should try to find a way for me to make the games I loved to work on.
Fans were lobbying for it as well, and initially there was interest from publishers. So I took the leap, thinking I’d be up and making a new game in a few months. This was a major miscalculation—as we pitched this game, door after door closed in front of me. Some publishers turned us down multiple times.
Most of them were nice, and I think they really did want to work with me, but for a variety of reasons it never worked out. As months went by with no income I began to get very nervous and a little depressed—I’m a creator and a family man, so having nothing to work on and no income was a heavy burden.
Fortunately, I was approached about working on mobile games, so I joined the company I’m at now, ArtPlay. The investors there were kind enough to allow me to work on console games independently, unrelated to ArtPlay, with the condition that I had to find the funding to make those console games on my own.
I guess I’m lucky to have found people like this, and fans, to help shape my career and smooth out my path. There are tough spots in life, but I’ve always had kind people to help pull me out of them.