For the past three decades, Konami has been a strong name in the video game industry. As a publisher and a developer, the Japanese company has delivered many cherished franchises to gamers. From Castlevania, Contra, and Gradius, to Dance Dance Revolution, Silent Hill and Metal Gear Solid — all of these names stirred up excitement when new titles were announced. Who can forget the first time we whipped zombies as Simon Belmont, defeated Psycho Mantis as Solid Snake, or mustered up the courage to walk down that dark corridor in Silent Hill? I know I can’t.
All of this good will Konami gave to gaming fans had crumbled and burned in 2014 when the drama between Hideo Kojima, the creator of Metal Gear, and Konami had surfaced to the public. Both parties had a nasty falling out, with alleged poor mistreatment by Konami and the eventual firing of Kojima. It was difficult not to take Kojima’s side when highly anticipated games were being cancelled left and right, beloved franchises were being ignored, shareholders had favored gambling machines over new titles and overall quality had dipped significantly in a lot of their recent offerings.
Aside from the lucrative Winning Eleven soccer franchise and a poorly received Metal Gear survival spin-off game, Konami has been completely radio silent. No word from any development teams touching any of the franchises we love, aside from plastering them all over Pachinko machines in Japanese casinos. At this point, Konami had a terrible stigma stamped on their good name and many gamers felt as if the company completely abandoned video games and the community as a whole. Yet, a glimmer of hope peered from within the darkness this year that has us all questioning whether or not Konami has plans to pull it all together, like Capcom accomplished this generation.
Konami has recently announced a collection of… well collections, in the form of Konami Anniversary Collections. The first being a compilation of classic arcade titles like Haunted Castle (the arcade version of Castlevania), Gradius and Thunder Cross. Later this year Konami will also launch a Contra Anniversary Collection including most of the 8bit and 16bit Contra titles from the late 80’s and early 90’s.
A few weeks ago, Konami dropped the Castlevania Anniversary Collection on Xbox One, Steam, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch. This collection includes all of the 8bit and 16bit classic Castlevania games. Love the original Castlevania on the NES? It’s definitely here. Never played the Genesis exclusive Castlevania Bloodlines? Don’t worry, it’s here too! Are you one of the 10 fans out there who actually likes Simon’s Quest? It’s also included.
The package also includes Kid Dracula, an NES title that never made it to North American shores. Eventually we did get a Gameboy variation of this title stateside, but it didn’t perform as well as Konami would have hoped. Konami actually took the time to completely localize Kid Dracula for North American gamers, which is pretty impressive for a company that allegedly hates us all.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection also includes a digital art book that showcases all of the North American and Japanese box arts, design documents for each game and interviews from folks who were involved their development. Any Castlevania fan will eat this package up and it’s only $20 to boot. It’s a very impressive collection at an affordable price with great emulation and plenty of options for displaying the game to your preferences, such as pixel perfect mode and dot matrix mode for the Gameboy titles.
The reason I’m bringing all of this up is to question whether or not Konami has had a change of heart. Were these classic collections concocted by Konami leadership as a way to gauge interest in potential sequels to these franchises? Could they act as an appetizer to an overall bigger announcement for the returns of Castlevania and Contra at E3 next week? Maybe Konami simply threw them out to make a quick buck off of nostalgic gamers? Who knows, but I’m really hoping for the former rather than the latter.
Look, Konami is certainly a business with the intent to draw in large profits and appease shareholders; we’re all well aware of that. Upper management will do what needs to be done in order to continue to rake in the cash and make the company successful. I think that it’s highly possible that 2019 is the year that something clicked within Konami leadership. We’re starting to seeing REAL effort being put into a few highly regarded franchises and I believe Konami is using this tactic to pull away the layers of negativity attached to the overall brand.
For instance, lets take a few recent examples from this generation that leads me to believe Konami has interest in real positive change. First off, the resurgence of nostalgic products being pushed this generation are hard to ignore. Nintendo, Sony and now Sega, launched micro consoles for their classic platforms that are filled with some of the best video games in history (well… maybe not Sony’s). Many remakes and revivals of franchises once thought to be abandoned were released this generation that were very successful, like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Mega Man.
We can’t forget about the spiritual successors that have poured in from the indie community as well. Many being backed by their original creators. For example, Bloodstaind: Ritual of the Night releases this month as a spiritual successor to Castlevania from the man himself, Koji Igarashi, who created Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The original creators of the Nintendo 64 classic Banjo Kazooie formed the studio Playtonic and released a charming spiritual successor named Yooka-Laylee. One of my favorite game designers, Yu Suzuki, is finally allowed to finish his Shenmue trilogy by forming the studio YsNet and launching Shenmue III later this year. Classic gaming fans have a LOT to look forward to!
Let’s not forget Netflix’s successful Castlevania anime series, developed by Kevin Kolde and animated by Powerhouse Animation Studios. The second season was greenlit as soon as the first season launched on Netflix back in 2017. A third season is also in the works. This proves that many people still have an interest in Konami-owned properties and the potential of future projects cannot be ignored.
Now is the best time for Konami to put their best foot forward and ride the nostalgia wave that’s currently hitting the gaming industry. I think they’re starting to realize that the company has been sitting on a gold mine of awesome intellectual properties that could be bringing a lot of money into the company while also restoring the positivity and excitement the brand once held by gamers. The Castlevania, Contra and Arcade compilations are a good sign of this.
Overall, do I think Konami is going to be making a comeback? Yes, and I hope to see it as early as E3 2019. There is a high chance of me being completely wrong while Konami continues their downward spiral, but I believe recent offerings have been showing a different side of Konami. A side that wants gamers to fall in love with them all over again. We shall see what happens.