When the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was released in 2010, one element that was persistently praised was the stunning visual design. MercurySteam used a superb mix of stunning aesthetics with incredibly powerful technology to take the themes and atmosphere from the classic games and, for the first time, accurately translate them in a 3D world. A limited edition of the first game hinted at some of the beautiful concept artwork that went in to the development, but the very limited sample did little to satisfy, and much like the vampiric antagonist of the series, left us with a ferocious craving to consume more of these stunning images.
It’s for this reason that the The Art of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow by Titan Books is such a very welcome addition to the bookshelf. With artwork collected from both games in this series as well as the spin-off 3DS title, recently re-released in HD, Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate. The entire art book is beautifully presented and is printed to a very high standard, so you can feel secure that you are consuming the images in a medium befitting of their artistry. One aspect of note is that the book does not order its chapters by each game; rather it mixes the concepts of the games together by relevance. For this reason I would highly recommend that anybody especially concerned about spoilers, take the time to play the games before perusing the pages of this book, or for that matter, much more of this review.
A very welcome aspect, which is not commonly found in art books, is the rather lengthy introduction, which includes 5 pages of text plus the foreword that delves into the origins of the reboot. It explains in far more detail than is commonly given, how the developers were offered the opportunity to work on the franchise, and how many of their ideas formed to create the final product. It’s clear from the way much of this text is written that a great amount of passion has gone in to these elements of the book. It is incredibly interesting to learn just how Capcom went about handing over the reins of such a valuable and beloved series, and how certain aspects of the series came to fruition. This detail and explanation continues into the book, as every chapter contains an introductory text sharing thoughts and inspirations on the art in question, as well as many of the individual pages going in to a good amount of depth discussing the concepts and themes that the artists incorporate into their designs.
One aspect touched upon is the new focus on heavily developed characters to allow for a much more immersive, character-driven plot than is traditionally expected of a Castlevania game, and this comes across in much of the character designs. Each of the Belmont family share a very distinct similarity that truly makes them feel as though each character is a direct descendant of Gabriel; from similarities in their silhouettes to recognisable facial features and physicality. Despite this, each character is given their own unique aspects that defines them as an individual, and solidifies specific character traits purely through visual design.