2D: Simon Belmont

Let’s talk about one of the most incredible revelations I’ve ever experienced while playing a video game: The way Simon Belmont walked in Castlevania.

Look at those amazing three frames!

No, seriously, look at them. They kind of blew my mind at the time. The fact that Simon had an intermediate frame of animation for his walk cycle set Castlevania apart 25 years ago. Other characters were like simple flipbooks — foot forward, foot back, foot forward, etc. — and the seemingly trifling addition of a frame where his legs occupied parallel space added a certain vitality and fluidity to his movement that made him seem more real, somehow. And, probably more importantly, it allowed Simon to move more deliberately than characters in other games without looking awkward in the process, meaning Castlevania’s slower pace than its peers worked where it might otherwise not have.

Of course, my little junior high brain would have exploded if I could have seen the way Alucard would move in Symphony of the Night.

5 thoughts on “2D: Simon Belmont

  1. If you’d stuck a gun to my head before I read this I would’ve sworn on a stack of bibles Simon had at 4 or 5 frames of animation in his walk cycle, and I have played the LIVING BEJESUS out of the first two Castlevania games (Simon’s sprite in Simon’s Quest is just a palette swap from CV1, right?)

    Someone could probably write whole feature on the evolution of sprite animation – from the static 2-frame jobs mentioned above, to Simon Belmont, to Mario’s extra walking-wiggle in SMB3 to the beautiful work in the Metal Slug games.

    • Well, the middle frame is displayed twice. And his Simon’s Quest sprite was a little more of a modification than a straight palette swap, but it has the same frames.

  2. Interestingly enough, Mega Man does this with the running animation as well. No wonder I couldn’t get enough of the Blue Bomber. :)

    • Oh yeah, Mega Man has that “lean forward” frame that helps make his run cycle look so determined. Go figure that the two third-party companies best known for the audiovisual quality of their NES games would feature more robust animation than in Nintendo’s own early-era games.

      • In fairness, Nintendo was busy pioneering how video games worked and can be forgiven for letting others sort out how they looked.

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