If you are a gamer I believe that you have in innate desire to vanquish evil, in some form or fashion. There are times when grabbing ahold of your game controller feels quite a bit like grabbing ahold of the famed Excalibur, ready to strike down any evil fiend that is foolish enough to cross your path. If you are like me, then you have felt this many times, and the game that is the subject for this post’s 5 Life Lessons is definitely one of the games that harken those feelings. It is a franchise that pits a legendary hero against an even more legendary monster, as the Belmont clan fights their way through the darkest dungeons, caverns, and hallowed halls to kill the accursed Dracula. These are the five life lessons that I have learned from Castlevania.
Life Lesson #1: It’s the little things that kill
This is probably not the case, but when Bush sang the line, “it’s the little things that kill” back in 1994, they could have very easily been talking about the Castlevania games. Throughout the years of the franchises existence, the enemies within the games have become more detailed and ghastly, but the truth remains that it is the smallest sprites in the games that cause the most damage. I am talking about those horrible floating medusa heads, the annoying jumping hunchbacks, and the ghosts; lots and lots of ghosts. The large suits of armor and columns of fire spitting skeletons are easy to defeat because their movements are predictable, but all it takes is one erratically flying medusa head to knock our vampire hunter into oblivion.
Jesus was always able to phrase concepts extremely well. One the reoccurring concepts that he introduced to his disciples time and time again was the idea of “stumbling blocks.” These little obstacles could come in the form of a compromising situation, or a small lie, or even a quick glance. There is nothing much to them, but Jesus knew that they had the power to truly trip people up. He says in Matthew 18:8-9:
8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
These rather descriptive passages of Scripture don’t tell us to self-mutilate ourselves because of our sin, but rather Jesus uses an over-exaggeration (hyperbole) to express how dire the problem is, and how extreme the response must be. The little things truly can kill, so they must be kicked out of the way before they can do some real damage.
Life Lesson #2: Nothing good happens after midnight
The first Castlevania game was a classic, and is often referred to as the best, but the second title on the NES, Simon’s Quest, really stuck out as a unique gaming experience. It was one of first games to introduce an “open world” level design where players could freely go anywhere they wanted to within the game content, assuming they had the right items. This game also introduced a crude form of in-game time; there were days, and then there were nights. In the day, everything was pretty tame, especially in the town, but at night…oh, at night crap got real. Vampires, ghosts, and all sorts of horrific monsters came out to terrorize our vampire hunter as he tried to navigate his way through the hordes of evil. Honestly, this game was one of the reasons why I was afraid of the dark as a kid.
Guys, let’s be honest, does anything truly good ever happen after midnight. Every sensible person is already in bed at that time, and anyone who is not in bed is usually safe in their house. Even the Bible speaks about the fact that evil seems to come out in dark more than it does in the light. In Isaiah 29:15, the author makes this point:
15 Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”
Darkness can conceal the evil deeds of others, and most of the time, without thinking, people will be more comfortable to commit a sin in the darkness rather than in the light. So next time you just want to wander around at night, keep in mind that darkness is the sinner’s color.
Life Lesson #3: Good music makes all the difference
If one is going to navigate through the halls of horror, then it definitely matters what music is being played in the background. One of Castlevania’s defining features is its amazing soundtrack. Ambient organ music can be heard in the later titles, and the action packed monster killing tunes for the original 8-bit games are pretty amazing as well. Can you imagine if Castlevania had a soundtrack like, say, Mario Bros.; no one would want to play the game. It is easy to see from the Castlevania games that good music makes all the difference.
I love all forms of music, from hip hop to heavy metal and even the classics; as long as the message is not something that makes me feel like I need to take a bath in sanitizer and wear rubber gloves, I like it. I also love church music, as many of you do, I imagine. However, have you ever been in a church and heard the praise and worship group and wondered if they have practiced for the church service that week, or ever. I cannot see this as being glorifying to God at all. You see, the Bible actually tell us that God likes good music too, especially when it is played for Him. It says in Psalm 33:2-3:
2 Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
The key phrase in that passage is “play skillfully,” because if God did not like good music, skillful playing would not be required. This is an important lesson to learn for anyone who is willing to serve the Lord through music; do your best, and then do better.
Life Lesson #4: There are real-life “boss” battles
Prior to the release of the Castlevania games, boss battles where quite anticlimactic. In most games, you were fighting against slightly larger versions of the normal bad guys, and they required more hits to defeat. In the Castlevania series, players entered in an open room where a larger than life enemy was ready to lay down some hurt on an unsuspecting vampire hunter. These encounters were larger than life battles that not only tested the skills of the player, but also their patience as well.
The Bible tells us that “there will be trials of many kinds,” (James 1:2) but that does not mean that all human trails are equal. Sure, there are the day-in and day-out troubles that afflict everyone, and most of those are nuisances that can easily be handled by a Believer. However, from time to time in the course a person’s life there will be troubles that appear to dwarf all other trials in the past. I am talking about sudden deaths in the family, natural disasters, and even the loss of a job. I consider these troubles to be the “boss encounters” of life’s trails, and they require every skill, ability, and friendship that a person has in order to overcome it. Just like in video games, the little enemies prepare you for the big ones.
Life Lesson #5: The Cross vanquishes all evil
One of my favorite parts of the Castlevania games are the blatant and unapologetic Christian references that are contained within the content. From Simon’s kneeling before a cross in the opening scene of Castlevania III to one of the weapons in the game being a boomerang like cross, these games are full of crosses. And why not? After all, is not the Prince of Darkness, Dracula himself, powerless against the holy power of the cross? In fact, the strongest item in all of the Castlevania games is a rosary that has a very distinctive cross at the end of it. When our whip wielding hero grabs the item, zap…every monster or enemy within the screen’s view is immediately vaporized. Talk about the power of the Cross.
Why is the Cross of Christ considered to be so powerful? People hang it around their necks, they cover gravestones with it, and even make pastries in the shape of the cross. Well, the power of the cross does not lay in how someone uses it, but rather what the original cross was used for. The cross destroyed the power of evil over the human soul. It says in Hebrew 2:14-15:
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
This passage shows us what has been defeated by the cross, both the devil and death (coincidentally those are two enemies in the Castlevania games), and those forces no longer have power over mankind through Jesus Christ. So the power of the cross is more than what the foes of God’s army can resist.