CASTLEVANIA: LOGOTYPE DESIGN ANALYSIS

Cover image from logodix

Castlevania is an action-adventure gothic horror video game set in the castle of Count Dracula, the main antagonist of the Belmont clan of vampire hunters. The western title of the saga is a mixture of the words “Castle” and “Transilvania”, the place where the plot of the games is commonly developed. The official name in Japan was “Akumajō Dracula”, which can be translated as “Demon Castle Dracula”. This name was not accepted in the West by Emil Heidkam, vice president of Konami at the time, due to the religious connotation. However, this theme is no stranger to the game because the cathedrals, churches and chapels are a common environment in the Castlevania series. In addition, Dracula is based on the character created by Bram Stoker introduced in the homonymous book which is replete with religious allegories.

The above allows to rescue some terms that help to understand the typeface selection for the Castlevania logo design. In general, the characters have the features of some “Gothic” script or typeface, reminiscent of the video game genre. In addition, they have some calligraphic details because the first Bibles were written with this technique.

Before continuing, let’s clarify that this blog uses the term “logo” to indicate the entire design of the brand, so the term “logotype” will refer to the letters and “logomark” to images or symbols of a logo.

So, with the basics established, let’s do the analysis of the four logotypes that served as the basis for the rest, since from one game to another only their color, texture or other small details changed. For this occasion, the analysis only covers the logotype and the word “Castlevania”, avoiding all other words or visual symbols (“logomark”) unless they need to be mentioned to clarify some important idea. Let’s start!!

THE FIRST LOGOTYPE: THE ONE THAT ACCOMPANIED US FOR THE LONGEST

The first Castlevania logotype was the most recurring. It was used from 1986 to 2001 and in some subsequent special events. 

The logo of the first Castlevania (1986)

Observing at the letters and following the classification cited in “The Anatomy of Type” by Stephen Coles, the font employed in this logotype is a Gothic Sans. This category is characterized by a large x-height, very low contrast, and often a condensed width with an upright stance derived from flat-sided rounds. The close aperture came from the Grotesque Sans, however, that’s not strange since the Gothic Sans is a variant of it.

Font details coming from Gothic Sans classification
Font details coming from Gothic Sans and Grotesque Sans classification

As mentioned above, the choice of this type of font probably resides simply in the fact that Castlevania’s story genre is gothic horror. So, this typeface emphasizes this feature. Nonetheless, there is a detail that can’t go unnoticed, and that is the era. Gothic Sans was born in the 19th century and in the first Castlevania the fight between Simon Belmont and Dracula took place in 1691, so it was necessary to give an “antique” touch to the typography. To accomplish this, the top endings of the characters are tilted at a certain angle to simulate the strokes made by a broad-nib pen. The inclination of the terminal is 30°. The reason for this is the religious connotation, said at the beginning, since “The Vulgate”, a 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible, occupied a Carolingian calligraphy that is achieved by tilting the broad-nib pen 30°.

Keeping the calligraphic and the gothic concept, the dot of the “i” is a diamond, like some details seen in the first printed bible, the Gutenberg Bible, which was made with Gothic Script or Blackletter.

A page from Gutenberg Bible
Logotype angles and the diamond on the “i”

The final touches of this logotype are the top and bottom points of the “C” that are shaped similarly to a crucifix or, taking the video game into account, to those of the “Vampire Killer”. The latter is the whip that had been passed down from generation to generation through the Belmont family.

Finally, the fact that the “V” is larger than the other lowercase letters is probably to separate the two terms that form the word Castlevania (“Castle” and “Transilvania”), and to refer to the V from Vampires. In “Castlevania Chronicles” the “V” is the same height as the other letters to make room for the second line of the logo.

THE SINGLE GAME LOGOTYPE

The first logotype was employed in Castlevania video game for 15 years, but there was an exception in 1991 with Super Castlevania IV. Although there were details of its predecessor that prevailed, there were drastic modifications.

In this case, the calligraphic style is more evident because the strokes are more organic. To notice this, let’s look at how the flat-sided rounds are replaced by flowing curves or, in the case of the “e”, by slanted straight strokes.

Comparison between the “a” and the “e” of the logotype of the first Castlevania and Super Castlevania IV

The broad-nib pen is more present considering the bowl of the “a”; the body of the “s”, the “e” and the “v”; the bottom terminal of the “t”; and the shoulder of the “n”. To attain a carefree logo, the inclination of the strokes varies according to the letter.

The inclination of the strokes varies according depending on the character

This casual air is also present in the space between characters where it’s minimal or, in some combinations such as “v” and “a” (“va”), it’s not-existent.

The space between characters is very small

The dot of the “i” becomes a slanted rectangle, and the “l” has a small decoration on the terminal.

The “l” and the dot of the “i”

The glyphs that serve as decoration cannot be missing, and in this case the “C” and the Roman numeral “4” are in charge of this work. They are straighter and larger than their companions because they function like the pillars of the castle drawn with yellow lines.

The castle in the logo of Super Castlevania IV

This logo was probably only used once for its carefree style which doesn’t match the type of video game Castlevania is.

THE GAME BOY ADVANCED LOGOTYPE

The third logotype to talk about is the one used for the video games of Game Boy Advanced: “Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (2002)” and “Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2003)”.

The intention to simulate the gothic calligraphy is stronger in these designs. Here, the letters are based on “Fraktur”, a subset of Gothic typefaces used for the first time in some legends in some Dürer engravings in 1522. The term derives from the Latin word fractus (broken) since the Blackletter lines are broken up because the pen lifts. Some strokes are cursive, and their angle is usually 45°, but it has some connections up to 65°.

For a better comparison, let’s take the Walbaum Fraktur font (1800) by Justus Erich Walbaum (1738-1893).

The premier element in common between this font and the one applied in the Castlevania logotype is the small decoration caused by the pen lift that are noticeable in the “a”, “v” and “n”.

Detail that appears by lifting the broad-nib pen

The logotype also follows the same serif structure.

Serifs in the logotype

To continue, the “s” in the logotype has simpler stroke lines than that of the Fraktur font, considering the elimination of the flourish and that the lower part is straighter. The “l” is almost the same, the “e” has a similar construction except that it is wider, and the “v” has the head serif pointing to the right instead of to the left.

Comparison between the Castlevania logotype and the “s”, “l”, “e” and “v” of the Walbaum font

The dot of the “i” in the only element of the logotype that comes from the “Old English” font, considered the modern interpretation of the Blackletter script. This dot has the form of an acute accent (very confusing when writing in Spanish XD).

The “C” respects the same position of the preceding logos and its shape is almost the same as the capital “C” of the Walbaum Fraktur, only slightly narrower. In the logotype, the idea was to achieve a closed figure, and that’s why the middle line is straighter and longer.

Modifications of the “C”

Finally, the “t” is the only letter that serves as a text and a symbol at the same time since it’s the abstraction of a crucifix.

THE LATEST DESIGN (UNTIL NOW, OF COURSE)

The last logotype to talk about is the one that was utilized for the first time in 2003 in “Castlevania: Lament of Innocence” and that suffer just a few modifications to be employed by the saga of “Lords of the Shadows (2010 – 2014)”.

The Castlevania logotype from 2003 to 2014

Many components of the Game Boy Advanced logotype endured, so let’s use the Walbaum Fraktur as a base again. First of all, a change that gives the logo a more aggressive yet elegant touch are the serifs and details that end in a point rather than in straight cuts. With this modification, the dot of the “i” in the diamond shape harmonizes better than that of the accent shape.

Details and serifs are pointed

In the “a”, the cursive strokes are replaced by more straight ones.

In the Castlevania logotype the “a” is straight

The “s”, the “l”, the “e”, the “v” and the “n” suffered the same changes as those of the logotype explained in the previous section. The “t” leaves aside the crucifix shape to take on the Fraktur structure.

The “t” in the logotype is similar to that of the Walbaum Fraktur font

Lastly, the “C” is like a waning crescent. Probably the reason behind this is in the relation between the vampires and the night. For the Lord of the Shadows saga, the designers chose to add a small spine to it as in the letter “a”.

The “Lord of Shadow” saga adds a spine to the left of the “C” and “a”

Looking at these logotypes, one can see how the creators had a difficult task since they needed to design different logos for each period of “Castlevania”, but keeping the original idea, in this particular case, the gothic theme. However, this analysis allows to observe that with research and creativity, it is possible to accomplish a great job.


Well, this is the end of a post full of calligraphy, typography and a gothic touch. I hope you liked it and that you give me your comments on the evolution of the logo of this fantastic game. But for now, see you in the next post!!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I'm a Graphic Designer in love with Otomes and JRPG. I like the interface design area and that's why I really like to talk about this theme. You can conquer me with a good videogame Illustration book and a good capuccino.

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