The once glorious company that is Konami is dead to me. I want them to return to their days of glory of once upon a time, but they never will at this rate. I have given up hope for a triumphant return. When I saw the words ‘erotic violence’ and ‘Castlevania’ used in the same trailer unironically, I knew the dismal future was inevitable.
Welcome to Pixels to Polygons, and the sub-series, Tainted Legacies, the column where we compare the games of yesteryear to more modern entries.
More than normal, this article is going to be based solely on my experience and trying to see how you feel about the situation. There are compelling reasons and data we could draw on in order to get a full scope of the history of Konami, but I would much rather take a more holistic approach about how I, and possibly others, feel about the perceived direction of the company.
I remember my time with Konami most fondly back in the days of the NES. It was magical to put in a Konami game and hear that ‘Konami sound’ they were so famous for. It was so easy to identify when I was starting up one of their games, where even when they formed Ultra Games to get out of the limit to published games by a company on NES, I knew they had to be Konami games. They pretty well always had this sound and feel that was pervasive in every title in spite of the diversity of games. To me, if you love the NES, you’d be doing yourself an immense disservice not owning a few of the Konami milestones.
Contra, Castlevania, TMNT, Blades of Steel; these names and many more got me excited for gaming back in the day, and even now. I still pop in Super C now and then to do a no death run, or Monsters in my Pocket to toss around some keys and smack bad dudes as Dracula, or Tiny Toon Adventures for some solid platforming fun. I associated that logo and the Ultra Games logo with quality. There was a pretty consistent trust with the Konami/Ultra Games stamp of approvals (they aren’t faultless though – to hell with Bayou Billy). There were obviously let downs now and then, but the highs were so good that I didn’t care. We stayed the course of quality through the 16 bit era, and it came grinding halt in the awkward teen years of 3D gaming.
A lot of companies, especially those with long-standing franchises, kind of fumbled around when making the transition between dimensions, there were exceptions though. The Mario universe made the transition masterfully. Konami made some pretty bad decisions, with Castlevania 64 and Contra: Legacy of War being prime examples. Those dimensional transitions are almost embarrassing in spite of how much I want to forgive them given the technology jump being intense. But none of this mattered because Konami brought us Metal Gear Solid. Metal. Gear. Solid. This game did so many things to push gaming forward. It was mind-blowing at the time. The high-quality voice acting, stellar soundtrack, brilliant bosses, immersive game world and complex narrative made for an unparalleled experience. It hasn’t aged well in many respects, but its substantial influence is undeniable. Or look at Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. One of the quintessential platforming-adventure games that all fans of the genre need to experience. The point is, Konami was awesome and I loved them for a lot of reasons.
Fast-forward to now. Hideo Kojima and friends produce the highly acclaimed Metal Gear Solid V, making them almost 200 million dollars on launch day. In spite of having this golden goose under their ranks, they treated him extremely poorly and made him and many others jump ship. There are even rumors I’ve heard about frequent demotions and degrading tasks for employees as a reaction to events that don’t really seem worthy of much attention, much less demotions. They abandon tried and true formulas for successful franchises and instead make pachinko games. I wouldn’t mind having both, but the ‘instead’ part has me very bothered. Metal Gear Solid 3 pachinko and erotic Castlevania pachinko make me cringe typing the words out. I don’t think anyone has asked for these franchise transitions.
I just fail to understand where the logic is in any of this. It seems like they believe that pachinko games and quickly developed mobile games will pave the way to the future. Nothing about this screams careful planning and long-term investment. Nothing they’re doing seems to even involve gaming for that matter. Now if they stated they were getting out of games to focus on other endeavours (possibly professional development on effective employee support systems could be a decent topic) and bow out of the realm, cool. But to alienate so many employees and fans with practically no explanation is not cool.
It saddens me to find myself hating Konami. I would have never thought it would get to be so awful considering how much they influenced my childhood gaming scene. But I’ll always remember the good times. How about you?
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