The interesting thing tho is how out of every game out there, and out of every time someone mentioned "This is the Dark Souls of [X]", it's actually amazing how similar Castlevania and Dark Souls really are despite being totally different genres, you can really tell where certain key mechanics and level design directing styles were created back in the day.
- You need to think before you act, just like in Dark Souls.
- You need to be prepared for surprise attacks and spawns behind you, just like in Dark Souls.
- You need to avoid traps the level sets up that tries to knock you off cliffs and platforms, just like in Dark Souls.
- You get rewarded HEAVILY for noticing patterns in the level design that straight up warn you of incoming danger, allowing you to conquer challenges despite never seeing them before, just like in Dark Souls.
- You get new weapons and characters but mostly you level up yourself, your skills and understanding of the game and level as a player as opposed to leveling up your character's stats alone, unlike other games where your level/gear matters, your skill matters much more just like in Dark Souls.
- Each stage/screen/fight appears really challenging at first but all are designed and meant to be defeated, and figuring out how it's both fun and challenging and extremely rewarding because of the insanely creative and brilliant level and game design, going from dying 10 seconds into the fight dealing no damage to the target and not knowing what to do, to beating the whole fight without getting hit once. Or getting through multiple screens and fights on the first attempt because they are all just so well designed and intuitive, just like in Dark Souls.
People's standards on difficulty has also changed over the years and a lot of players don't recognize how beautiful a game like this really is, more so than a cool throwback retro or a fun platformer with cool powerups.
For example if you ever get hit at all while playing Castlevania, Bloodstained or Dark Souls then you are doing something wrong, because these games make sure to accommodate ways for players to avoid and conquer every challenge, so if something comes your way you can be sure there is some manner to avoid it and it just requires learning the level design and understanding what the game is trying to tell and teach you, and also not fuck up.
Now of course it's easier said than done but there is a major difference between "Beating a Game" and "Getting Through a game", any player can get through a game eventually specially way more now a days with enough continues and the like, but if you are beating a challenge by just slashing at it repeatedly while using invincibility-frames to avoid dying, are you really getting any substantial value from your gameplay? Are you really conquering anything?
The special thing about truly beating a game as well designed as this is that your experience and perspective over the entire game suddenly changes, as well as your own skill and appreciation of the level and game design, a big part of the fun of games like these is to face every challenge and conquer it even if you can i-frame past it or work around it eventually with enough retries. And a lot of it comes from simply assuming that "If you ever get hit, you are already doing something wrong" which sets a specific standard/objective and mindset for your own skills, figuring out what was wrong and improving on it, suddenly not getting hit by what was once a challenge because there was a way to do so all along, and doing so again and again with different obstacles, suddenly flying through stages without dying, despite the occasional mistake and loss of a few lives here and there, all because the level and game are constantly warning the player of incoming challenges and everything is specifically designed with ways to beat it.
I can understand the appeal of casual games, a lot of them are great and I play several. I am not saying that easier difficulties are always bad and playing games on them is the wrong thing to do. I even understand being hesitant to pick the highest difficulty in a game (Specially since a lot of games have really bad difficulty scaling), it's a pretty big commitment to tackle a challenging game or a challenging difficulty, it takes time and requires a level of engagement not found in many other places so it can be somewhat unappealing at first for some. But when I did pick Veteran Mode instead of Casual Mode in Bloodstained and finished the game, I felt way more accomplished than I would have otherwise on Casual. It's not that easier difficulties are necessarily bad they are just not as fulfilling and satisfying as some experiences players would otherwise get on hard and challenging (And well designed) games.
You can watch something dull and subjectively-fun like a popcorn-Hollywood blockbuster all day, but something like Die Hard, Matrix, LOTR, those are life changing experiences, despite the commitment required to get through them, they leave a way bigger impact on the viewer's life, they leave a far more substantial mark, and isn't that what high quality entertainment is all about? Games that stick with you, make players dream about them at night and think of how cool they were for hours, days, weeks. My first playthrough of Bloodstianed was just 2 hours long, but the everlasting impression is far thunderous than a lot of other games done by bigger publishers or that I spent many more hours on.
Even big enough for me to write this whole editorial piece about it because I just cant stop reminiscing about how amazing it was.