Former Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi oversaw what many fans considered to be the 'golden era' of the series; he served as assistant director, programmer and scenario writer on Symphony of the Night before taking a more significant role on the entire franchise, and under his watch, games such as Aria of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin would be created – titles which followed SotN's 'Metroidvania' template closely.
After 2010's interesting but ultimately divisive Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, the Castlevania series would be rebooted by Konami, with Spanish studio MercurySteam producing the commercially successful Lords of Shadow. A year later, Igarashi was moved to Konami's 'social' division, and the company would focus much of its energy on creating games for smartphones. Igarashi said at the time that his skills were not in this particular area, and he left Konami in 2014 to form ArtPlay and work on the Bloodstained franchise, which many people see as the true successor to Igarashi's Metroidvania titles.
Igarashi recently discussed his reasons for leaving Konami at the Monaco Anime Game International Conferences 2023 (MAGIC 2023), where he was speaking alongside Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi (thanks, IGN).
He explains that, when he became aware that Konami's change of focus would mean no more Castlevania games like SotN, he decided it was time to move on – with a little encouragement from the devil on his shoulder, it would seem:
“In my case, (at Konami) I wasn’t able to make the type of game that I knew fans were waiting for anymore. Mobile games were gaining popularity in Japan. As a company, I think it was the right decision to shift focus. However, as a result it was no longer possible for me to make the same type of games. That’s when I heard the voice of a devil inside me telling me to quit. I think that to a greater or lesser extent, the direction of companies and what developers wanted to make started to diverge."
During the talk, Igarashi jokingly referenced the fact that he was involved in one of the games which made the 'Metroidvania' genre so popular:
“I would like to start by telling everyone to please leave my field! In all seriousness though, I think that it is only natural for works to be inspired by each other. As for games within the genre, I try to play the good ones. More so than me, the director (of Bloodstained) researches these games to see what they do well and learn from their mistakes at the same time. In that regard, I guess I should call [other Metroidvania developers] our friends. We all learn from each other in the hope of creating better games.”
Since leaving Konami, Igarashi has worked on three games in the Bloodstained series (Curse of the Moon, Ritual of the Night and Curse of the Moon 2), as well as the RTS title Revolve8: Episodic Duelling.
The Castlevania titles Konami has produced without Igarashi have had fixed fortunes; while the original Lords of Shadow was critically and commercially successful, the second game was less so, and the 3DS spin-off Mirror of Fate continues to be a divisive title amongst fans.
Recent rumours suggest that the company is in the process of reviving the franchise.