I’ve done the math, made some phone calls, and crunched the numbers. Here are the results.

If you are making your own videogame, movie, book, or whatever: this is the one stage in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that you can use with legal impunity:

We already covered this one

The Battlefields and Final Destination you could easily argue are signature pieces of the Smash Bros. experience going back to the 90’s. Past that, all castles are distinctly labeled as belonging to their appropriate monarchs (Peach, Zelda, etc) or contain iconography that ties it to its home franchise (see the flags on Castle Siege). Cities are distinctly their cities (Onett, Fourside) and bridges are similarly geographically labeled. Generic “Distant Planet” or “Garden of Hope” stages contain game-specific creatures. The likes of Balloon Trip or Wii Fit Studio are their base games. Even the Boxing Ring is wallpapered with Smash-specific iconography and displays. And, of course, any of the DLC stages are excuses to get as much out of their respective (presumably temporary) licenses as possible (except Mai).

Meanwhile, Dracula’s Castle has candles, stained-glass windows, carpet, the moon, marginally religious statues, and stairs. As it is Dracula’s castle, Dracula and his coffin occasionally appear. Additionally, fellow guests Frankenstein’s Monster, Medusa, a mummy, and a werewolf appear. Technically, we have two “named” cameos, Igor and Carmilla, but they are not visibly/audibly named or identified as anything. They could easily be a hunchback and haunted mask, respectively. A silhouette of what is probably Kid Dracula rarely appears, but it is merely a shadow.

And that’s all public domain!

I like this towerBram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897, so both the count and his castle are fair game. Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu was establishing the vampire mythos earlier than Bram in 1871. Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus is even older, going back to a terrible sleepover in 1818. If we are claiming “Igor” is just a generic hunchback (and not from the previously mentioned Frankenstein), we’ve got The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo from 1831. Wolf-Men have appeared in mythology for centuries. Medusa is older than many civilizations, but she is not older than the process of mummification. And Nintendo, I love you, but good luck proving you have a legal claim to “staircase that leads to a room” as an architectural concept. Same for distant clock towers. You cannot copyright England.

So enjoy using literally everything in Dracula’s Castle in your next project! Just so long as you don’t stick any of the extremely copyrighted Smash Brothers in there, and ignore the bangin’ music, you will be 100% fine.

Just like the mad lads behind Vampire Survivors.

Vampire Survivors is ultimately a rogue-like, with all the usual “you will die” and “hopefully you find enough cash to level up” gameplay loops that the genre entails. The major difference here is that Vampire Survivor defined its own subgenre: Bullet Heaven. You are the thing launching an aggressive charge against all comers, and your goal in leveling is to solidify an offense of (usually magical, occasionally literal) bullets that cover every last inch of the battlefield. Early runs will probably see a player earning just enough upgrades to put a dent in the endless hordes, but, once you have some experience under your belt, you should be able to vaporize monster mobs for a solid half hour. You are subject to the traditional randomness of the rogue-like genre (some days you will never find the weapon/upgrade you truly want), but there are an endless number of builds that will keep you alive long enough to hunt swarms of skeletons into oblivion (sorry, BEAT).

WINNER!And speaking of randomness, Vampire Survivors was created by Luca “poncle” Galante, a man who previously was a developer in the gambling industry. It shows. But, because that “gambling” is not at all tied to microtransactions, it is delightful! The unpredictability of Vampire Survivors is a feature, not a bug, as the aesthetics of every “pull” of a level up, treasure chest, or coffin unboxing always generates hype. And it is not just about the flashing lights and whirling noises: while you may not always get the weapon or upgrade you want, there are very few “loser” items within Vampire Survivors. A whip may not be as useful as a laurel, but it is also not a situation where an item might be a debilitating tradeoff like “+2 power, -2 magic”. Literally every item in Vampire Survivors has its benefits, and even the “cursed” upgrades mean soaking up more experience from more eradicated werewolves. So, unlike a “real” slot machine where you can (and will) lose, Vampire Survivors is a perfectly calibrated continual dopamine rush. It may take a few rounds to find your proper groove, but once you are there, Vampire Survivors may as well be brain massage software.

But we have not addressed the aesthetics of Vampire Survivors outside of opening a treasure chest. Let’s be real here, if I had never played Vampire Survivors, and you showed me this screenshot…

I know those skeletons

I would tell you without reservation that I was looking at an officially-licensed-by-Konami Castlevania game. But it’s not! Castlevania was not officially involved with the development of Vampire Survivors in any capacity! Because, ladies and gentlemen, you cannot copyright “a skeleton” or “a skeleton has a sword now”. And, since 90% of the Castlevania bestiary is comprised of public domain monsters… Well, you go ahead and prove that skeletons only stand with that pose when defending Dracula’s haunted mansion. Every creature in Vampire Survivors is little more than a size (small, large) and an HP total, so we don’t have to worry about stealing (presumably provably) copyrighted attack patterns here. The pointy murder dolls in Vampire Survivors just happen to look like pointy murder dolls in Castlevania. A coincidence and nothing more! Sure, one hero of Vampire Survivors starts with a whip, but there is also a protagonist that shoots guns out of their shoes (I think). Is that from Castlevania? Of course not! It’s totally original!

And, despite the name of the game, the last enemy to be destroyed is Death. And Lord knows you can’t copyright that guy.

So whether you are repurposing a stage or the entire contents of a count’s castle, remember that monsters are free use. If you want to use medusa to sell cars or soak magical bullets, she is available.

And look forward to Winnie the Pooh (sans shirt) appearing in Smash Bros.

SBC #39 Richter Belmont & Vampire Survivors

Richter Belmont in Super Smash Bros Ultimate


  • He any Good? I will be better than Smash Bros, and not simply repeat my exact assessment of Simon Belmont. Do you ever use the whip combo instead of its smash attack? Do you edge guard with holy water? Richter’s holy water is different from Simon’s fire bomb. That is so important.
  • That final smash work? Okay, this I am going to “echo” from Simon’s post: Grand Cross having its whole “scene” is nice, but it would be better if it just appeared without the movie.
  • The background work? We already used today’s featured background with Simon, so let’s look at the similarly spooky Luigi’s Mansion. Always been a fan of this stage (and particularly its music), but it might be a little too easy to destroy. Always seems like the place has been wrecked down to the studs before the timer ticks off ten seconds. And then it is just a flat lot of nothing…
  • Classic Mode: Smash Echoes is all about fighting the labeled Echo Characters one-on-one. Nobody that is even a slight variation (like Luigi or Pichu) is allowed, so this is one of the most straightforward classic modes. And then you fight the least echo-y of the final bosses, Dracula. Who else is a Belmont going to battle?
  • Smash Trivia: Okay, maybe the Temple stage initially from Super Smash Bros. Melee could be considered fair use, as it is not distinctly “Zelda’s Temple” or whatever, it is just a generic temple. However, the architecture of the stage does contain Hylian language and some Triforces around the edges, so that probably disqualifies it.
  • Throw your hands up

  • Amiibo Corner: The only Amiibo that would go on to become a Netflix thumbnail! Richter is just as cool as his grandpappy, and that Vampire Killer is lovingly detailed. He has his dagger at the ready… but does that actually get used in Smash Bros? Mark Richter down as one of the few characters that could conceivably be wearing jeans.
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? Oh, obviously. Vampire Survivors uses “echoes” of Castlevania guests. And you have to survive a vampire in Smash Classic Mode, and that is literally the name of the game! I… am pretty sure I fought a vampire somewhere in Vampire Survivors. I mean… I must have… Right?

Richter Belmont (in spirit) in Vampire Survivors

  • I know that guySystem: One of those weird ones that is just barely getting to the Playstation. In the meanwhile, please enjoy surviving vampires on Mac, Windows, Xbox 1/X/S, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.
  • Number of players: Four! I have got to try that sometime…
  • Story Time: This game is actually set in the distant past of… 2021. I guess that explains why a few characters have guns! This theoretically also justifies why there is an abandoned dairy plant, as that kind of a location is a little more recent than a giant chapel.
  • Four Directions: Vampire Survivors only requires four directions of input, and absolutely zero buttons (other than confirming in menus). Aside from making this an ideal arcade title (you just need a joystick and a start button!), it is also one of the few games out there that could be played on a Pac-Man cabinet.
  • Get Equipped: Many of the opening weapons are public domain/straight out of Castlevania, too. Can’t copyright a throwing dagger! Later updates introduced all sorts of weaponry that had nothing to do with the count, though. So now you can probably pull off a run that doesn’t touch a single familiar subweapon, and sticks to dogs pooping flowers or an egg transforming into furniture.
  • Favorite Weapon: Santa Water is the spiritual (ha) successor to Castlevania’s holy water. And considering how much I love tossing those bottles at Frankensteins in Castlevania, it is only appropriate that I love the area of effect on these water-bombs. There are a lot of items in Vampire Survivors that feel too overpowered, but Santa Water is the only one that gets there by its fourth rank. And I am 100% okay with overpowered.
  • Favorite Character: I was playing consistently as Zi’Assunta Belpaese when this game truly “clicked” for me, so she will be my pick. She is theoretically one of the later characters, as she can only be unlocked once you have accessed the fifth stage and found her coffin. But once you get going with her Vento Sacro whip and continual level up bonuses, she is unstoppable. Also, she is literally an auntie.
  • I have no idea what is happeningFavorite Secret Character for When I Just Want to Wreck House: Gains Boros, the skeletal dragon-shrimp, is rocking the Heaven Sword (familiar), and has an insane growth bonus. She basically starts tearing everything to pieces at level one, and is then level sixty about seven seconds later. If I just want the boss rush to feel pain, I give Gains a call.
  • Did you know? Vampire Survivors is (not unlike Smash Bros) a gamer’s game, with references to plenty of franchises beyond the bounds of Castlevania. For instance, the upgraded “laser beam” weapon is NO FUTURE, which is a reference to (very specifically) the final boss of one robot-based scenario in SaGa Frontier. Trust me, if you ever fought T260G’s final foe, you would remember it, and likely want to memorialize its signature attack. On the other hand, probably six people worldwide got to the finale of that one specific scenario in SaGa Frontier (a game with seven possible protagonists), so let’s claim that was a deep cut.
  • Would I play again: Surviving the undead (probably somewhere in there vampires, too) for a half hour or so between other games is an ideal way to spend some time. Inevitably, I will be mowing down not-medusa heads in the future.

What’s next? We need another blue echo fighter to feature. I think we can find at least one… Please look forward to it!


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