The Mysterious Origin of the Name Belnades in Castlevania

For a game franchise with dozens of entries that span a timeline nearly a millennium long, it’s no surprise that family ties and bloodlines are a major theme in the Castlevania series. Many of the games’ protagonists are descended from the Belmonts, a clan of vampire hunters fated to a series of recurring battles against Count Dracula and the forces of darkness across the generations. Their bloodline is a prerequisite for wielding their family heirloom, the holy whip known as the Vampire Killer.

But the Belmonts are not the only noteworthy family in this story. Witches from the Belnades clan have played a role in several games. But what kind of name is Belnades, anyway? Belmont is a real name, but I’ve never heard the name Belnades outside of Castlevania. Is there some country where that’s a common last name? Is it a reference to something? Is this name different in the Japanese version, and if so, is the localized name wrong? If you’ve ever wondered about these things, join me on my journey for answers.

Promotional image for the first Castlevania on NES.
Just don’t ask me if the whip is made out of metal or leather.


The first appearance of the name Belnades is in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. As a prequel, it takes place two hundred years before the first game, and it replaces established series protagonist Simon Belmont with his ancestor, Trevor. But Trevor is not the only playable character—players can also recruit Dracula’s son Alucard, the acrobatic Grant DaNasty, and the mage Sypha Belnades.

A scan of the manual from the American release of Castlevania III, introducing Trevor Belmont, Alucard, Grant DaNasty, and Sypha Belnades.
Yes, the manual incorrectly says Sypha is male, which has led to some confusion.
For more, see the excellent article on the topic from Legends of Localization.

Game localizations were often messy back then, and Castlevania III is no exception. The name in the manual, Sypha Belnades, is wildly different from the name seen in the game itself during the ending sequence, Syfa Velnumdes. But which of these names is right, if either? To my knowledge, there’s no interview that explains the origin of the name, or any other conclusive evidence, so the issue is surprisingly complex.

Screenshot from the ending of the English version of Castlevania III, with the name "Syfa Velnumdes."
Clearly, there was a breakdown in communication.

To start, let’s look at the Japanese version of the game, 悪魔城伝説 (Akumajō Densetsu, Devil Castle Legend.) The manual writes her name in katakana as サイファ・ヴェルナンデス (Saifa Verunandesu.) On the other hand, the ending sequence of the game writes her name in Roman letters as “Sypha Velnumdes,” which doesn’t quite match either American name. Syfa and Sypha have the same pronunciation, and so they are both equally valid interpretations of Saifa, but later games in the series have consistently gone with Sypha, so it’s safe at this point to call that name official. I personally find it more aesthetically pleasing.

A scan of the manual from the Japanese version of Castlevania III, introducing Sypha Belnades.
The bio for Sypha in the American manual seems to be a fairly direct translation of this text…
just significantly punched-up with cheesy phrases like “Cyclops, the one-eyed Ultimate Evil” and “to score BIG.”

However, her last name is trickier. A purist might argue that “Velnumdes” is correct because it’s what’s in the Japanese game, but later official Japanese media contradicts it. Moreover, Japanese games frequently use English text for little reason other than to look cool—the same reason someone shirts with Japanese text are currently trendy in the West. In both cases, it’s not uncommon for the person doing the translation to not be particularly knowledgeable about the other language.

Concept art of the character Thany/Shanii/Shanna from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, with her name written in both katakana and Roman letters.
As one example outside of Castlevania, this character from Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade is named シャニー (Shanii.) Her Romanized name, Thany, clearly does not match her Japanese name. Japanese lacks the TH sound, but the closest approximation would be an S or Z sound, not SH. Later Fire Emblem titles officially localized her name as Shanna.

It’s clear Konami didn’t mean for Sypha to be from Japan, so however she would write her name, it wouldn’t be in Japanese katakana—Verunandesu must be a transliteration of some foreign name into Japanese. But did they have a real name in mind, or did they just invent something that sounded plausibly like a Romanization of a foreign name?

If it’s the former, it’s not at all clear what real name they had in mind, which suggests that it’s the latter. In that case, the Western releases would be free to invent their own names with no fear of losing any meaningful reference, and it’d be hard to call either Belnades or Velnumdes wrong. Since magic isn’t real, it’s very plausible that they would invent a fantastical name for a spellcaster.

An inconsistent legacy

That’s not a very satisfyingly answer, but fortunately, our journey does not end here. In 1999, the series made the leap to 3D. Castlevania on the Nintendo 64 featured two playable characters: Reinhardt Schneider, a descendant of the Belmont family; and Carrie Fernandez, a descendant of Sypha Belnades.

Promotional image for Castlevania 64.
Uh-oh! Watch out, you two! That skeleton is gonna get ya!

Reinhardt carries both the blood and weapon of the Belmont clan, which suggests that a woman from the Belmont family married a man with the surname Schneider at some point. Many fans assume the same happened with Carrie, but that’s not the case in the Japanese version, where her name is キャリー・ヴェルナンデス (Kyarī Verunandesu.) So Fernandez is not an offshoot of the Belnades family—it is a third localization of the same surname. The 2002 Game Boy Advance title Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance reused this translation choice just three years later.

Manual scan from Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, introducing Juste Belmont. Relevant text: "The Belmont clan's magical power is partly derived from blood ties to the Fernandez Family."
If you choose Sypha as your partner in Castlevania III, the ending implies Trevor and Sypha end up in a relationship, so that explains the mentioned blood ties.

Considering Fernandez is a real name, and Verunandesu is pretty close to how a Japanese person would pronounce it, I’d say it’s pretty good localization. What’s more, at this point Konami used it twice in a row, so it looked like it was going to stick. However, Harmony of Dissonance also mistranslated サイファーのクリスタル (Saifa no Kurisutaru, Sypha’s Crystal) as “Cipher’s Charm,” so maybe the decision wasn’t a carefully considered one after all. Indeed, the very next year, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow backtracked on this by introducing Yoko Belnades.

Screenshot of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. Yoko Belnades introducing herself.
Yoko Belnades, seen here apologizing for retconning the name yet again.

And from that point onward, the localizations stuck with Belnades. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Castlevania Judgment, and Castlevania: Harmony of Despair would all use this name.

Beyond the games

The release of the Netflix animated series in 2017 cemented this choice even further, where voice actress Alejandra Reynoso performed the role of Sypha Belnades with a pronounced Spanish accent, perhaps inspired by the prior localization of the name as Fernandez.

Promotional image for Netflix's Castlevania series.
This image is… composed very similarly to the Castlevania 64 promo image above.

Being from the region that later became Spain, this Sypha pronounces her surname as though it were Spanish, saying “bell-NAH-dess.” Although this pronunciation may differ from what American players expected, it is actually fairly close to the Japanese pronunciation—much closer than how I said it as a kid, “BELL-nades.”

There is one detail I have glossed over until this point, though. ヴェルナンデス begins with the character ヴ, which is exclusively used to write foreign words that use a V sound, like ヴィデオ (video.) This means that if Konami did indeed base Verunandesu on a real name, that name cannot have been either Belnades or Fernandez. But what is it? To answer that question, let’s take a quick look outside of the Castlevania series entirely.

What Sypha Belnades has in common with Todd Bonzalez

Screenshot of player names from Fighting Baseball, including Mike Sernandez and Todd Bonzalez, and dozens of other humorously fake names for American baseball players.
I can’t think of a caption that could add anything to this extremely funny image.

An image from the largely forgotten 1995 Super Famicom game Fighting Baseball went viral several years ago. Apparently, it is the result of a team of Japanese people being tasked with inventing plausible-sounding names for American baseball players. In many cases, they seem to be real names with a single letter changed at random. This includes Todd Bonzalez, whose last name is Gonzalez with the first letter changed to B, and Mike Sernandez, which is clearly derived from Fernandez or Hernandez.

I previously remarked that Verunandesu is close to, but not exactly, how a Japanese person would pronounce Fernandez. The way they would pronounce Fernandez is フェルナンデス (Ferunandesu.) In light of Fighting Baseball, it’s very easy to look at Verunandesu and see it as the exact same thing as Sernandez: they simply took the name Fernandez and changed the first letter. I can’t claim to know for sure, but to me, it really looks like that’s what happened. If so, the most direct translation of Sypha’s last name would unquestionably be Vernandez—which, incidentally, seems to be a real but extremely rare name.

Gameplay of Fighting Baseball, with Mike Sernandez batting.
As for the game itself, it seems like it’s pretty much just a regular baseball game.

However, there is one key difference. The team behind Fighting Baseball had to generate a list of dozens of names for an entire league of barely-distinguishable baseball players. On the other hand, Konami was dealing with a single named character with her own backstory, sprite, and gameplay capabilities—they probably put more thought into it.

By that logic, I don’t think the use of the letter V is random. The sound does not natively exist in Japanese. Although video can be written ヴィデオ (video), it is more commonly written ビデオ (bideo), and many speakers struggle with the pronunciation of the former. Being a letter that does not exist natively makes it mysterious and exotic, which are good connotations to evoke for a magic user.

Screenshot from the Japanese version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
The Castlevania series also uses ヴ here, at the top, in the name ヴラド (Vurado, Vlad.)

At Journey’s End

Regardless, for better or worse, Belnades seems to be the name that stuck outside of Japan. The Wild West days of video game localization where localizations would put in so little care that the manual and game would flagrantly contradict each other are long past. Konami must have made the decision to go with Belnades in more recent Castlevania media after careful consideration, as they went against two consecutive uses of Fernandez.

People get used to the names they know and dislike change, and the Western fandom settled on the name from the CV3 manual, Belnades, long before Aria of Sorrow made it the standard. The name Belnades sounds mystical and exotic—it does for the West what the V in Verunandesu does for Japanese audiences, so it is a good localization. The letter V isn’t quite as exotic and mystical to Western audiences, so they wouldn’t respond to Vernandez the way Japanese audiences respond to Verunandesu.

Which name do you like the best? Do you have any other questions Castlevania series were localized? Let me know in the comments below, or on our Twitter!


  1. The Fighting Baseball names are indeed all slightly altered versions of real life names—they’re taken from NHL and MLB players of the era. (Probably reused from other sports games the team had localized!) There’s a full list compiled out there somewhere.

  2. While reading this I noticed a bit of theme that seems to stand up to the greater video game community; Castlevania 3 and Aria of Sorrow are considered iconic classics in the franchise, while Castlevania 64 is seen as a bad stumble into the world of 3D and Harmony of Dissonance has fans but is widely considered a mid-tier GBA game. 3 and Aria both use Belnades while 64 and Harmony both use Fernandez. I think people put more stock into the names that the games they like use, while when a game that isn’t as good uses a different name, they assume a poor translation because “well everything else about the game is bad, why wouldn’t the translation suck too?”. People would really prefer the games they love be the ones that are right, and I can’t rightly blame them for that.

    1. I appreciate your thoughts! Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness have cool things about them; I think people are a little too eager to write them off as bad games. Still, N64 doesn’t emulate well, and the games were never re-released, so they’re not particularly accessible. I’m lucky enough to own a physical copy of Legacy of Darkness, and I definitely enjoyed playing it.

      On that topic…. Some people prefer the oldest localization of any given name, and get angry when they perceive a game company as “retconning” it. This is why a lot of people vocally prefer Aeris to Aerith, for instance. Other people tend to feel that if a game company is going to go so far as to change a name, they probably have a good reason to do so, and regard the retconned name as erroneous. In this case, Belnades is both the oldest localization AND the most recent localization, so BOTH factors work in favor of it and against Fernandez. It’s not particularly common for game companies to do that, especially when I don’t recall anyone being up in arms about Belnades being “retconned” to Fernandez.

      Funny enough, the same is true with the in-game chronology; Sypha and Yoko are the oldest and newest family members, with Carrie coming in between.

  3. Thanks for this excellent article! I’ve wondered this myself for years after noticing that Sypha and Carrie have the same last name in the Japanese text. I tried to do some research of my own, albeit amateur and through Google searches, and it seemed like at some point, written readings of V and B could have crossed over with mishearing spoken sentences and rare, though possible, overlaps between F and H. Depending on what game design was like at the time of Castlevania III, and with the game having little written text in general, I wondered if someone misheard the name spoken in a meeting and things progressed from there.

    I figured that the intended name may have been Fernandez or Hernandez, though with Japan’s familiarity with Portuguese traders, perhaps it would be intended as Fernandes/Hernandes. Vernandez did come up too, but so rarely that it seemed like a typo or like it had a complex history behind it rooted in local cultures mispronouncing a different name. I’m curious about what the name Vernandez’s real life origins might be.

    Also, regarding Sypha in general, I already thought her name was meant to be pronounced more like “see-fuh”, whereas the katakana “saifa” makes it clear how the name was meant to be said. Thanks for covering both her first and last name for good measure!

    1. Glad you enjoyed reading it!

      I didn’t cover it in the article, but B, F, H, and V are all linked in the Japanese language. Anthony talks about gojūonjun in this article ( if you’re not familiar, but フ (fu) is in the H-row of gojūonjun (ハヒフヘホ, ha hi fu he ho), and you write the B sound by adding a voicing mark to the H row (バビブベボ, ba bi bu be bo). V is written in a different way (ヴ, vu), but many Japanese people have trouble pronouncing it and just pronounce it like a B anyway. Funny enough, V and B are also pronounced the same in Spanish.

      Never considered that it could be Portuguese, but that’s a good point. Since the Netflix show decided to give her a Spanish accent, and CV64 and HoD went with “Fernandez,” with a Z, I just went with it. None of that is definitive, though!

      If I had to guess where the real-but-rare name Vernandez comes from, my guess would be that Fernandez simply got misspelled on an official document at one point and it stuck (for a very small group of people.) It might have been an error by an immigration official.

      I was lucky enough to guess the correct pronunciation of “Sypha” as a kid, but I can see how you’d arrive at “Seefa.” It’s apparently been translated as “Cipher”—not sure where, but the Castlevania wiki lists it—which also indicates the intended pronunciation pretty clearly.

      1. Thanks for the link about gojūonjun! I also think it was a nice touch that the Netflix show gave Sypha a Spanish accent, perhaps as a nod to her last name’s history.

        Oops, I noticed a typo in my first post; I meant to say that I always thought her name was pronounced “see-fuh”, not that I already thought it was. Your article, thanks to the katakana translation, has cleared things up for me — “Saifa” indicates a pronunciation akin to “cipher” all along, rather than the pronunciation being decided upon by chance, a translator’s discretion, or akin to how Belnades was used in Aria of Sorrow instead of Fernandez. The “see-fuh” pronunciation I interpreted was incorrect.

        Considering that Trevor and Sypha canonically married after Castlevania III, I wonder if Carrie being seemingly unrelated to Reinhardt/the Belmonts means that Sypha had siblings or cousins.

        That reminds me of something — supposedly, Sypha herself was intended to be a boss fight for Carrie’s route in Castlevania 64 at one point in development. However, according to the claim, the developers ultimately decided on having Carrie face a different Belnades instead, who is unnamed in the game itself and in related materials, save for the official European site of Castlevania 64 calling her “Camilla.” I don’t recall if the rumor said that the model used for the boss fight in the final game was left untouched from the development phase, if a Sypha model even began development in the first place. Either way, IIRC, a leftover of this idea is still present in the game’s official OST, which names the track before that fight “Sypha” and the tracks after the boss is defeated “Sypha’s Defeat (Part 1 and Part 2).”

        In the final game of Castlevania 64, this unrelated Belnades tried to face the evils of Castlevania but was defeated, turned into a vampire, and annihilated in battle against Carrie. I can’t recall if that was the premise for the planned Sypha fight, as though Sypha was cursed later on in her life, or if something tried to curse her remains after she died of natural causes.

        In fact, that makes me curious about how Japanese sources describe the “CV III trio” boss fights in Symphony of the Night and Portrait of Ruin. Are those bosses truly meant to be the cursed remains of Trevor, Sypha, and Grant, or is the evil of the castle simply trying to mimic them, akin to the mimic boss encountered in Castlevania III and the two doppelgangers of Alcuard in SotN? CV III also had boss fights where a spirit would fly into coffins and either animate or take the form of other bosses in the game and a large demon. I’m curious if two CV III bosses basically “joined forces” to mock the heroes who vanquished them, or if this coffin spirit boss is interacting with actual remains.

        1. I silently fixed the typo before approving your last comment after seeing you note it in the follow-up comment I didn’t approve 😛

        2. Carrie kept the surname, so we can assume her father is from an unbroken male line of Belnades/Fernandez family members, going back to a brother or male cousin of Sypha (and probably further.)

          Castlevania III takes place in 1476, and CV64 takes place in 1852. That’s a nearly 400-year gap, likely 20-ish generations apart. It’s possible Reinhardt and Carrie don’t even know they have a relation that distant, or just don’t consider it significant that they’re twentieth cousins.

          I didn’t know that tidbit about Sypha, but it’s interesting. I’m kinda glad they didn’t go that route; it’d definitely sour CV3’s ending! It’s been a while since I’ve played Legacy of Darkness, but IIRC, it’s meant to serve the same function for Carrie that the fight against Rosa serves for Reinhardt; an emotional battle against an opponent the protagonist doesn’t want to fight. I don’t think it lands quite as well since, as far as I can remember, we’re given no indication that Carrie and “Camilla Fernandez” have ever even met.

          Fake Trevor is called ラルフ・フェイク (Rarufu Feiku, Ralph Fake) in Japanese; Fake Sypha and Fake Grant are named similarly. Jeremy Blaustein took a ton of liberties with SotN’s localization, but he was quite direct here; I’d say the use of the English word “fake” makes it pretty hard to misinterpret the intent. Still, though, the use of the three coffins is definitely meant to evoke that CV3 boss!

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