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Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) artwork

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) review

"A triumph in fan-game creation"

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) image

Fangames have an important space in gaming due to their potential to present interesting variations of themes, further refinements of formulas, or taking pre-existing elements in an wildly different direction that an IP holder may be willing to risk; all of these things advance the medium of video games. Naturally, some fangames occupy the same pit in Hell that amateurish or creepy fanfiction does, but others capture part of the greatness of their source material while adding refinements and original nuances in order to create a new experience. With faithfully translated gameplay accompanied by fantastic additions to its source material's school of design, Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles is most certainly in the latter category.

Our story begins not with any Belmont but rather an original character named Efrain LeCarde, a knight of the church who just so happens to have a whip and hair as effeminate as most Castlevania protagonists are cursed with. This fangame's unique in that it emulates an IP's style but borrows no characters from its source material, but rather pits Efrain against a royal family that has become a rogue's gallery of ghosts (Death's kinda there, but he sounds like a chipmunk). This may as well be canon, for all I care, since Castlevania has one of the most convoluted timelines out there. Bram Stoker's novel might be canon, Circle of the Moon isn't for some reason, two games take place in the 2030s, and Dracula is killed offscreen. Also, a manual says that Simon needed to read an ancient tome in order to figure out how to use the whip in more than flinging it right in front of him in Super Castlevania IV. I give my blessing to readers to add Efrain to their Castlevania headcanon, if they so wish.

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) imageCastlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) image

Regardless of tenuous ties to canon, the LeCarde Chronicles is still old-school Castlevania! That is, this game emulates the gameplay and level design of the original game and its similar sucessors. However, being old-school Castlevania is not entirely a good thing when you die from being sent meters in the least optimal direction every time an enemy scrapes your knee, when you die in about five hits if you weren't sent into a pit or four feet of water, when you die the instant one pixel of your sprite met one pixel of a spike, or when you die because projectile-firing Medusa Heads on the stairs. Good news is, the LeCarde Chronicles wisely eschews many of the flaws of the original Castlevania games.

Many changes are made to make this game accessible without compromising challenge. LeCarde can take considerably more damage than his canon counterparts, health is more common, jumps have good control instead of being one-way tickets to death, and one can obtain moves in levels and the neat town hub that not only progress the game but also allows the player to get previously inaccessible items. Having trouble with a level? Go back to a conquered one and get that item you couldn't reach before; there's usually an exit near said item, so you won't be wasting time. All these things result in what is still a very challenging game, but not a game hates you and wants you to stop playing it.

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) imageCastlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) image

The improved controls are largely what saves the LeCarde Chronicles from being as infuriating as the NES titles. In those games, every jump was a commitment that usually resulted in death; when you left the ground, your path was set, and there was no going back. LeCarde has control more akin to the Symphony-style games, allowing one more control and the option to turn back if a flying enemy obscures the way whilst demanding skill. In addition, one can obtain more abilities, such as a double jump, 360 whip spin, and dash moves. Most of these are fueled by a special meter which can be replenished (at a snail's pace) over time or by picking up green hearts; I don't like stamina meters at all, but this one gets a pass from me since the level design accomidates and values your standard whip attack. All this is in addition to the usual Castlevania subitems, of which Efrain can use many more powerful variants. These additions make even the most daunting jumps and enemies obstacles that can still be surmounted, and therefore provides many options for great level design!

This isn't to say the gameplay is perfect. Sure, you have more tools at your disposal than the original games, but that doesn't help you much when the knockback from some bat or Medusa head sends you hurtling into the insta-kill abyss. Interesting is the presence of a Game Over button, which I made use of whenever I died early in a level, since I knew I'd likely fail to reach the end without starting with all three lives. "Press Backspace to die!" Oh, and I don't like the default control scheme, but I used some Joy2Key shrewdery to fix this. Still, there are more quality of life improvements here than in the old games, such as the lack of respawning enemies, a user-friendly saving option on the world map, and the ability to alter controls at all. With practice, I found myself able to surmount even the most daunting of obstacles with confidence it the controls and my growing skills with them. Good design choices make the levels fun to navigate, and the game triumphs in making the levels a sight to behold, as well.

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) imageCastlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles (PC) image

Those up to the challenge will be rewarded by audio-visual presentation and atmosphere that make this game stand out in any category! The art direction of the game captures Castlevania splendidly but has its own identity with highly detailed pixel work, fluid sprites, and a pseudo-watercolor style. The levels take place over a large section of European landscapes rather than mostly castle interiors, allowing for a wide variety of outdoor environments. These locales often transtion into other locales, akin to levels from Super Castlevania IV. This sense of atmosphere is aided greatly by the music, which consists of both amazing renditions of Castlevania tracks and original songs that are at least as well-composed. All these things come together to make one of the most atmospheric platformers I've ever played, outstripping even most of its source material in my eyes!

If you like old-school action-platformers, you'll love the LeCarde Chronicles. It's got all the challenge with a bit more fairness and much more depth. A few years later a more sprawling, also excellent sequel was released, but the original LeCarde Chronicles still has a lot to offer due to its fantastic level design and overall quality.


Follow_Freeman's avatar
Community review by Follow_Freeman (January 19, 2018)

When he isn't in a life-or-death situation, Dr. Freeman enjoys playing a variety of video games. From olden shooters to platformers & action titles: Freeman may be a bit stuck with the games of the past, but he doesn't mind. Some things don't age much.

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