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Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles 2 (PC) artwork

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles 2 (PC) review

"Continuing to raise the bar for excellence in fangames"

Castlevania: The Lecarde Chronicles was a fantastic effort that raised the bar for quality in fangames. Due to its amazing polish and audio-visual design, it garnered a warm reception that warranted a sequel game akin to the style of Symphony of the Night. In fact, I hazard that Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles 2 is bigger, bolder, and maybe even better than the already excellent first entry!

After you become acquainted with the much-improved options menu, Lecarde Chronicles 2 kicks off with an intro accompanied by a voiceover and some nice visuals. OC protagonist Efrain LeCarde's gotta go kill some more ghosts, but Death steals our stuff like he did back in Symphony of the Night. Although he makes off with our sword, equipment, and milk money, he can't take our cool new powers. With the press of a dedicated button, Efrain can use all sorts of special moves ranging from charged attacks to stat boosts. In the Sorrow games, players had dozens of talents at their disposal but had to slog through menus to get to the seven or so ones that were actually useful. Here, no menus are required, but the bad ability selection system from El Viento is used; you have to stay on the ground and hold the button to get to the ability you want, which is not ideal when you're in the heat of combat. Still, there's a great selection, including healing and stat buffs, and it's good to not have to bother with menus or Street Fighter combos in order to get to the tools at your disposal.

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles 2 (PC) imageCastlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles 2 (PC) image

In terms of level design, the linear, setpiece-filled levels of the original are replaced by a massive, seamless overworld. LeCarde Chronicles 2 is modular, being a series of sprawling subareas connected by a main overworld route. This makes navigation an enjoyable exercise in exploration at times while also giving some areas a classic Castlevania feel, a winning combination. Locations are huge, larger than perhaps any other Castlevania game sans Symphony of the Night. Lecarde Chronicles 2 has an advantage over the portable titles in the form of vastly superior technology to work with, and the amazing attention to detail is even greater than that of the first LeCarde game, from deteriorating decor to snow-laced tree branches. The production values here are simply astonishing! Every single room looks gorgeous, with fantastic music and a dynamically immersive day/weather system further enhancing the experience.

As if all this wasn't enough to make this game fantastic, the core gameplay is better than ever since Efrain is more capable this time around. Most vital to this game is the free air control, unlike the abominably restrictive, outdated NES-style drudgery. In the place of the now-absent LeCarde whip -- I guess copyright law exists in this canon at this time -- are equally satisfying weapons that also can attack at downward angles in the air or in a crouching position. Knockback is not nearly as bad as it was in the past (very few unfair, nonsensical "challenges" of being nudged by speedy enemies like you'd see in Dracula's Curse and whatnot) and gone are the insta-kill pits and spikes. Completing this game is still no easy task, to be sure, but one will lose less hair than in previous ventures.

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles 2 (PC) imageCastlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles 2 (PC) image

A fascinating strength is the progression system. Becoming more powerful in LeCarde Chronicles 2 is a much more straightforward affair than other such games afford the player, yet instead of simplifying at the expense of the experience, it greatly improves the game's flow in a fashion I'd like to see more games do. Most of the Symphony-style games were greatly impeded due to an enormous flaw: grinding to get content. The soul system of the Sorrow games, the cards of Circle of the Moon, the runes of Ecclesia of Sorrow -- all of these systems were fun and complex but required hours of grinding the same enemies over and over and over again to make the most out of due to absurdly low drop rates. It seems to me that all this busywork existed to pad up the games since Igayashi and crew had hardware much weaker than Symphony's to work with. They couldn't make environments as large or as good as console (or PC) hardware could provide, so they locked abilities (and sometimes progress) behind hours of entering a room, killing a foe, leaving the room, and doing the same thing over and over again in order to pad the length of the games. The portable titles still had truly great concepts and moments, but I feel that they were really kneecapped by Konami's relegating them to portable systems.

LeCarde Chronicles 2 gets it all right, though. You can get money from enemies to buy new equipment, but we're not talking about doing one more point of damage to enemies, we're talking about earning some major upgrades here that dramatically turn the tide in your favor while never making enemy encounters something to take lightly. If you don't just run away from every foe you see, you'll get all the money you need by exploring the game with minimal grinding. This game also has enough confidence to eschew the level system in favor of appropriately balancing the enemies to not just completely outclass you as the outdated NES titles liked to do. Many RPG-infused games use grinding to cover up poor design; "What, you can't beat this one overpowered guy? Just farm weaker ones for a few hours!" Lecarde isn't having any of that nonsense. Here we have a lengthy game that puts most of its time into actual content.

All of this is enhanced by the level design more than it is hurt by it; still, the cause of improvement behooves us to examine what little bad exists alongside the good. While environments complement Efrain's moveset, and enemy placement is seldom trollish, this game suffers somewhat from two big problems raised by exploratory games: backtracking and unclear progression. Although there are a small handful of teleporters scattered about the land, one must still make the occasional trek on-foot between towns. This is made much more dire if one doesn't pick up on the occasionally obtuse puzzles, which can be as feasible as Sierra-era nonsense but at least indicate an area to be explored. These are not problems that ruin the game, but it does highlight how the more linear design of the previous title had no such errors. However, one with good taste will surely recognize that this is a price well-worth paying to realize the sheer ambition on display in LeCarde 2, and the fact that unpolished blemishes are so few and far between in this fangame is a testament to the skill of the design prowess of developer Migami and friends.

Castlevania: The LeCarde Chronicles 2 (PC) image

Overall, it's a tough call to determine which of the two LeCarde Chronicles games is superior, not only because of their differing downsides but because of their much more apparent triumphs, and there's no reason to avoid either game for their minor stumbles when there's so much more to be enjoyed. The two LeCarde Chronicles games form a duology that is a tour de force of the best aspects of its source material, while still being fantastic games in their own right. One should appreciate them for both refining preexisting ideas and creating new ones. Migami and company, keep up the great work!


Follow_Freeman's avatar
Community review by Follow_Freeman (September 16, 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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