"Honestly, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. The interesting additions to the game intrigued me a bit, but I originally got it simply because I wanted to see what a 3D Castlevania game played like, whether it was gonna be good or bad. Yeah, I'm crazy. But when I finally had the chance to play CoD, well, I wasn't impressed. However, it quickly grew on me the more I played, turning out to be quite an enjoyable action-adventure title that happen..."
Honestly, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. The interesting additions to the game intrigued me a bit, but I originally got it simply because I wanted to see what a 3D Castlevania game played like, whether it was gonna be good or bad. Yeah, I'm crazy. But when I finally had the chance to play CoD, well, I wasn't impressed. However, it quickly grew on me the more I played, turning out to be quite an enjoyable action-adventure title that happens to have a bizarre collection of chairs planted throughout it.
The game starts off three years after the events of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse at the Abandoned Castle, where you, Hector the devil forgemaster, is seeking out Isaac, another devil forgemaster, to avenge the death of Rosaly and kill him. Unfortunately, the game starts off pretty dull when you first step foot in this castle, and it doesn't help matters that it's a pretty big castle to boot. But the main problem isn't that it's a big area, it's just you don't have much to work with here: the only weapon you have is a small sword, the enemies aren't much of a threat, and the first Innocent Devil you get is a fairy healer that has a pink crystal sticking out of its ass.
It's not until the second and third areas, Baljhet Mountains and Garibaldi Temple, that CoD really starts rolling, because you get a better idea of how things work, like controlling and maintaining your Innocent Devils. When you first get your fairy-type I.D. in the Abandoned Castle, the only ability it has is healing, other than that, it just basically follows you around doing nothing else. But by the time you reach the Baljhet Mountains, you'll get a chart, which shows you that you can evolve your I.D. into different forms (each of which have their own special abilities) by going down various paths on this chart, which ultimately leads to one of many final forms.
To transform your I.D's. into these differing forms (ranging from a bird that's made of skulls to a furry monster that looks like a mutated rabbit), you'll have to collect a certain amount of crystals that randomly fall out of enemies after you've defeated them. Depending on which weapon you use, however, will effect which path you'll go down. What's great about this I.D. system is that it takes what could have ended up being a very standard action-adventure game and spiced it up. It makes fighting almost every foe a priority, because with their crystals you can upgrade your I.D., in which case you'll get better and powerful abilities that you can use on stronger enemies later on. It also encourages you to find specific abilities, because you won't be able to reach certain pathways without them. Take for example a dilemma you'll face in the Forest of Jigranmunt: you'll come across a bunch of huge statues that are lined up and blocking an entrance. There's a certain form in the battle-type's chart with an ability that allows you to slam through these statues as if you were playing a game of bowling. Of course, I'm not gonna tell which form or path it's on, because, well, what's the fun in that?
The Innocent Devils don't get all the fun, though, Hector gets a couple of abilities of his own. Eventually, you'll get a move that allows you to steal from your enemies. Now, I know that it doesn't sound like much, but considering you'll have to wait for the enemy to do a certain move to steal, and you usually have a short time frame to do so, it becomes a game of quick reflexes. Also take in the fact that this is the main means of collecting huge amounts of gold (you normally get a measly one, five, or ten pieces of gold from torches), and you'll be doing this quite often if you want to buy potions and such. Hector also gets a move that allows you to combine all sorts of things, from items that fell from slain monsters to swords, axes, and head gear, to make powerful weapons or tougher armor. It's a nice system that allows you to experiment with what were usually useless pieces of crap and create a wide range of weaponry, some of which are pretty wacky (a spiked bat, anyone?).
However, the biggest highlight of CoD is its soundtrack; from the Abandoned Castle's catchy, upbeat (not to mention old school sounding) music to Eneomaos Machine Tower's majestic piano theme, there's plenty of variety to be had here. One of my favorites is the tunes that play while you're in the Mortvia Aquaduct: when you enter the place, a very intense piece, with a slight carnival feel to it, will start playing as you literally slash away at an army of Mermen. It's a very fitting tune that matches the bloody chaos onscreen (man, those Mermen like to splatter a lot). But once you reach the inside structures battling a bunch of skeletal foes, the soundtrack will switch to a nice, mellowed out lounge music. Another favorite of mine is the theme that plays in Julia's shop; it's a delightful melody that has just a pinch of grim added to it. Since the shopkeeper has an eerie resemblance to Hector's deceased lover, the tune throws out a bittersweet vibe into the air.
While CoD is a pretty good action-adventure title, there are a couple of problems that keep it from becoming a really great game. The first one being is that it has a really bad start; it's one of those instances where some gamers will give up on the whole thing just because of the suckiness of the Abandoned Castle. Then there's the environments, the majority of which look all dark in gloomy, making some of the later areas look similar to earlier ones. And then you get the feeling that the developers didn't put any effort in some of the later areas: the Ancient Ruins is a repetitive wasteland that tries to work with your mage-type I.D's. time stop abilities early on but gives up instantly, and the final area doesn't have anything special going for it except that it's very, very long. But if you can manage to get over those annoyances, and just stick with it, you'll most likely enjoy Castlevania: Curse of Darkness for what it is. Unless you're a "2D Castlevania 4 Eva!" person, in which case....... why are you reading this?
Community review by dementedhut (November 23, 2005)
As vaguely implied in the review, SpellCaster would get a Sega Genesis "sequel" called Mystic Defender. Both SpellCaster and Mystic Defender are actually reworked versions of Kujaku Ou and Kujaku Ou 2, based on a manga series that began in 1986.
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