"Poor Konami. When they designed the PlayStation game, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, did they have any idea that all of their future vampire slaying epics would have trouble living up to it? Hey, it is possible. SOTN is gold; a masterpiece, a testament to the gods of creativity and platforming goodness. "
Poor Konami. When they designed the PlayStation game, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, did they have any idea that all of their future vampire slaying epics would have trouble living up to it? Hey, it is possible. SOTN is gold; a masterpiece, a testament to the gods of creativity and platforming goodness.
There are many blunders involved with the process of shifting Castlevania into the 3rd dimension. The horrible N64 attempts were quite literally painful and were quite efficient at over-jading series fans towards the prospect of new 3D Castlevania. Lament of Innocence was a vast improvement from those N64 bowel movements, although the silly HUB system and lack of real exploration prevented it from being on par with Symphony of the Night. All the while, 2D Castlevanias have been hitting portable systems to immense justified fanfare. The normal verdict seems to be that the formula simply works better in a 2D environment.
Konami persists. Rather than conform to the masses and deliver a cutting edge next generation 2D Castlevania game, the development team has increased their adamant resolve to provide an effective 3D experience. Their drive to create a 3 dimensional Castlevania with the fun factor of SOTN is admirable and appreciated, and in Curse of Darkness there is much evidence of yet more improvement.
There is a lot of exploring and re-exploring (backtracking to access previously unaccessible areas with new abilities, a nice throwback to some of the best SOTN elements), and plenty of hacking and slashing. In a lot of ways, this absolutely does feel like a 3D SOTN, and that is a beautiful thing. However, where the two games go their separate ways is the actual navigation and scale of the environments. The wide open areas in Curse of Darkness demand a lot of running through bland and empty space, and eventually you'll realize that most of the areas are very redundant and lifeless. The graphics themselves are completely adequate, but level design itself is quite dull. However, it is nice that you spend the majority of the game outside of the castle, and you see many more types of environments than you would in a typical Castlevania.
Combat is not exactly deep, but it is fast and fun for the most part. You earn the ability to steal items from enemies by pressing the correct button at the most opportune moment, which adds a nice depth to the massive amounts of skirmishes that you will encounter. You can use the items that you steal or pick up from the dead to synthesize new equipment for yourself. That, combined with the return of experience points, and I'd say that this series is definitely back on the right track in the gameplay department.
Much like Familiars from SOTN, you will be able to obtain Innocent Devils, summoned creatures of sorts that will provide help by assisting in combat, healing your wounds and solving puzzles. Your ability to customize Innocent Devils goes quite beyond that of Familiars, and I enjoyed that the way that an ID develops is based entirely on what weapons you use and how often you use them. See, there are swords and spears and axes and the like, and enemies will drop different shards depending on which weapon you struck them down with. In large quantities, these shards will upgrade your equipped Innocent Devil in a number of different ways. So yeah, pretty good stuff.
Bosses are pretty visually stunning at times, but somehow most of the fights seem a bit linear and unexciting. Basically, you will be locked onto a boss and you run and flip around avoiding his/her attacks until you see your window of opportunity, at which point you unleash hell. It is usually only challenging if you fail to adhere to this strategy, with the exception of a few bosses near the end that have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Musically this series can do no wrong and Curse of Darkness is no exception. It is the usual brilliant blend of orchestra and rock, highlighted by haunting organ themes and choir samples. It is good on the ears to be sure.
Plotwise, there is not much all that interesting going on. There are some colorful and untraditional characters to be interacted with, but this is generally just a pretty typical tail of bitter rivalry and revenge and all that fun stuff. The voice acting is basically good times as well, although nothing extraordinary.
So, here's the lowdown:
I liked Lament of Innocence, at least enough to play through it. I like Curse of Darkness more than Lament of Innocence, which hopefully is no fluke. If the developers keep listening to people's complaints and suggestions and apply them to the next 3D Castlevania, next time around may just be the true 3 dimensional SOTNlike experience that we all have raging boners (or wet panties if you will) for.
And that, as they say, is that.
Community review by atra_vortex (January 12, 2006)
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