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Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (PlayStation 2) artwork

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (PlayStation 2) review

"Following the positive experience I recieved from Lament of Innocence I had no qualms about making a blind purchase for Curse of Darkness. Lamentís brutal combos, intense action and lush castle made it one of the greatest action games Iíve ever played. That led me to have at least a little faith in Konami and to shell out fifty dollars without any research. I brought it home, played it for a good while and everything seemed perfect. But slowly it crept up on me, like passing..."

Following the positive experience I recieved from Lament of Innocence I had no qualms about making a blind purchase for Curse of Darkness. Lamentís brutal combos, intense action and lush castle made it one of the greatest action games Iíve ever played. That led me to have at least a little faith in Konami and to shell out fifty dollars without any research. I brought it home, played it for a good while and everything seemed perfect. But slowly it crept up on me, like passing my exit on the freeway, that I had just made a bad mistake.

So what goes wrong with Konamiís latest delving into the Belmont Bloodline? It starts out brilliant enough; introducing you to the main character Hector with a lush cut-scene that makes Lament look like it was drawn with sandpaper. Hector, along with his now Arch-Nemesis Isaac, was a Devil Forgemaster--someone with the ability to create loyal, powerful creatures with only a tiny devil shard. While Isaac reveled in the dark ministry of Dracula, Hector perhaps grew a soul and cast off both his master and his powers to live in peace. And in Hectors absence, the way was paved for Trevor Belmont and his armies to lay waste to Dracula, freeing the land from his tyranny. But alas, like a cheap B horror movie, Dracula didnít go quietly and upon his moment of death he released a curse to pummel the land in his absence. Isaac, blaming Big Dís death on Hector, decides to kill his lover then lure him to the castle and force him to reclaim his art of Devil Forging before he kills him.

Of course, because that idea works so well in Bond movies.

The problem with the story, aside from being formulaic and the majority of it crammed down my throat in the first cut-scene, is that I donít care. Your fiancť, Rosaly? Dead. Before you even meet her sheís dead. I guess youíre just supposed to mourn her and understand Hectors rage because Konami tells you to. The story doesnít draw on emotion but dialogue. Characters that make no difference to the story hog the spotlight while others who might make the game more interesting get very little camera time. No pain, no angst; just a lot of people talking about it.

It is just downhill from there. Everything Konami could have done right, they end up botching by being too over-zealous or adding elements that flat out donít fit. For example: the devil forging. It sounded wonderful and was what sold me on the game. Slightly resembling the card system in Symphony of the Night, Hector has the ability to call on Innocent Devils. Some are helpful--like the fairy that can open locked treasures chests or the bird that can carry you over large pitfalls--and some are simply big bruisers who destroy everything in their path. It seems fun and at first it was, but the deeper I got into the game, I realized that the I.D. system provided more headaches than entertainment.

The best example would be the weapons. Unlike the Belmonts, Hector is free to swing any weapon he wants, whether it is a sword, an axe, spear or bare knuckles. Such an idea should lead to a lot of variety (you can even forge new weapons on the fly in the pause menu) but the swords and axes have the exact same combos, the knuckles are entirely too short to be of any use and the special weapons, while fun, are just way too slow. So I was left with the spear: decent length, suitable damage and some sick combos where Hector slides along the ground to an enemy. I was having a blast with it, but I had to stop. Why? Because I needed to evolve my I.D. and the only way to do that is through Evo crystals. These crystals all have a different color and each will allow your I.D. to evolve in a unique way. The only problem is the weapons are the only way to get certain colors; an enemy killed with a sword produces red, an axe blue and so forth. So I was stuck using short-range fists, redundant swords and one-swing baseball bats for most of the game just to improve my Innocent Devils. You can turn the evolution off, but their growth is almost essential for you to reach certain places in the game. The innocent devils are usually your key to unreachable areas but they can be a pain. You can take only three at a time, so choose wisely because you may have to go back.

Boy are you going to swear if you have to go back.

Konami claims Curse of Darkness is ďthe biggest 3-D Castlevania game yetĒ. Sure. Yeah. And I can paint on an inch of a thirty-mile canvas and call it the ďworldís biggest paintingĒ but it really isnít true. Curse is justÖboring. There are a good many levels and they are all relatively big but itís like walking through the dessert. Give me something else for my eyes to look at, I beg you! The village is completely symmetrical and each house is exactly the same as the others. If I had to keep looking at the mountains I was going to carve my eyes and Curse has more long, boring hallways than the Vatican. The one thing that could provide any entertainment is a decent brawl. Granted, thereís some fighting to be had but I remember Lament. Man, I want a down right slugfest where Iím rolling around, crashing out sick combos while countless skeletons surround me. I got none! I got a bunch of drab moves to use on enemies who made infrequent appearances and a big rock with fists that would crush anything before I got the chance to have some fun. The environments, if you canít tell, suck. Iím a warrior damn it, not a surveyor.

Lament may have even had those same dull environments but I never noticed. I was too busy trying to topple huge ogres, find the chink in the armor of a giant guard and dodge massive swords that seemingly swung themselves. This time around I got fish. Fish and not-so-intimidating ghosts with cheap lanterns. It didnít stop until I finally reached the end of the dungeon and moved into a new area, but with each new area came a lack of innovation, forcing me to fight the same looking enemies in almost every room. The one joy I could have found through these drab environments was in knowing a boss fight was coming. Every time I stepped through that skull door I expected sick, original creatures like The Forbidden One or even Medusaís head. Not happening. A bland dragon or a clichť Minotaur is irritating, not original.

Who thought this formula would work? Weapons I canít use, environments that go on aimlessly, Innocent Devils that hardly do anything except get in your way and a story that moonlights as a sedative. Itís boring. Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is insurance seminar, sex talk from your parents, watching grass grow boring. Donít waste fifty dollars. Save yourself. But if you must have it, I beg of youÖ do not operate heavy machinery when playing it.

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Featured community review by True (January 27, 2006)

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