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Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PlayStation 2) artwork

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PlayStation 2) review


"Mr. Exposition gives you the details of the plot, which basically comes down to Walter being a bit bored with eternal life, so for amusement, he kidnaps the loved ones of potential worthy opponents in order to engage in combat with the vengeful fighters. The old man lost his daughter to the vampire, but not his life or humanity. No, he's kept around to serve as a general store, so desperate to avenge his loss that he'll charge an arm and a leg for life-restoring potions and armor. A true humanitarian, this guy."



Perhaps the single greatest surprise you'll find concerning Castlevania: Lament of Innocence simply is the fact that not only did this game get released AFTER Devil May Cry, but it came out almost exactly two years later. It's somewhat of a sad surprise, as the Castlevania series is not only legendary, but one of my personal favorites. To play an installment that, while competent and reasonably enjoyable, could easily be described as a shameless rip-off of a game that debuted two years previously is somewhat disconcerting.

I'd complement Lament of Innocence for providing a decent origin story for Dracula and the Belmont family's eternal attempt to put the final nail in his coffin, but the recent Lords of Shadow pretty much ret-conned that out of existence. Still, hey...they tried! Leon Belmont is an awesome knight-type whose girl has been kidnapped by a vampire named Walter. A sickly friend points him to Walter's abode to get things started. Before entering the castle, he meets an elderly recluse who lives in the forest adjoining it. Mr. Exposition gives you the details of the plot, which basically comes down to Walter being a bit bored with eternal life, so for amusement, he kidnaps the loved ones of potential worthy opponents in order to engage in combat with the vengeful fighters. The old man lost his daughter to the vampire, but not his life or humanity. No, he's kept around to serve as a general store, so desperate to avenge his loss that he'll charge an arm and a leg for life-restoring potions and armor. A true humanitarian, this guy.

After being handed a whip, Leon enters the castle...and is roped into a brief tutorial before he's allowed to start looking for Walter. After that's taken care of, you'll find that getting to the well-hidden throat-biter won't be easy, as the way to his lair is protected by a seal. The only way to break it will be to enter a room where he can warp to five different regions of the castle. It's pretty paint-by-numbers and doesn't get much more complicated as things progress.

All five of these zones are essentially the same: a collection of rooms and corridors containing enemies, traps and the occasional puzzle. Leon's whip becomes an all-purpose tool, as it slaughters skeletons by the legion and is used to grapple onto railings, conveniently placed poles and the like. Most times when you initially enter a monster-inhabited room, the same scene occurs: doors magically are sealed and enemies appear. As Leon, you spring into life, assaulting them with whip combos, special weapons (the reliable standbys like axes, daggers and holy water) and the occasional magic spell. After a bit, the monsters will stop spawning and you'll be allowed to leave. There is a bit of backtracking in this game -- at least if you want to explore the entire castle, as certain rooms in each zones aren't accessible until you've found a key or accessed a special ability that's located in another one -- which is more tedious than anything. Since doors becoming sealed when you enter a room tends to only happen the first time you do so, you'll likely find yourself sprinting through them before enemies have a chance to collect their bearings.

Why? Because there's no reward for fighting monsters other than acquiring money (gotta pay for those potions somehow, right?) or items. Unlike the 2-D "Metroid-vania" games, monsters don't give experience of any sort. On one hand, this is nice, as it preserves the challenge of the boss fights, preventing players from grinding to get past tough fights like I did a couple times in Circle of the Moon. No cheap way out for me -- I had to learn their patterns and demonstrate skill if I wanted to advance through the game. On the other hand, unless you know a particular room or corridor contains monsters known for dropping money, odds are that after that one mandatory fight, you'll look to run past everything due to the general pointlessness of wasting time with battle.

In a fighting-heavy action game resembling Devil May Cry or God of War, if I'm using phrases like "general pointlessness of wasting time with battle", something is wrong. I don't remember exactly how Devil May Cry handled this, but God of War enticed you to fight every single thing just because good things could come from each and every opponent. You'd get experience to power up weapons, you'd get health and magic recharges, you got tangible rewards regardless of how imposing or insignificant an enemy was. Here, if a monster doesn't drop money or a useful item, there's no benefit. Health is regenerated at save points, but if you have to burn healing items getting from one to the next, you're just wasting money. When you find a boss room, you'll likely retreat to the nearest save point and then prepare to make a mad dash to it, hoping nothing damages you along the way. In games like this, fighting should be intoxicating fun -- not something you're actively looking to avoid whenever possible because the risk often outweighs the reward.

Lament of Innocence is flawed, but that doesn't mean it's not often enjoyable. Particularly during its boss battles which include a handful of elemental warriors, series regulars like Succubus and Medusa and a vampire who is easy to underestimate due to being an emo bishonen with the amusing habit of alternating between muttering and screaming his lines. After that foolishness, he assaults you with a variety of damaging attacks, forcing you to frenetically dodge while looking for any opening possible to take out the spheres shielding him and then finally deliver your own counterattacks. Exhilarating!

I'd definitely call this a decent game. If you're a fan of Castlevania or a fan of this sort of brawling action, you'll find a good amount of entertainment. Overall, though, it's not something I'd deem essential to play. There are a LOT of quality games out there and only so many hours in a day, so many days in a year and so many years in a life. With games today being larger and more time-consuming, I find myself more interested in playing captivating and interesting titles, as opposed to somewhat inferior clones of those games. I'd love to pick up Devil May Cry again...it's been many years. I own the first two God of War games, so I can put them in my PS2 whenever I want. I have no need for Lament of Innocence.

Rating: 6/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 08, 2011)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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honestgamer posted June 09, 2011:

I think your review brings up the problem I have with a lot of games. They're okay games, but when I play them and immediately find myself thinking of a better (similar) game that I've already played and wouldn't mind maybe playing again, that's a bad sign. It happens a lot when you've played a number of games in each major genre. Then people say "Why did you rate the game so high if you didn't like it?" and I say "Well, because it was a pretty good game but I've just played better." Other good--or better--games being available somewhere in the world don't change the general quality of an inferior title that's more readily available.

I liked Lament of Innocence, by the way, enough that I even wrote a guide for it just for fun. I wonder how I'd feel if I played it now.
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overdrive posted June 09, 2011:

Yeah. Lament, to me, was inferior to a Devil May Cry or a God of War, but nailed the general formula good enough to not come close to being classed with lesser titles like the movie licenses of, say, Clash of the Titans or that Thor game you reviewed.

I do wish I'd remembered Devil May Cry a bit better. Some points would have been stronger if I'd been comparing Lament to the game that was two years older than the one that's about 1.5 years younger.

I think you gave it a 7, Marc gave it an 8 and now I've given it a 6. After my first day or so playing it, I was probably in the 7-8 zone, but the farther I got, the more annoyed I got at little things that just seemed, I guess, lazy. Enter the castle. Turn left to reach MANDATORY tutorial area. Turn right to reach single room containing five warps to other places, as well as a long staircase that eventually will lead to brutally tough optional boss. That's about the simplest, most stripped-down "hub" world you'll find. The capitalistic shop keeper is a staple in games (I know you're saving the world...but I gotta get my profit, dude!), but here, it just seemed hilarious. (I'm trapped in this forest and want to get revenge on that vampire more than anything else, but you're going to have to pay for this stuff, dude!).
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Masters posted June 09, 2011:

But that's no more ridiculous than a fucking librarian hawking rapiers in SOTN, or a cloaked fool with rocket launchers on offer FOLLOWING you around in RE4 -- and those are two of the best games ever made.
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overdrive posted June 09, 2011:

But that's no more ridiculous than a fucking librarian hawking rapiers in SOTN, or a cloaked fool with rocket launchers on offer FOLLOWING you around in RE4 -- and those are two of the best games ever made.

Lol...touche. Might be another one of my personality quirks coming out in why this one got to me more than those. Especially when there are about an infinite number of weird "this doesn't make any logical sense" things in games. Like how I'm playing Red Faction Guerrilla -- where you can have 500 soldiers on your heels ready for blood...and they immediately lose you and all enemy alerts revert to calm the minute you enter a safehouse. Which apparently can't be found by enemy troops even though they tend to be short treks off major roads.
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Masters posted June 09, 2011:

Haha. Typical stealth game issue, I guess. How is that game? It's been so long since I played a game that really captured my imagination. I've been playing Dead Nation, since I got it free from Sony, and it started out pretty cool. But now, five areas in, I realize that I have another five areas of the same exact thing to look forward to. I feel like game designers make something pretty cool and then they stretch it out way too long ...and ironically, the game buying public then complains that games aren't long enough.
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Masters posted June 09, 2011:

Anyway, bad manners--I haven't read your review yet.

Now I have. Nice, irreverent look at the game. I understand where you're coming from, reviewing this thing well after better games have come along in the same vein.

A small catch toward the end:

"I find myself more interesting in playing captivating and interesting titles, as opposed to somewhat inferior clones of those games."

Should be "more interested". That being said, you may want to use another word since you have interested again later in the same sentence.

Not that you asked. ^_^
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Suskie posted June 09, 2011:

I feel like game designers make something pretty cool and then they stretch it out way too long

Ha ha ha ha that's funny because I'm playing L.A. Noire oh god.
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Masters posted June 09, 2011:

Ha, so our resident pro, Tom Chick had it right?
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overdrive posted June 09, 2011:

But...I find myself more interesting! Er...nice catch, I mean.

Overall, I'm looking at Guerrilla as a 9 or so. It has its flaws and all, but I just love to destroy things in its world. Buildings, bridges, propane tanks, etc. They all go *boom* and I feel a bit happier with each one!
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radicaldreamer posted June 09, 2011:

I always find myself more interesting.
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overdrive posted June 10, 2011:

Ha, so our resident pro, Tom Chick had it right?

On a more general message board, L.A. Noire became a hot topic of discussion. Over the last few weeks, talk has gone from "It looks so awesome! The trailer kicks ass!" to "Just got it and this is a blast!" to "I'm most of the way through it and it's fun and all but the cases are repetitive". So, in short, I'm guessing he did have it right.
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sashanan posted June 16, 2011:

You nailed my exact issue with Lament of Innocence - I soon found myself running through rooms as quickly as possible to avoid fighting anything, then at some point I wondered why in an action game I would have to do so. Experience may give the opportunity to cheese out by grinding, but nobody forces you to do so. I'll take getting a tangible payoff for what I'm doing over Lament's approach any day.

I do think the trouble I had with so many of the bosses can be directly linked to the fact that I ran too often to properly learn my moves, though.
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overdrive posted June 18, 2011:

I had that same issue. Particularly with the more mobile bosses like the elemental fighters. They'd be flying around and pummeling me and I'd find myself basically avoiding them and trying to counterattack when I could. Which would lead to me going through potions constantly which would lead to me wasting time harvesting money to buy more. I'm sure I could have handled fights like that a lot more easily if I'd done more with the battle system, but when there's usually no reason to do so other than unlocking doors the first time you enter a room, it's easy to wind up doing little besides the most basic stuff because you don't really take the time to learn the more combo-riffic moves.

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