Saturday, November 1, 2003

Game Review: CastleVania: Lament of Innocence

Welcome back to the 12th century, time to go to work cracka Belmont! Konami brings us the next instalment....the supposed origin of the Belmont legacy. Leon Belmont surrenders his title as knight and disobeys the church mandate in order to rescue is kidnapped love Sara (coughsupermariobroscoughcough). News of her kidnapping is given by long time friend Mathias Conqest (sp?) who has gone bedridden after the loss of his love Elizabetha. Our hero to be sets off to a castle said to be cursed by a Vampire (lets lay it all out in the first 5 minutes and leave no surprises for later) to slay the Vampire.....Ok I have around 50% of the castle explored and I have only fought 1 boss! Either Ikuaragii has a SOTN surprise up his sleeve (50%=25% ) or this game is seriously lacking in the boss fight department! I guess since this IS the true begining of the CastleVania Legacy Drac hasn't recruited to many beasties yet I remember back when the original CastleVania came out I was in 8th grade and some kid had a graduation party at his house, later in the evening we slid the cartridge into the 'ol NES and played till the sun came up! We played till we died then passed the controller to the next guy, we finally got to Dracula at like 3am! Back then the 2 sprite Simon Belmont was amazing! The castle seemed enormous and the bosses were tough! Next to SOTN the original castle was like a Burger King play pen for the kiddies! Each new CastleVania has outdone the prior in size and depth. So how do you outdo SOTN?! You go where no Belmont has gone before..........the 3rd dimension! This isn't the first time CastleVania has entered the 3rd dimension, Konami ventured there years ago on the N64.....but lets try and forget those dark days Lament of Innocence is a tremendous first step into the 3D realm for the series which feels so right in 2D. The environments are alive (so to speak) with all the aspects that make this series so great, the ambient sounds, the haunting soundtrack, the attention to detail for each of the hundreds of minions, and the authentic look and feel of the castle. The game plays smoothly and control is tight and responsive, but there are a few problems with the control setup in my opinion. First off using the right analog stick to bring up an items menu doesn't work well, I don't know how many times while in the middle of a fight against hordes of badies I accidently opened a real time menu. Being that it's a RT menu I'm still being attacked while I fumble to close the menu and not use an item by mistake. Then we come to the relics and orbs.....hard to find? yes! Confusing interface? Yep. Fun to toggle while playing in RT? Nope. To set your relic (I've only found 2) you use the R2 button in RT to bring up the window then the right analog stick to rotate to the relic of choice, and for magic orbs the R1 button.... There is no doubt in my mind this castle is enourmous, and that even though it says I've explored 50% of it, I expect to find plenty of secret areas once I've collected the remaining relics and orbs. Now this may have me returning back to previously explored areas, and slaying hordes of lizardmen and skeletons, which in the past wasn't an issue. But now that the castle is broken up into "levels" thru a central hub you lose the feel of exploring one enourmous castle but that's really a minor issue. Lament of Innocence is a great game that may be dismissed prematurely by hardcore Vania fans looking for the next Symphony of the Night, beautiful environments, spectacular soundtrack, classic gameplay in a new 3D realm done well.