Review by Bkstunt_31
"The game that never was..."
Ah, Castlevania. Man, I love that series. However even I can admit that there are some low points in its history. I mean, look at the Nintendo 64 titles. And yes, even the Game Boy titles aren't THAT good. Castlevania: Legends was the THIRD and last Game Boy Castlevania title produced before the series handheld titles jumped over to the Game Boy Advance. Here's what you can expects from this game.
The story tries to do something different than your average "Dracula is back, lets go kill him" plot line. It introduces a new protagonist to the series, Sonia Belmont (Gasp, a woman!), and the games setting takes place before any other game in the series, making Sonia the FIRST Belmont to tangle with Dracula. The game also has Alucard in it (Dracula's son, whom fans adored in Symphony of the Night) as an acquaintance of Sonia's as she sets out to stop Dracula's reign of evil.
The back-story of the game is STILL pretty sparse and doesn't ever really get into Sonia's history (merely saying she had magical powers), Dracula's rise to power, or even exactly how Sonia and Alucard know each other, all vital details to a good narrative. But while it completely fails on that front history would later go on to prove that this game's lack of a proper story wouldn't even matter, because famous Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi would later remove this game from the series timeline (which made Castlevania: Lament of Innocence the new "Beginning Story" of the series, which I have to agree is a much better story AND game). In fact, without just blatantly giving away the game's ending, the TRUE ending to this game would have made ALL OTHER games story lines in the series canon questionable.
The game play in Castlevania Legends is pretty simple. You'll traverse through stages comprised of interconnecting screens, fighting your way past Dracula's minions on your way to the stages boss. On your way to the boss you'll learn how to handle all sorts of baddies, but you'll also constantly be out to whip and collect candles, which give you hearts as well as a other items such as meat (for your health) and crystals (to level up your whip). Casltevania Legends is unique in the fact that it doesn't have ANY sub-weapons (it does, but more on that later). Instead, Sonia uses MAGIC! After every boss battle, you'll gain a unique magic attack that costs you HEARTS to use.
The game has two modes to choose from: Standard Mode where you will have to find crystals to raise your whips power or Light Mode where you will always have a fully-powered whip, which is important since a fully-powered whip lets you shoot a fireball across the screen giving you a ranged option. So essentially there is a built-in difficulty selector. However, if there's one observation I HAVE to share about Castlevania Legends, it is how EASY the game is. Most of the games lack of difficulty stems from a special ability Sonia had: Burning Mode. Burning mode, when used, ups Sonia's damage, speed, and makes her invincible. It can only be used once per stage though, and lasts for a specific period of time. However, you can basically save it for every boss battle and OWN that boss with Burning Mode. Add in the fact that one of the magic attacks COMPLETELY restores your health and the game really loses any challenge it may have had. I will say one thing that I really like about this game's game play: it had multiple PATH SPLITS in each stage that often lead to either dead ends or enemy ambushes, which while annoying was good to see for varieties sake.
The graphics in the game are pretty standard for their time. Each stage pretty much picks a theme and goes with it, repeating similar rooms over and over until you advance to the next stage. The artwork of the cut-scenes (and the game box) is decidedly anime-influenced, which is pretty cool. The music in the game is... well, pretty much a mash-up of ideas. For example, the first song you'll hear is the famous "Bloody Tears" (one of my favorite Castlevania tunes), but it's been... remixed or something, and in my opinion isn't very good. The music as a whole is rather sub-par and uninspired, but it'll give you something to listen to as you play.
The game only has FIVE stages before you face Dracula, but is unique in the fact that it has a HIDDEN STAGE that requires (of all things) to hit a certain candle and drop down a pit to access. This hidden stage ties in with the sub-weapons that I mentioned earlier, since the game actually has multiple endings. Once ending (the best ending) requires you to find and collect five different sub-weapons before beating the game, which is neat and can give the unaware Castlevania fan a reason to play through the game again.
In the end, the game is pretty average, with its ups and downs. It can be way too easy if you want it to be. The back-story and music leave much to be desired, but the game play and level designs are pretty solid, so even though Konami may no longer consider this game worthy of being in the official timeline, if you are a Castlevania fan it is worth checking out. Have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/04/12
Game Release: Castlevania Legends (US, 03/11/98)
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