Review by grimakis

"Castlevania 64: Director's Cut"

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness Review

Preface:

This review was written in late 2012, and therefore it is subject to any biases resulting from the passage of time. Having said that, this review attempts to judge the game based only upon contemporaneous and preceding titles. Therefore this game will not be compared to modern games with superior graphics, sounds, so on and so forth.

Introduction:

“Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness” was released in North America late in the year of 1999. About ten months earlier Konami released a different Castlevania game for the Nintendo 64. It was simply titled “Castlevania” and it generally referred to as Castlevania 64. “Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness”, hereby referred to as LOD, is essentially the director's cut version of Castlevania 64. LOD possesses two more characters, a few more stages, some modified areas, new bosses, new costumes, and an extended story.

Because both games are so similar, and their release dates were very close together, LOD was not very successful. Therefore at the time that this review is being written, 2012, the price of LOD is significantly higher than the Castlevania 64. Having said that, for someone looking to purchase one of the two games, LOD is the better purchase.

Story 8/10

The game starts with only one character unlocked, Cornell. He is a “man-wolf”, and has the ability to transform into an anthropomorphic wolf. Another werewolf, Ortega, has allied himself with Count Dracula. Ortega is Cornell's rival, and unlike Cornell he doesn't have the same level of control over his powers. Dracula's servants burn Cornell's home village, and Ada, Cornell's adoptive sister, is kidnapped.

Cornell's quest takes him through Dracula's castle and the surrounding lands. Everything culminates in castle's keep, with Dracula as the final boss. After Cornell fights Dracula, he is not truly defeated and is due to be resurrected again in a few years. This makes Cornell's quest a prequel to Reinhart and Carrie's quest in Castlevania 64. Cornell rescues his sister, and proceeds to encounter Henry, a child that was saved during the adventure.

The second playable character is Henry, a boy that Cornell saved. Henry grows up to become a knight of the church who is tasked to save six children in seven days. Henry's quest is short, and reuses many areas from Cornell's adventure. Henry's quest takes place during Reinhart and Carrie's quest, and must be completed before Dracula is defeated and the castle collapses. Finishing Henry's quest unlocks Reinhardt and Carrie.

Reinhardt and Carrie share the same quest, the one that they had in Castlevania 64. While it isn't exactly the same as Castlevania 64, it's as close as space constraints on the N64 cartridge allowed it to be. Reinhardt and Carrie have to navigate their way through Dracula's castle in order to defeat him. Overall, the plot is the same as any other Castlevania game, and is essentially the extended version of Castlevania 64.

Sound 7/10

The music featured in LOD is both creepy and frightening at times. It definitely adds to the quality of gameplay as opposed from retracting from it. Some games have music that is annoying or repetitive. This game doesn't have music like that. However at the same time, nothing is really memorable and one would not hum or whistle any tunes after playing.

Some sound effects are done well, such as the little noises that traps make, or enemies' sounds. However some sound effects, especially those made by Carrie, tend to be annoying and could conceivably irritate some gamers.

Graphics 7/10

LOD has very good graphics for N64 standards. It supports the use of N64 RAM Expansion Pak, and has the option to use higher resolution graphics. They look phenomenal. However, running the game in high-resolution mode results in a noticeable frame rate drop. Slowdown can become problematic and for that reason it is more convenient to play in low-resolution mode. Either way the graphics look fine. Effects such as rain, and the lighting changes from day to night make the game more real and more eerie. At some times it often seems too dark and makes the game harder to play, but the tradeoff is worth the added realism. The characters costumes are interesting, and everything is detailed well. At no point does the game feel too dated; even in 2012 the game is very much playable even with the N64 quality graphics.

Controls 7/10

Perhaps the biggest flaw with LOD is the control setup. The C-Buttons are fully mapped, ranging from different attacks to changing the camera mode, to picking up items. The R-Button is mapped to centering the camera, something that needs to be used often. The camera is far from perfect, but can be controlled using the D-Pad. Often times it's just easier to deal with the awful view rather than adjust the camera because one must remove their hand from the control stick to do so. Also, activating Cornell's wolf form requires one to press L, which is rather inconvenient. Eventually, one does get used to the controls, and it is at this point that the game becomes very enjoyable. It is fortunate that Cornell's quest is not time sensitive, as that allows one to learn to play at his or her own pace.

Gameplay 9/10

The gameplay in LOD is incredible. After playing this game, it becomes evident that it is severely underrated. The player starts as Cornell and is required to play through his quest first. Cornell is a physical character who attacks mainly with his claws. He also has the ability to be a wolf-man, and it is simply a stat boost while in that form.

Cornell's adventure contains a handful of very memorable levels, namely Villa. Villa is a very eerie level that is quite large and home to vampires by the time that Cornell arrives. He is asked to save a ten-year-old child named Henry. This part is very eerie indeed. Cornell has to escort Henry from the garden maze while being followed by an immortal undead gardener. The entire experience can be quite frightening, and is a memorable part of the game. Villa lacks most of the platforming elements and feels more like a survival horror genre.

Other levels rely heavily on platforming. These stages are fun for other reasons. Timing jumps from disappearing platform to platform while being attacked from long range presents a fun challenge. Dodging pendulum axes, fire, lava, and spike pits, is standard in LOD. Most of the tower levels are heavy on platforming, and lack serious enemies altogether. This leads to varied gameplay, and it never feels as if there is too much of one element.

So after journeying through Dracula's castle, there is a boss to be fought, and a sister to be rescued. After defeating Dracula atop his castle, it is revealed that the game is not over. Dracula will reawaken and Reinhardt and Carrie will be tasked to defeat him in the future. This is where Cornell's quest ends. Henry, the small child whom Cornell saved, is then unlocked for play.
Henry's quest is short and sweet. He has to save six children in seven days before Reinhardt and Carrie defeat Dracula and the castle collapses. Each child that is saved unlocks something new. After rescuing the six children, Carrie and Reinhardt are unlocked as well as alternate costumes for all but Henry, and the “Hard” difficulty is also unlocked. Henry is a very fun character to play as, and it's unfortunate that his quest isn't as long as the others.

Reinhardt and Carrie possess the original Castlevania 64 quest. Many levels are reused, but the ways they are traversed are different, as are some of the puzzles. Reinhardt is the Belmont descendant, and wields the traditional whip. Carrie is a small spellcaster, and is harder to play with. Having this second quest adds a lot more content to an already large game. By reusing areas it allowed to Konami to maximize the content despite the storage limitations on the N64 cartridges.

Notes

- This game uses the Controller Pak, AKA the N64 Memory Card. Very important to note this.
- Essentially just an enhanced version of Castlevania 64.
- Has high-res graphics, but frame rate drops compared to low-res.
- Definite replayability

Conclusion

LOD is a gem of a Nintendo 64 game. It has a fair amount of unlockable content, good graphics for the system, well-designed levels, and a lot of replayability. Because of the way the game is, it has an arcade feeling to it, and one could easily sit down and play through the whole game a few hours. It's definitely worth buying for someone who is interest in trying something new for the N64.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/04/12

Game Release: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (US, 11/30/99)


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