Review by Elbryan42
"Another unbiased review by yours truly"
Welcome to another UNBIASED review by Elbryan! I've always hated biased, exaggerated, false, and ignorant reviews, both good an bad ones. For those who read my GBA Doom 1 and Doom 2 reviews know what to expect.
IGA, the most recent person to head up the Castlevnia team, has redefined Castlevania once with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Adding items, RPG elements, and giving it a Metroid style of gameplay. Every game since then has been a copy of SOTN, and every game since has been compared to it. Once again Castlevnia is being redefined, but in a totally new direction, borrowing elements from classic games long forgotten. This simplistic approach (which I'll go into later) have made the game a thrill ride, and though a bit repetitive (as most old style games are) it's definitely fun. You just have to be in the mindset.
It's not a surprise that there's many who started playing Castlevania: Lament of Innocence thinking it would be the same gameplay as SOTN, but in 3D. It's also not a surpise that people have been skeptical of Castlevnia in 3D, especially with the mediocre incarnations on the N64. Going into a game with misconceptions about what it'll be like will 90% of the time leave you disappointed, as it's been shown for this game since it got released. This review is to zet the records straight and to let everyone know what they're getting into.
So, with all this said and done, what's this game like? What has changed? Will you be impressed? First of all, the RPG elements that have been standard since SOTN are gone. The one huge map Metroid-esque gameplay is gone too. The classic roots are being brought back in 3D. The levels are seperate (though they're connected as one huge hub level), and the rooms are simple. The reason for this will be explained later. Replacing the leveling up and such of RPG games (thus making them WAY too easy) is replaced with extra techniques which enhances the gameplay, as opposed to cheapening it. Don't be afraid, your favorite gaming frachise in in te right hands.
The takes place in the 1100s. The very first Belmont, Leon Belmont, is off to rescue his betrothed, Sara, from the vampire Walter Bernard in a castle surrounded by an eternal night. I won't go any farther into the story, as it's all plot twists. What you WILL see in it is the origin of the Vampire Killer whip, the cursed Belmont bloodline, and Dracula himself. Classic bosses such as Medusa, Succubus, and Death all make their debuts here too. The story plays out how a first novel in a series, or a first movie in a trilogy would. Introducing the characters, and delving you into the world the characters are in. The story is great for an action game.
So, now the fun part. What does this thing play like? Classic gameplay has been honed with an odd mix of genres. This isn't a run-of-the-mill 3D action game. I'll explain.
First of all, your attacks are all based on techniques, and linking combos. This definitely isn't a button masher. As you progress through the game, you get combos and techniques such as air juggles, uppercuts, and more. It's much more than that though. With your guard button, you can block enemy attacks. And if your timing is right, you can stun the enemy, allowing you to counter. Also when you're guarding, you can dodge, backflip, and counterattack. Kind of like Link does in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I can't explain the action more than that. It's a bit tricky at first, but is VERY addicting, allowing you to dispatch enemies in a variety of ways. Of course, all that I've mentioned isn't available from the beginning. The more you fight, the more stuff you unlock, and not making you too powerful, giving great balance to the game.
Your subweapons are great this time around. Beating a boss gets you an orb, letting you combine it with your subweapon, like in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. It's very intuitive, and very fun to see what you can come up with. Magic, this time around, is put on the back burner. You have relics that allow you to do stuff like run fast, increase your stats, and even fill your health. They drain your magic though. Your magic isn't refilled by conventional means. Save points won't even recharge your magic. You have to earn it. Guarding against magical attacks and guarding perfectly will refill your guage, giving a nice balance between offense and defense, as well as not allowing you to overuse your magic. They truly thought this game out. Lastly, your whip can be upgraded with ice, fire, or lightning. You must find the well hidden Elemental bosses first, though, and earn your new whip.
The one thing that's been bugging people is the simplistic levels. The levels consist of mostly square rooms and hallways. Barely any platforming is required, and the rooms for the most part are completely flat. Before you groan, there's method to the madness. The gameplay is much easier and smoother on a flat surface, harkening back to simpler games like Smash TV and Robotron. Just you and the enemies. That's what this game is all about. The game plays like an arena game, like the forementioned Smash TV or the Battle Arena level in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. You refill your hearts and take a breather from the action in small hallways between the rooms, while the rooms lock you in the first time you go through most of them, making you dispatch the enemies before you go on. Sure, it's simpler, but games like this sure aren't made anymore. Where gameplay is on the front stage where the backdrop is, well, the backdrop.
In 3D games the touchiest subject is the camera. Lament of Inncocence has an automatic camera. The camera is placed in the corner of each room, and pans wherever your character is. It works excellent for the most part, probably another reason for the simplistic rooms. The only time the camera becomes a hassle (and a very small hassle)is sometimes during boss battles, since the camera follows the action, opposed to being set in a certain spot, your character may be blocked by the boss itself, or the boss might not even be on the screen at all times. It's a minor gripe though, and barely happens.
So, if you're looking for the newest and best 3D technology and gameplay, you won't find it here. Just tried and true simple yet elegant gameplay.
Kinda going hand in hand with the gameplay, the control is pretty sweet. You move your character with the left stick, guard with either R1 or R2, jump with X, use your subweapon with Circle, and attack with Square (weak) and Triangle (strong). The navigation of the real time menus is what can be tricky at first. Not having to take a break from the action (which is a big part of this game), a traditional menu system (which is still in the game) has been for the most part replaced with real time menus. Holding L2 brings up your relics, holding L1 brings up your orbs, you select what you want with the right stick, allowing you to still control your character in the heat of battle. Using the right stick by itself brings up your basic menu. Left and right changes between your orbs (text), relics (text), items, and equipment. Pressing R3 (down on the stick) closes the menu and X selects. Select brings up your map, and start brings up your pause menu.
Now for the guard button. Pressing guard blocks attacks. Holding guard, pressing a direction and jump will let you dodge. Holding guard and pressing Circle activates your current relic,
For the platforming parts, it's tricky at first, as most of it requires you to use your whip to latch onto railings or bars. This is the only gripe I have with the control, as the timing has to be perfect for it to work. You still don't need it that much though.
Though the enviornements are simplistic, they're so beautiful, you'll spend as much time looking at them as playing the game. Little touches like wonderful paintings and tapestries, reflections, lighting and fog are the icing on the cake.
SOUND & MUSIC
Not much can be said about sound. You've heard a Castlevania game, you've heard them all. Whip cracks, footsteps, item pickup, etc. What shines in this game, is the voices. The best voice acting I've heard in a while. And for those who prefer the Japanese voices, there's an option to hear those as well.
Now, the music by Michiru Yamane is pure beauty. She's also behind the music in the previous Castlevania Bloodlines, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. The masterpieces this time around are so beautiful that your speakers will be blaring just to hear the beats, symphonic instruments, and ambient sounds. The music isn't as diverse as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but just as great nonetheless.
EXTRAS & REPLAYABILITY
The regular extras that are pretty much expected by now for Castlevania games are in here if you beat the game. Boss Rush, Crazy Mode (VERY HARD!), an extra character, extra stats, sound test, extra items, and even an added bonus: a new subweapon! The only problem I have with the extras is the extra character, like in previous Castlevania games, doesn't have a story attached to them, just playing the same old game with a new, overpowered character. :(
There's not much truly hidden stuff in the main game. A kind of a dissappointment. Sure, there are little bonus things you can do if you look hard enough, but it's much too easy to collect everything.
The game isn't that long, like older style games. A hub level, and six huge stages. It'll take you about 10 hours the first time through. It's the perfect length for me, but more levels (even if they're shorter ones) would've given more variety, and more gameplay in the main game.
Still, with the awesome classic gameplay, playing through multiple times, mastering the game enough so you might be able to tackle Crazy Mode is replayability enough. With gameplay this intuitive (with practice of course) and fun, you'll be playing this at least twice through just to get everything.
As much as I love this game and the story, being obsessed with completing it, and such, after completion, I felt there should be more. It's like the beginning of an epic story. Something seemed missing, and I realize it's the overall atmosphere. The gameplay was there, the great music, and everything. But there just aren't enough ''epic'' parts in the game that make it a perfect game. The boss battles are so well played out, some enviornments os breathtaking, that the simple rooms, though they more than serve their purpose gameplay wise (and do a great job), just seem a bit unpolished. I could've lived with more backdrop stuff, like the high rock cliffs, or the ruined pews, altrars and such in the temple enviornments. Like I said, some places are so great, the blander rooms seem like they could've been so much better.
The platforming parts, such as timing your whip swings, jumping across collapsable sectons on a bridge (accurately) and even jumping on a simple switch can be a bit trying at times. There's not much places where platforming is a must though.
I hope this review has been informative. Ever since the game has been released, so much confusion about the quality of the game I think has hurt the game and possibly lost it some fans. But I would recommend this to any classic gaming or Castlevania fan. If you're a new age gamer, who needs the flashiest and advanced games, I'd rent this out first and see if it's your thing.
Here's hoping there's a sequel coming out soon. The series is taking off into a nice direction, and would like to see it polished up so we can see a truly perfect 3D Castlevania game.
GREAT JOB IGA!
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 10/27/03
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