Review by richie259

"A step in the right direction, and boy is it a fun step!"

Introduction
I have been playing Castlevania since the NES days, and have no doubts about it being one of my favorite ongoing video game series. The biggest plus that Castlevania: Lament of Innocence has going for it, is that it FEELS like Castlevania, in 3D. This is a great thing, considering the N64 Castlevanias looked a heck of a lot like Castlevania, but lacked that certain something that could give them a place among the other great games in this series.
From the second the music starts in LoI, and you start swinging your whip, you'll know exactly what I mean.

Graphics
8/10

One thing to say about this venture into 3D, it looks pretty. Granted, some of the rooms look like they are rehashed, but there are small intricate details that sometimes go unnoticed. You could spend literally all day looking at the paintings hanging on the castle walls, or seeing the way the moonlight shines in through the windows.
The movement is fluid, the enemies are detailed (and recognizable if you've played previous CVs), and the magic looks great. Alas, great graphics do not a great game make.
That's not to say that it isn't important, but there are more important things to get to.

Music/Sound:
9/10

Yes! Yes yes yes! The music in this game is great! I thought that Aria of Sorrow and Symphony of the Night had great music, but I have to hand it to the composers this time around, as LoI can definitely stand up to those big boys in music quality. I sometimes find myself raising the volume on the TV just to make the music ring out throughout the house.
Also, everything from the sound of the whip cracking, to the sound of the enemies as they die and scream in agony, is perfect. You will have a hard time finding anything in the sound department to complain about.

Gameplay/Control
8.5/10

The control scheme is not perfect. Well, its close. The only thing I don't like is that you can not use an item when you are in the pause menu. You must use the right analog stick to cycle through the ''Real-time'' menu, and you are bereft of all other actions (save running) while you are in this menu.
The basic jumping and attacking controls, however, are as intuitive as can be. Square button for light whip attacks, Triangle for heavier attacks, X button for jumping, and the Circle button for sub-weapons.
Combinations can be dealt with the whip, and new combos are learned as you progress in the game.
The feature that I like the most is the sub-weapon/orb feature, which is much like the spell book system in Harmony of Dissonance. Each sub weapon attack will change depending on which orb you have equipped. This makes for a nice variety of non-whip attacks, and really adds some depth to the action.
Another gameplay element, Relics, play and important role as well. Relics are items that, when equipped, can be used (consuming MP) to perform some sort of magical attack/maneuver. You can only equip one relic at a time.
In order to gain MP, you must guard against an enemy's special move (denoted by a purple glow before the attack). To use a relic, you must hold guard (R1) and press circle. The relic will then be in effect until you cancel it by the same action.
This makes for more strategic gameplay, as you must guard in certain situations in order to regain your MP (boss fights, etc.)
A nice innovation, IMO.

Something that I find lacking, however, is the amount of weapons, armor, and accessories that have been made available in this most recent romp through Castlevania. Previous CVs were loaded with different types of armor and weapons throughout the game, but in LoI, the variation is somewhat limited.

Story
8/10

You're Leon Belmont, the first of a long line of Belmonts to raise a whip against vampires, as the game takes place before all of the other Castlevanias. A vampire has kidnapped your betrothed, and you are on a quest to rescue her. A strange man in the forest gives you the soon to be legendary whip, and so it begins. I don't want to ruin anything about the plot, but I was slightly disappointed in the lack of real dialogue driven plot elements.
The voice acting, when present, is done well, but I feel the game could have used a little more story telling.

Replayability
7/10

While its true that the first run through of the game is rather short, it is not short by most action game standards. And don't be fooled by previous CVs, this one IS an action game.
Given the extra characters, and extra difficulty modes, I could see someone coming back and playing this game a few times before it begins to collect dust.

Rent/Buy?

If you're the type of person that likes to blow through games, and doesn't mind completing games without getting 100%, then you might be better off renting this one.
If you're a fan of Castlevania, and truly have a love for action games, this is a definite buy for you.

Overall (not an average)
8.5/10

A must have for any Castlevania fan. Also a must for any action game fan, as the parallels to a Devil May Cry style of game are ever present.
If you're looking for an RPG style of Castlevania, like Symphony of the Night, look elsewhere, this isn't it.
A good start for the next gen series of Castlevania. Not the best game ever by any means, but it looks to be heading in the right direction. The most important thing this game has going for it, IMO, is that its fun to play, and it feels like Castlevania in 3D. Its not a perfect game, but its very close, and I have a feeling the next CV installment is going to blow our minds.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/28/03


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