Review by leesmapman
"The man with the whip is back, putting gameplay where it belongs: in games"
Castlevania for me has always been a feast to escape the usual game boredom we find in the game stores. The first Castlevania I played for the MSX was at the time that the Larry's and Space Quests were everywhere, when the next batches of point and click adventures were there, there was Super Castlevania. And again, when Doom reared its ugly head, SOTN restored my faith in gaming by putting gameplay in games. And now, where First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategy are ruling the PC world, along comes another piece of fine craftsmanship. Lament of Innocence, for the PS2. The 2nd attempt to put Castlevania in 3D (I consider CV64 and CV:LOD as 1 game, since LOD is an ''improved'' CV64, IMO). A 3D Castlevania... some people shiver. Is this possible? All I can say is: yes, it is possible. The final result is a solid action game with lots of things to discover in a huge castle. Just like it all was before.
All I can say is: wow. From the start of the game at the shop of Rinaldi until the gothic surroundings of the castle, all is taken care of with a lot of detail. Enemies are animated very realistic and Leon's whipping and movements are also done very stylish. Yes, style, that's what the game is about. The box art gives that away. And you couldn't expect anything else from miss Kojima, could you? Her gothic style is perfect for this game.
Castlevana has always been about great music, and Lament Of Innocence is no exception. The well composed orchestrations don't tend to get irritating, which is always a good thing. I only find a few of them really memorable, which is a a downside, because the previous Castlevanias had some very hummable tunes. It's like the music is made for the mood and not for the melody. Not really a a disaster, but something which I think is different from the older Castlevanias. The music is powerful though and it tells something about other games which should take more care of its musical content (and I'm not talking about Dance Dance Revolution). Extra points go to the addition of Dolby Pro-Logic to the game.
Leon Belmont controls like a charm. Period. Unlike Castlevania 64, you can't get fooled by the 3D environment because the camera is fixed at certain positions. Although this sometimes results in some confusion while walking, but it's not that bad (with Devil May Cry I had more problems). Leon is fast, whips and throws like it's never been done before (and story-wise it hasn't). The extra skills you can earn by defeating enemies are a great addition to the moves Leon can do and are easy to do. The sub-weapons are the usual Castlevania subweapons and it gives you the real Castlevania feeling to use them. I got a feeling of nostalgia when I found the first cross. Off-camera enemies don't surprise you because of the 3D environments, something a lot of 3D games suffer from. The difficulty of the game is medium. Sometimes there are some frustrating puzzles which you will solve after a few tries, sometimes there are the usual timings and difficult to reach spots.
Also very Castlevania. Belmont seeks in castle to find his kidnapped beloved. Where did we hear this before? Only now we get to hear why this always happens. A lot is explained in the beginning, when Leon enters the forest and in the first few hours of the game, there's not much progression in the story. Which is a good thing, because you don't have time to think about the story, since there's a lot to do!
A lot of people mention Devil May Cry when looking a this game, but where DMC is about solving missions, this game is more about exploring a giant castle. The exploring aspect of the game is addictive. You don't want to stop until you have ended that part of the castle. By combining colored Orbs with your subweapon, you will get more powerful subweapons. This takes the use of subweapons to a higher level, where a subweapon can be the ultimate solution to destroying an enemy, whereas they were merely used as nice to haves. (I didn't use a lot of subweapons in the older Castlevanias).. The skill system is great, you will earn new skills by defeating enemies and it wants to make you go on and on to get more skills.
A true Castlevania. In 3D. It has it al: the subweapons, a Belmont, great music, great graphics and most importantly: gameplay. It feels like Castlevania in every sense of the word. The real SOTN fans will see this as a step back, since there's no leveling up, but the older Castlevanias were not about that either. The leap between SOTN and Rondo of Blood was big, and in a way two totally different games in the Castlevania universe with the Castlevania elements. The same giant leap is here between SOTN and Lament Of Innocence. And that's not a bad thing.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/08/03
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