Review by HEMIstation

"SOTN, where art thou?"

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness

Fool me once (Lament of Innocence)… Shame on you! Fool me twice (Curse of Darkness)… Shame on ME!

Have you ever noticed how the screenshots of upcoming games in magazines such as EGM fail to capture the true aura of a game? False impressions by “professional” game reviewers led me to believe Konami had finally applied a winning 3D formula to the famed PS1 Symphony of the Night theme. After trying the game, I realize that Konami will never get it right.

STORY:

For starters, the storyline is actually pretty decent to go along with. Your character, Hector, is a former devil forger that served as Count Dracula's right hand man. Together, all the lands of Europe were doomed to kneel at the Evil Vampire's feet. Just when Dracula's plan of world domination was about to take off, Hector fell in love with a woman---- a woman who's love made devil-forging feel like a bad taste in his mouth. To please his own desire to love and live happily ever after with his Woman, Hector abandoned Dracula completely.

In his shocked and stunned state, Dracula's master plan was suddenly “man down” at a very ill opportune time. Trevor Belmont then forged ahead to battle Dracula and his minions, and with the absence of Hector, Dracula was not strong enough to win the fight.

Now another devil forger, who also served Dracula, has despised Hector for his dis-loyalty to the Prince of Darkness. He laid a master scheme to frame Hector's beloved as a witch, and ultimately succeeded, as she was tried and executed as a witch. With this act he has lured Hector in, because to kill Hector, head-to-head, mano-e-mano, is the only way to mitigate his tormented and humiliated past.

A pretty straight forward, but very stream-lined and silky smooth foundation for the story. I like, and actually greatly applaud the initial story layout. But unfortunately folks, it's all down hill from here……

GRAPHICS:

Pretty bad. There's pretty weak facial movement, the characters lips hardly move during the cut-scenes, their mouths just kind of slump open and shut. Their cheek bones don't move at all. This is very disturbing—cut scenes are supposed to be where a game looks its best. This is not the case with Curse of Darkness.

The backgrounds are pretty weak and not very pleasing. Yea, it's there, but it isn't much to look at. In my opinion there is too much sky and wall filling the screen when you are outside, and there is too much repetitive scenery inside. How many times can I see a gigantic red oriental, slightly tattered carpet hanging from one of the abandoned castle walls?

Enemy design is the worst. This is the design I seriously would have expected from a PS1 game. The skeletons are about as “plain Jane” as enemy design can possibly get. There were skeletons in Sega's Castlevania: Bloodlines that were more detailed than these skeletons. They are basically moving slurs of the color gray with a skull on top. Pathetic. Now you also have these dog looking things. They behave like a Cerberus should, however, the only thing “canine” about them is their behavior. They have the face of a boar, the body of a big hairy animal (Panther possibly?) and the tail of a Fox. What the heck is this thing supposed to be? One thing's for sure, it definitely ain't scary. It actually looks like of cuddly, like it is based on a stuffed-animal prize you might win at King's Dominion or something.

The only good looking room I encountered is the “fountain room” where you get the first Innocent Devil ability. Other than that, the whole concept of making a “good” looking game were completely forgotten my Konami.

Whoever said Curse of Darkness would fix the repetitiveness of LOI must feel pretty stupid. This game is MORE repetitive. The only problem in LOI was those stupid hallways. CoD is repetitive as a WHOLE.

GAMEPLAY:

This is not good. Once Hector gets started on a combo, he turns into a 10,000 pound diesel truck that has no brakes--- he just keeps barreling forward, ignoring the fact that the enemy just side stepped 3 inches to get out of the way, and then pistol-whips Hector on the back of the head as he ungracefully skates by, still slashing at thin-air.

It's like once you start a combo, Hector loses his power steering. This is a hassle to get used to because if you just hack here, and slash there, Hector moves around fine, but if you want to get to that 4th or 5th hit in the combo string (which is the one that dishes out the most damage) all of a sudden Hector moves like a bassoon.

Hector's running speed is inexcusably SLOW. Is this “running” his top speed? Wait a minute, it's probably jogging…. Or yogging rather, it might be a soft “J”. Perhaps the underlying problem with his crawling speed is that the horizon of what's ahead is sooooo far away in the distance. You can see skeletons and Hog-Dogs start to materialize way down at the 10-yard line, and here you are, slow dim-witted Hector, just lackadaisically making your way from your own end-zone. It feels like an eternity before you can even get close enough to hit somebody.

Another problem is enemy placement and enemy hang-out populations. First issue, enemy placement, is that there are hardly any enemies in the hallways. Enemy placement in a Castlevania game should follow the same attitude of Resident Evil, by that I mean that there should only be a few un-populated areas… only a few empty hallways. I ran through a good 5 minutes of this game and only encountered 2 enemies. I was literally bored. I was just using my left hand to move the analog stick and I re-assigned my right hand to nose picking duty.----------- Second issue, enemy hang-out populations. You will see very early in the game a water area. Now you'd be expecting a whole bunch of those sea-creatures wouldn't ya? I mean if you think back to the first 5 minutes of Symphony of the Night… there are easily 6 or 7 sea-creatures on the screen at any given time. Fast forward to CoD and there are TWO. That's right folks, you get a hearty dose of sea-creatures ---TWO whole creatures, WOW! Thanks Konami, you are so generous! Awww.. you shouldn't have!

The water area is pretty dang large too, there is no excuse for only having a dismal TWO populate this obviously perfect hang-out spot for sea-creatures. Where are the rest of em? Did Dracula lay some of them off? Is money tight these days to pay for a loyal sea-creature to protect your water-areas? It'd be like going to an airport, and seeing no pilots.

Enemy's AI is laughable. I run in circles around the Hog-Dog and he doesn't even know I'm there until 4 or 5 seconds later. Then when the moron finally realizes that Hector sinking a sword into his ying-yang is the “cue” to engage, he runs around in a couple circles before he starts a respectable pursuit. And by respectable, I mean there is a 50% chance he lunges at you to deal some damage, and also a 50% chance he lunges at the wall that is 90 degrees opposite of your standing position. AI earns a failing grade.

Then there is Hector's double jump, which is not as nice as Leon's in LoI. It is not as high, and not as natural feeling. You know how Alucard and Leon effortlessly double-jump? Well Hector must be wearing some lead boots because he struggles to do a real double jump. Also the “dodge” move, which is one thing I absolutely LOVED in LoI, was scaled back to a dismal summersault. Where Leon would hop and bop around so beautifully and gracefully dodging his enemies, Hector does a kind of forward-kartwheel like he is competing at a 13-year old Gymnastics Tournament. Sorry Hector, that ain't impressive.

In the game you collect pieces of metal, which you can combine in your inventory with other random stuff you get to create new and more powerful weapons and armor. This is kind of cool, except that there is no freedom in it. By that I mean you open your inventory and see that you've got 20 pieces of bronze – but the only thing you can make out of it is a leather helmet. Are you serious? I'm not sure what chemical process Hector uses to mold BRONZE into LEATHER, but geeze, if he could only apply that formula to mold his GRAY hair into a membership to the JUST FOR MEN hair club.

Which brings me to one last point--- so I create this fake bronze (leather) helmet and equip it, but when you return to the actual game I still see Hector's dull gray hair. What's the point? Take a hint from Baldur's Gate, when we create something unique, especially armor, which is part of your character's growing identity, we want to SEE it.

SOUND:

Too much electric guitar is infused with this music. The base for the music is ok, but again, Konami just can't pick the right music for the situation. The beat hardly ever follows the action, and just when you are finally getting used to the tunes, there is a load-gap between different tracks, and I mean a 2 second gap, that is HUGE in the music-world for transitions that are trying to boogie with the changing action on screen.

Some sound effects are carbon-copies from Symphony of the Night. Such as the noise when you collect hearts, and the noise when you Level Up. But the problem here is that Konami tries to FORCE the feeling of nostalgia on the gamer. Instead of naturally re-creating SOTN game dynamics and specific applied experience to CoD, Konami instead pulls the mask over our eyes and kicks us in the rear like a buffoon for even THINKING back to the good ol' SOTN days.

BOSSES:

What can I say, this game is so horribly awful that I didn't even play long enough to get to a boss. Why should I waste any more of my time, self-subjecting myself to pain and disappointment? It's like Konami is a restaurant that served a great hamburger… they called it SOTN. Then you go back to the restaurant and Konami says the same Chef (developer) is working. So you say gimme the burger, and it isn't quite cooked through, the bun is kind of stale, and they forgot the BBQ sauce and onion. They called this burger Lament of Innocence.

Then…. You finally work the nerve up to go back to the restaurant, and you say who's the chef today? Konami says it's the same chef, but he has learned from his mistakes last time, and has studied his original formula of the SOTN hamburger really, really hard. The chef promises to make this one right.

And low and behold, you sink your teeth into an undercooked burger, with limberger cheese, warm mayonnaise, and its even got a band-aid in it. You are disgusted. You are revolted. You are ready to find yourself a new restaurant. You ask the Chef, “What is this crap?” The chef says, “Ohhh, that's my special recipe, I call it Curse of Darkness.”

Yea curse of darkness is a fitting name, because I yanked this horrid excuse for a SOTN follow-up out of my PS2 and slammed it right back in it's case. It is “cursed” to be held in a “dark” case for the rest of its life. I would rather play one of my old games then give this awful, lazily put together game one more second of my time.

FACE THE FACTS:

What can you say about Konami? They don't stand behind their products. They issue CoD, it sucks, and they just don't care. They are probably planning a 2% improvement for their next attempt at a 3D installment to the series. At this rate, we will finally have a respectable SOTN inspired 3D Castlevania in the year 2035. Too bad that by that time, God of War 2 will already be out, and too much of Castlevania's fan-base will have converted. Konami—you don't have 1,000 chances to get this thing right. You better get your act together if you are going to keep up these feeble attempts at success.

My advice, stick to the FORMULA. Make a Symphony of the Night 2 ----- make it 2D just like the PS1 version. If you want, you can spice it up with a Contra: Shattered Soldier layout. I think that is the best bet, the best 3D Castlevania to date has been the N64 one. LoI was just ok. And CoD officially marks the impending death of 3D Castlevania as we know it.

CONCLUSION:

You have two choices here at happiness: Option 1) Go on eBay and buy Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for $50.00. You can probably get it new and sealed. If you've already played SOTN like I have, then go with option 2) Buy God of War used or new. This game is great, feel free to read my review on it if you need convincing.

Unfortunately for me, I have already taken option 1 and 2. So I am left with option “suck”---- or as some other people call it, option “I wasted $49.99 on the abysmal CoD and am embarrassed to store this title in my video game library.” At this point, playing LoI doesn't sound like a bad idea at all!

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness earns a 2/10 score, purely based on the good story-line foundation, which Konami un-surprisingly managed to bungle.




Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 02/21/06


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