Review by Tenshi No Shi
A little off the beaten path.
I first heard about Castlevania Legends when I was in college and came across a fan site that listed a new Castlevania game soon to be released in Japan for the Gameboy. I tried to find out more about this game, but very little information was available. About a year later I was in a toy store and was looking through Gameboy games when I saw it: Castlevania Legends. Excited, I bought it along with a new Gameboy Pocket (I had lost my silver Gameboy Pocket when I moved after college) and promptly raced home to delve, once again, into the world of Castlevania...
Castlevania Legends is actually the first game in the Castlevania timeline (until IGA saw fit to remove all traces of it for his own Lament of Innocence). You play Sonia Belmont, the first Belmont to receive the 'gift'- the powers needed to search out a destroy evil in its many forms. At the age of seventeen, you meet Alucard, on a quest to find the evil Prince of Darkness, Count Dracula. From here the story becomes the familiar find- Dracula-to-defeat-him-for-the-next-100- years plot fans of the series are familiar with. And yes, the Grim Reaper is in this game too.
Graphically, it's barely a step up from the previous portable incarnations, so don't expect to be too impressed. Animation isn't all that wonderful either, due, in part, to the limitations of the Gameboy. This basically means your character moves very s-l-o-w which seems a bit out of place in a Castlevania title. However the artwork in the game is fantastic and deserves recognition as such.
Believe it or not, I was very impressed with Legends' sound. Both the music and audio effects are very well done on Nintendo's aging portable. You'll find surprisingly good remixes of familiar tunes including Vampire Hunter and Bloody Tears (two of my favorites). The sound F/X are all-intact and more than adequately do the job. Don't get me wrong, nothing beats the CD quality of Rondo or Symphony, but after hearing so much crap for so many years on the Gameboy, well, let's just say I was more than surprised.
Not surprisingly, you got a whip button and a jump button. What is surprising is the addition of not one but two new gameplay features- Burning Mode and Soul Weapons. Burning Mode can be used once a stage and temporarily shields Sonia while doubling her attack power. I can't even begin to tell you how useful this ability is. Soul Weapons are basically magic attacks based on elemental powers. Pretty cool, but not as useful as they could have been. It impresses me nonetheless that Konami added these two features to such a relatively unimportant game.
Castlevania Legends' design is a paradox of bad and good (bad being elements for other Castlevania games on the Gameboy and good being everything else). For some reason, those crappy, half-assed enemy grunts that you never see in any other game in the series are still present in the third portable installment. And why must I still use those damn ropes of death?!? I hate those things! It's cool to see Konami try and add things to make this more like a real Castlevania game, but the old elements needed to be completely removed to actually make this effective.
Similar to Dracula X on the PC Engine, Castlevania Legends has an entire hidden level that branches off from one of the main stages. To get to it, you have to meet certain requirements, but it's worth it to play through an entire bonus level. There are no other extras or bonuses to speak of, but an extra stage is certainly a nice surprise and more than one could realistically ask for of a Gameboy game.
While Castlevania Legends (or any Castlevania game on the Gameboy) doesn't have the flair of the Castlevania games found on other game consoles, it still retains many of the elements common to the series. It's a great game for the Gameboy and adds a little more history to the overall Belmont story. Fans of Castlevania will definitely want to give this one a try, if only to add it to the collection.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Castlevania Legends (US, 03/11/98)
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