Review by RageBot
"More than meets the eye."
This game looks in first glance, just like another Castlevania game without a plot. However, Castlevania Legends was released in 1998, after the point of no return which was the release of Symphony of the Night. This game features five mandatory stages and one optional stage, a nice tie-in with Alucard's life when he was young, a little quest to retrieve items in order to get a better ending, a minor skill system, and of course, the only female Belmont and the first person to defeat the Count, 350 years after he had become a vampire, in sight of his very best friend Leon.
The year is 1450 and Sonia Belmont sets off to kill the Count. The first stage seems void of any classic Castlevania enemies. Worry not, as you'll soon encounter zombies, bone heads, fleamen, fishmen, ghosts, and many other classics, with the strange exception of skeletons. You'll also fight Medusa and Werewolf as mid-bosses, and Minotaur as the boss of the secret stage. The boss of stage 3 is Death. The boss of stage 4 is Alucard, who, even at that time, was hell bent on putting an end to his father's wicked ways. And finally, you fight Dracula, whose second form is a dragon's head that shoots projectiles at all directions.
Every stage, there is at least one crossroad. Many of those crossroads eventually lead to some of the famous Castlevania Pot Roast TM and its healing, but one crossroad per level leads to the five Belmont subweapons. Unfortunately, Sonia cannot use them. They are used as key items. All the lesser weapons are hidden in stages 1-4, while the cross is hidden in the secret stage, accessible from stage 5. If you get all the items, you'll access the better ending.
"Well, if Sonia can't use subweapons, what does she use? Don't tell me she's as worthless as Christopher in Castlevania: The Adventure!" I can hear you say. Well, Sonia is the first Castlevania protagonist to use a special system. Hers is the Spirit System. Traditionally, when you beat a boss in Castlevania, a sphere drops down. In this game, the sphere contains a spell. There are windburst, that operates like a stopwatch, flames that hurt all enemies, holy projectile that is shot forward, and an ice spell that heals you to full health as long as you have 20 hearts. But the best of them all is the spell dropped from Minotaur, that kills every enemy on screen at the cost of only five hearts.
If you defeat Dracula and get all five subweapons, you'll get a special ending, in which Sonia is a mother. It seems she and Alucard have had children. While this is probably the reason this game was dropped from the timeline, I think it's a great twist to the tale. The reason Belmonts are so strong is the vampire blood that runs through their veins! Beside the superhuman strength it grants, Alucard's genes also contains his grudge toward his evil father, further driving the Belmont family forevermore into the everlasting fate of bringing the Dark Lord's demise.
Even with this fact thrown out the window, this game still defies the timeline! What about the "Dracula rises every hundred years" thing? I understand how this rule was broken time and time again in the nineteenth century; Knowledge was available for many people, and the temptations of undeath turned many people, such as Carmilla, Barlowe, Actrise and Countess Bartley, down the path of darkness. However, in the middle ages, most people were simpletons. This is where things get a little fickle, but my guess is that the hundred-years-seal was cast by Sypha Belnades, and was there to stay unless evil-hearted people had other intentions.
Last but not least, as usual, presentation. This game has no Gameboy Color version, but it has Super Gameboy adaptation. Play it through the SNES adaptation, and every level will have a different color. The backgrounds don't take the Gameboy to its limit, but they are there and they are much better than Adventure's. The music disappoints because of its poor quality, the synthesizers are crude and one of the sound channels seems too dominant, resulting in a Harmony of Dissonance feeling to all tracks. The tracks themselves, however, are very good, including remakes of Vampire Killer and Bloody Tears, as well as an original track in stage 5, that ranks in the same caliber as those two timeless classics.
So should you get this game or not? I'll tell you this, because of the stupefying amount of bats and ghosts in this game, frustration levels can get rather high sometimes. However, if you are a fan of the oldies, this is a game that successfully combines old-school challenges with new-age plot, and it can be quite enjoyable.
Final grade: 7.5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/25/11, Updated 10/27/11
Game Release: Castlevania Legends (US, 03/11/98)
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