"An excellent upgrade to the original Castlevania 64."

Now we can see what Castlevania 64 was missing. Having been launched before its actual completion in order to meet the programmed release date, the original Castlevania 64 was Konami's first attempt to bring the legendary saga into the world of 3-D. And while the result was pretty good, gamers felt that the game lacked something. It felt unfinished, unpolished, in terms of gameplay and several technical quirks, such as a recurrent slowdown problem and one of the worst camera system video gaming history has ever seen. IN short, the original Castlevania 64 was endowed the title of ''the game that could have been, but never was''.

Later, Konami decided to take Castlevania 64 and complete it, so that the final result was the one they really desired from the beginning. Did they succeed? Absolutely YES.

Some reviews I have read claim that Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness is nothing but Konami's feeble attempt to sell a Castlevania 64 rehash, tricking the gamers into thinking they were buying a new game but in reality, pushing the same old one on them instead. I couldn't disagree more. I own both titles and I can safely assure that although both games are similar in several aspects, they are very different from one another.

Make no mistake, however. If you have played Legacy of Darkness but not the original Castlevania 64, you are not missing anything (except for an excellent violin music track in the intro). If you, however, have only played the original, then Legacy of Darkness is a must-have for you. I will explain all of this shortly.

While not the best 3-D graphics on the N64, CLOD portrays sufficient visual resources to give the game a dark, sinister look. And this is what Konami intended to deliver: a depressing and mysterious atmosphere. The background colors are mostly opaque, but the scenery layout is outstanding. For example, the first level is a ghost ship, complete with fog, and dark-gray, decayed-looking wood. A later level is very reminiscent of an Egyptian pyramid, and the Castle Villa somewhat resembles the Resident Evil Mansion. There are a total of four characters to play as, each with his or her own separate quest: the whip-wielding Belmont vampire Hunter Reinhardt Schneider, the Spanish sorceress girl, Carrie Fernandez, the Werewolf Cornell Crescent, and the pistol-wielding knight, Henry Oldrey. You start the game with Cornell, and each time you finish the game, one of the other three characters is unlocked. The enemies are plentiful and varied: zombies, imps, skeletons, bats, spider-women, vampires, and others, as well as new bosses such as the Harpy, Medusa and the Sea Serpent. This fixes the scarcity of enemies, both in variety and quantity, that made the original Castlevania 64 suffer.

AUDIO 9/10
Several people complain about the music in this game, saying that it lacks the magnificence of the music from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. However, CLOD chooses to supply a heavily atmospheric and psychological orchestration, instead of the loud and regal compositions from SOTN. There are, though, some truly outstanding music tracks, like the theme from the Art Gallery (originally from Castlevania: Bloodlines, ''The Sinking Old Sanctuary). The sound effects are more than accurate, from the noise the different weapons make, to the wails and roaring of the monsters. Very impressive.

This is the best aspect of the game. C64 was plagued with such annoying flaws as a detestable camera system, which got you killed 75% of the time, especially during the platform-jumping levels. CLOD has fixed this problem almost completely. Although the weird behavior of the camera persists at some key points of the game, the improvement in general is evident. The other major fault had to do with the continuous slowdown. I tell you: in CLOD it is almost gone. Almost. There are still a few issues here and there, but they are a lot more tolerable now. Besides, the game runs much more fluidly, which makes it feel faster overall, increasing the action and eliminating those boring slow-scrolling text sequences and dialog boxes during character interaction.

The control system has been another subject of complaining by many people. Well, to be honest, I have always thought is is perfect, both in the original C4 and in CLOD. Your character is allowed some useful moves that make them versatile and dynamic. You can jump, attack, crouch, slide, use/interact, use a secondary weapon (for close range), use special (and upgradable!) weapons such as axes, daggers, crucifixes and Holy water, and toggle between action/battle view (gone is the awful and useless Normal View from the original).

Despite some minor flaws, this game rocks, and definitely worth the money, whether you get a new copy, or a used one. Give yourself a chance, if you are a true Castlevania fan. Highly recommended.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/08/03

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