Review by niniendowarrior

"Surprising and a little too late."

Konami has always been known for the games they make. They have the portfolio of games to prove that. In the late 80s to early 90s Konami and Nintendo were very well known to be together to make the best games on the best platform. When Sony stepped in, things were never the same again.

Konami had steadily been making games for the rival machine for ages. However, the Nintendo fans had a big sigh of relief when Konami announced it was going to bring the Castlevania series to the Nintendo 64, dubbed Castlevania 64 (duh!). And with that, Konami made tons of promises, promises that would never materialize in the span of Castlevania 64. As they say, promises are meant to be broken.

Castlevania 64 was a mess of a game, not for its face value, but because of the over-blown hype. Although C64 has its own fair share of flaws and faults, it was the hype that ultimately killed it. People are left to rue at what would have been if Konami had indeed delivered on their promises. Konami would not let the failure go, as they set out for one more shot at C64 making the transition to 3D. Hence, was born Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness or the more appropriately entitled Castlevania: Special Edition.

Castlevania: LOD delivers what Konami wanted to deliver when C64 was still being hyped up. After the disaster C64 had been, I had no hopes for LOD to shine. Fortunately, LOD proved me wrong, but it came out a little bit too late to make a difference.

Graphics (6/10)

Graphics has always been about trying to deliver the right visuals to establish the atmosphere to the player. LOD fails to deliver anything presentable in spite of the expansion pak support. C64 had very shady graphics and disappointing visuals and LOD only supplements it by a small margin. The effort Konami made to try and change the views of many of its disappointed fans had been half-hearted in the visuals department. Rehashing level textures, and reusing many elements had brought nothing but sadness to me. The level visuals do not match the story elements of LOD as the textures don't show the degradation of many years for Reinhardt and company.

In fairness, the levels are larger than before and there is a bit more interesting textures in LOD than C64. However, this department clearly isn't LOD's mark of triumph.

Sound (7/10)

Castlevania had always the upbeat tempo to bring the player to the killer mode. LOD and C64 present the atmospheric music that I will never comprehend. LOD does use more old sounds from other Castlevania games and that brings up a more nostalgic feel to the long time fans of the series. The sound department is not bad and it features very well-composed background music. The main gripe is that the music is drowned out so badly that it does not help the game establish the mood. Konami could have done better and should have known better.

Controls (4/10)

As with C64, LOD features the same slip and sliding physics that have frustrated many players. It brings back memories of the first Castlevania game which featured terrible jumping ability and a plethora of frustration. LOD has 3 configurations to choose from, all of which are not perfect. You'll spend 80% of your jumps slipping to your doom and 10% on frustrations of missing it. The target system is not perfect too as the lock-on system kicks in only when you are already in the midst of the action and a bit too late to react. Still, having the feature is a big plus for playability. But it doesn't save the player from some frustrations.

Game Content (9/10)

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness is one of the most heavily story-laden games I've seen from any Castlevania game. The game features four characters, namely Cornell, the man-beast, Reinhardt Schneider and Carrie Fernandez from the C64, and Henry Oldrey, the crusader knight. The game goes through 13 stages (some of which are recycled) and offers some interesting stories for those who haven't played C64 and some great story elements that tie-in the gaping holes of C64 for those who have played it. There is enough content in this game to keep the Castlevania fan smiling despite the frustrating features LOD has.

LOD starts with forcing the players to go through Cornell. Cornell's story takes place years before Reinhardt's for those who've gone through the messy C64. Cornell's sister Ada has been kidnapped by Dracula's minions and the town has been burned down. Cornell, in his attempt to master the man-beast's curse could not save the burning village nor his sister. He must race and find his answers and save Ada before it is too late.

The other stories, I'd have to restrain myself from introducing. It would simply spoil the great substance Castlevania: LOD has. Suffice to say that players will find a great wealth of story content and puzzles. Playing through Cornell allows you to play as Henry which is a different style of game playing from Cornell. Henry's mode of play is the route to unlocking many different secrets in LOD and clearly LOD is a more complete package than the disappointing C64.

Reinhardt's and Carrie's stories do not differ much from the original but the new costumes and additional levels may be worth the run. Also, the additional features such as getting upgrades for weapons adds a totally more delightful feel to LOD compared to C64.

The level designs are bigger and more interesting than C64 and although there are jumping sections, they are not as many as C64. Still there are some sections that bring frustrations to players.

AI (7/10)

The AI in LOD has been tweaked a bit but is still flawed. Your computer controlled opponents do offer a certain degree of challenge and it brings a certain level of satisfaction upon completing the game.

Replayability (9/10)

LOD just about has 8 endings (1 unconfirmed) and it brings tons of replayability for those who do not own C64. The different endings and the additional unlockables will keep players busy for quite a while. However, for those who played C64, it maybe a bit short of a game and in fact, may disappoint some. On the uninitiated's stand point of view, LOD has many things for replayability.

OVERALL (8/10) Not an average

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness is really what Castlevania 64 should have been and if that had been the case, Konami would probably have not scampered away from bringing the next Castlevania in the 3D universe. LOD is clearly the better of the two versions and is in many ways better than most Castlevania games I've played. However, I think it came in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Chances are, n64 owners have bought Castlevania 64 already from all the whoopla and the hype that it may not merit getting LOD. In fact, LOD rehashes so many things that people who have played C64 may get dismayed seeing it so similar to it.

LOD is not for everyone, but if players give it a try, they will see the difference and realize that LOD is indeed one of the more finely crafted Castlevania games. And all Castlevania games have that same mark, no innovation. LOD follows the same suit.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/05/04

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