Review by Aegis_Runestone
"8.5 - A masterpiece that needs some polishing, but deserves at least a chance."
Castlevania is a game series that's been around almost as long as the Legend of Zelda series, or others. It's a great game series that eventually moved onto a more exploratory-type of game like Metroid with RPG elements.
This game series has had an ugly history of moving to 3D, not only were the graphics poor, but the storyline and gameplay were atrocious.
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, however, made a smooth transition into 3D. It is no different from those "Metrovanias" before it, except for a few things that make it stand out: difficulty, hard to find secrets, combos, and almost completely lacking linearity.
The graphics, for non-HD game, are fantastic. There are minute details in every monster, and almost every model, and in Leon himself, not to mention the other characters. Many of the objects look blocky; showing the game's age, but the floors and walls have beautiful designs in them, despite their flat appearance.
The animations are near perfect. The way Leon swings the whip, jumps, runs, and blocks are all very smooth animations, which are pleasing to the eye. They effectively make the gameplay more enjoyable.
Finally, the spell effects. Leon's spells are a little weak in the graphics' department. They are very simple and usually nothing stunning. Simple can sometimes be better, but in the case of a game like Lament of Innocence, the spells could have been something more.
The monsters' spell effects are fantastic on the other hand. They are extremely detailed, and some of the spells are frightening in appearance, making the player want to run away as fast as possible. But not only are they frightening, but they are awesome to look at.
The lighting of the castle--the dim lighting--in many of the areas, creates a dark and creepy atmosphere that is rarely seen in Castlevania games.
Overall, the graphics in Lament of Innocence are beautiful for a 2003, non-HD game.
The gameplay is fantastic; as the player learns how to use the different whip combos to efficiently kill enemies, they discover how fun it is to fight those enemies. The whip combos really make a difference in combat, and can also help against difficult bosses.
The other portion of the gameplay is difficulty. The game has a lot of challenge for first players, and they will find the game enjoyable to play; facing the challenges that are laid before them. One of the things that makes the game more difficult is the use of the "active time" window to equip weapons, armor, and accessories, and use items. This creates a dangerous environment against some monsters and many bosses. Because of this the player is being taught how to effectively manage their combat time and skill to avoid damage or death.
Then there is the use of Relics. Relics are very handy in combat. They consume MP, but they do a variety of things that really help Leon out. The White Bishop for example increases Leon's defense (DEF) by a large amount, making him much more difficult to kill.
There are no levels in this game; meaning experience levels. Instead, the player will upgrade their health and mana through the use of power ups only. They also can raise their maximum number of hearts. This is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that no level-ups increase the difficulty of the game, and that monsters, old and new, are always a challenge (except the ones from the very beginning). The curse of no level-ups is the inability to raise stats (LCK, DEF, STR, INT) without the use of items. Regardless, there are plenty of items and relics that boost stats for the player.
Back to sub-weapons and hearts; Lament of Innocence focuses on enhancing sub-weapons through different colored orbs. This is similar to Harmony of Dissonance's books. However, the orbs are different in that 1) the player can unequip an orb entirely to use the base sub-weapon, and 2) the orbs do not use magic. Orbs are gained by defeating bosses, and each one has their own special effect. Some orbs make some sub-weapons more effective than others. But it also allows the player to choose a combination that fits his/her playstyle.
Finally, there is exploration. This game, to the extreme, pushes the player to explore. It can be considered bad or good thing depending on how the player looks at it. It could be bad because the secret areas are very hard to find (much harder than other Castlevania games) and are rather elusive. Because of this, it creates a situation in which the player might beat the game with bare-bone items. The exploration part is what marks down the gameplay because, overall, the game almost requires a walkthrough/maps to find everything unless the player is very perceptive.
Another thing that marks down the gameplay is how Leon obtains mana or MP. In order to obtain MP, Leon can use a certain item, but they are rare to find and rare to drop and they are never sold at the shop.
The most common way to gain MP is to fight certain enemies that will flash purple when they are about to release a powerful attack. If Leon blocks that attack with his gauntlet, he'll gain 35 points of MP. There's a skill called "Perfect Guard," where if the player times a block just right in time for any enemy attack (not just the purple charge attacks), they will gain 20 MP, and sometimes stun an enemy.
MP, also, cannot be recharged at a save point unlike HP.
Regardless, the gameplay is wonderfully done. The whip combos are the core of enjoying the gameplay in Lament of Innocence.
The story is very typical; Leon Belmont's betrothed is kidnapped by a vampire, and Leon tries to find the vampire and his love. Leon, before the game begins, is a knight in the Eleventh Century, but the Church has denounced the knights' ability to fight monsters. Leon gives up his title to find his loved one.
During his search, he finds the castle and he runs into a man named Rindalo. Rindalo gives Leon some special powers (such as to absorb MP with a block) and the Whip of Alchemy.
This story is the beginning of the Belmont clan, and how they were formed. The game's plot has some very enticing scenes that are enjoyable to watch. Although, as mentioned below in the Sounds section, the voice-acting weakens the scenes. Regardless, the cut-scenes are crucial to the storyline's development, which execute a rather cliche plot in a unique plot.
The Music in Lament of Innocence is fantastic. Even in modern day games today, this game hailing from 2003 brings out the best in gaming music. Notable songs are: Anti-Soul Mysteries Lab, Elemental Tactician, House of Sacred Remains, and a few others.
The music never becomes boring, and as mentioned below, it makes for incredible cut-scenes for the storyline. The music will keep the player entertained to the end of the game.
Many of the songs are creepy or ominous in nature, which completely enhances the dark atmosphere of the game. Places like the House of Sacred Remains have especially fitting songs for this type of ambiance.
Sound needs to be separated from music due to the voice-acting because it is sub-par. Rinaldo has to have the best voice-actor in the game with Leon coming in as a far second. All the others are fairly weak with their voice actors. Fortunately, in most scenes of the game, the music makes up for the poor voice acting. This is good because the scenes are usually very important to the storyline and some are emotional. Without the music, the poor voice acting would ruin those scenes.
The sounds of attacks, picking up items, moving through water, etc. are professionally made, and are very pleasing to the ear. Not to mention that they really align well with the mood and atmosphere of combat.
The game, at first, does not seem to have any particular reason to be replayed. However, there are special modes that can be played after the player beats the game, giving him/her another reason to play a second time, and even possibly a third time.
The replayability is not a strong characteristic of Lament of Innocence, but as a part of the game, it allows the players to re-explore the castle again.
This game is beautifully made, and deserves at least one chance from every Castlevania fan. Hardcore fans will enjoy the game regardless, and will keeping coming back for more. It is a great Castlevania game that moved to 3D with a very smooth transition.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 09/04/12
Game Release: Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (US, 10/21/03)
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