Review by Ashande

"Why is everybody pickin' on me?"

When I first heard there was going to be a new Castlevania in time for Halloween, a flush of excitement crept into my veins. I immediately set out to leech every bit of information I could from the internet, to learn about this new masterpiece. Of course, like many people, the first thing I learned was that it was going to be 3D, and like many people, my first reaction was to recoil in terror.

I remembered the abomination that was CV64/Legacy of Darkness, and feared things had come around again. Thankfully, I try to keep an open mind - and have a local game store that allows full refunds simply off the basis of ''I don't like it.'' So in the preorder went.

Now, having spent the last three days in a complete haze, I have to let people know. Don't let the 3D fool you. This is indeed Castlevania, and it does indeed rock. Let's get into why.

Graphics -
The graphics in this game, simply put, are gorgeous. The castle definately has the look required, and the monsters are great. All your old favorites are here and instantly recognizable, and move so well you'll be looking over your shoulder to make sure they're not creeping up on you. The waterfall stage, in particular, looks good, and the ''ice cavern'' area almost makes you feel the frostbite setting in as you hop your way to the top.

Sound -
The music is good, including a few remixes of old favorites. Admittedly, nothing really astounding, but it'll definately do. The sound effects are pretty standard, though breaking candles sounds much more destructive than usual, due to the 'boom'' of things breaking. The voice acting is done well - if over the top - and the voices fit the characters very well, unlike some other games I could name *cough*Silent Hill 3*cough*. Not the best point of the game, but it's not hurting it any, either.

Controls -
This is probably where the game shines the most. You can just jump right in, and Leon does just what you want him to with no complaint. The only issue, and it's a mild one, is a non-controllable camera, but the camera has yet to get in the way of what you're trying to do. Leon moves well, and responds to button presses almost instantly - the ''almosts'' being when trying to block, which did knock things down a bit. The method the game uses of every once in a while offering you a new move is great, and all these moves go off without a hitch, which can lend itself to frenzied states of whipping, flipping and flinging fire that just feel ''right,'' and make the number of hits pulled off in Killer Instinct look like a child counting to 5. (50+ hits, anyone?)

I know there's been a lot of comparison to this game and Devil May Cry. It's certainly warranted, at least from the camera angles, but unlike a lot of people, I'm not seeing why this is a disadvantage. The way the camera functions in DMC - and this game - is a good one, for something as fast paced as it is, and is nice and unobtrusive, so as not to get in the way of what you're doing. The one downside is that not being controllable also means you can't just look around, which would have helped somewhat in figuring out what to do and where to go. That, and the fact that if it's ''off camera'' it's also inaccessible. Both are flaws one is willing to overlook, given the quality of the rest of the game.

Downsides -
There aren't many, but there are definately some issues here that earned this game an 9, rather than a 10 like I initially wanted to give it. As mentioned above, sometimes Leon's block doesn't go off when you want it to, and this is going to mean you get hit - a lot - until you get the timing down perfectly.

Second, the subweapons seem rather rare. While the orb system grants you 35 subweapons, effectively, and all of them just rock, finding the one you want is often problematic and involves a lot of backtracking. I've only seen about 3 candles through the whole game that give up Holy Water, for instance, while it seems like there's a cross or axe around every corner. Again, something that's easy to live with - and at least weapons are tagged on the map - but occasionally irritating.

Third, the game is far too short. You can - and most likely will, if you're rabid ;) - finish the game in 7 or 8 hours. There's definately replay value here - with two secret characters, who's identities are removed to prevent spoilers - but still, don't expect to be caught up in Lament for weeks on end.

Fourth, the removal of many of the RPG elements. Leon doesn't level up, he doesn't collect hundreds of potential pieces of equipment, etc. I don't consider this necessarily a bad thing. There's enough of it to sate me, and the rest of the game goes back to the straight-up action and exploration that previous (as in, pre-Symphony) games were really into.

All in all, Lament is no Symphony killer. But it also doesn't deserve the beating it's getting from Symphony fans and CV64 haters. It looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and is just plain straight up fun like a duck... erm. A Castlevania, rather. Give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/27/03

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