Review by ichijohikaru
"A nice attempt that lacks a certain bite."
Who would have thunk it, really? After what are probably the most scrutinized forays into the 3D, the Nintendo 64 Castlevania's certainly tarnished the series beloved legacy, why would Konami take another shot at it? Konami's other classic series, Gradius and Contra, are both in gorgeous 3D with 2D gameplay. These classic series have all failed at 3D in the past, yet Konami still persists? Well, I do applaud you Konami, for this is a much better effort than any of the other 3D attempts.
But is that really saying much? In this case: not really. This game is a Castlevania game, it almost always feels like one. However, at some points it feels that there are far too many missteps for it to be heralded as one of the great Castlevania titles. Regardless of the faults, the strengths do definitely outweight what does hamper the title.
The most evident thing Konami got right with this outing is the control. Leon moves precisely and with much finesse. He is quite possibly the most arobatic Belmont in the history of the series, and that is probably neccessary considering how the castle is laid out in this game. The combos are very easy to execute, which makes fighting enemies an utter blast. Also, Konami introduced a real-time inventory system. With the push of the R3 button, you'll access a menu that allows you to use items and equip weapons, orbs or armor on the fly.
The combat is probably my favorite of any game in recent memory. I have had more fun killing baddies in this than I ever did in Rygar or Devil May Cry. That is quite a compliment, however it does also bring up a point of the gameplay itself: you find yourself fighting throughout the entire game. While the old Castlevania's did rely quite a bit on combat, there was a very deft balance between that and the platforming action.
While it is easy to say there isn't enough combat, due to the fact that the game does allow you to run from enemies without much hassle, that isn't the issue of all. This really has something to due with the flawed design of the gameplay itself. The game relies on combat throughout the rather flat castle, meaning that platforming is almost completely non-existent in the game. Perhaps Konami decieded to almost entirely nix it due to the complaints heard from the atroctious handling of the platforming elements on the Nintendo 64 titles. At any rate, it is extremely disheartening to play a Castlevania without death-defying jumps involved.
Even without platforming, it would be more bearable if the castle was a bit more interesting. While it is aestically and artistically more pleasing than possibly any other Castlevania, with maybe the exception of Symphony of the Night, the sameness brings down the design quite a bit. You'll find it on certain parts are almost completely indistinguishable from others, example: almost all of the House of the Sacred Remains. However, there are a few shiny spots in a the relatively dull castle, namely a good bit of the Ghostly Theatre and the Pagoda. However, it does feel that Konami tried to use repeat rooms to increase the length of the game. Or maybe they were just trying to emulate realistically what a castle of this magnitude would really be like, but they could have been a bit more creative.
It seems like there is enough criticism in this review to the point of loathing. That simply is not the case, though. Like I mentioned previously, the combat and control are almost completely perfect. Also, add to that, the amazing sound and musical score. While the music could have used some re-imagined versions of the classic themes, all of it perfectly suits whichever section of the castle you are visiting.
Also well selected is the array of enemies. Loads of the classic villians you'd expect make their triumphant 3D transition, some even with rather grotesque and disgusting reactions. The bosses, as come to be expected from any game in the series, are very well designed and are quite fun to fight. They are leaps and bounds more challenging than those in the last major outing, Symphony of the Night. Which is a very good thing, considering for awhile I thought Konami had lost their difficulty touch.
It is easy to sit here and criticize this game for hours on end, but this is actually almost unfair. If this were a new game series, no one would be this hard on it. While there are many good things happening in Lament of Innocence, I think a sequel would remedy almost all that hurts this game as it stands. Igarashi's team just needs to spend some more time on it, and if they need be, limit the rooms of the castle so more will stand out. Kudos Konami, at least you're doing better than Capcom.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 10/27/03
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