Review by Yeuh Fei Long

Reviewed: 10/27/03

Truly elegant

Some Castlevania fans would argue that this game doesn't exactly feel or flow like it's predecessors, but I for one think that this game is a staple of elegance, perhaps that could be routed in the fact that I haven't kept up with previous CV games, but still feel it really has no bearing upon such great mechanics that were implemented in this astounding title.

While some areas have a good amount and vast detail to them that really put forth the gothic nature of the atmosphere, others happen to be as bland as they come. Quite a lot of the castle is just vague and slightly unsettling due to such a lack of any detail to it, especially the rectangular connecting halls that comprise most of the castle. Some of the enemies also suffer from low polygonal counts and textures like that of the architecture. Rest assured though, that the characters have lush animation and detail to them that really put forth great characteristics that make them believable and not forced like something you'd find running on day time television.

Leon's 'betrothed', Sara, has been taken hostage by a group of monsters who serve a Vampire that apparently takes joy in manipulating hunters into playing a sick and twisted game of cat and mouse. Seeing as how the church would not aid Leon in this matter, he renounces his title to go and rescue Sara from the clutches of this omnipotent being. I suppose it's driving enough, although it's been rehashed way too many times, it gets the job done. Although it does have other story plot lines that keep the motivation high enough and envelop's some mystery.

Nicely orchestrated in most parts, some however don't exactly fit the circumstance. With good percussions, some electronic beats and a little dash of rock really throws in some diverse music whilst frantically beating down monsters, heathens, blasphemers and all that ilk. Sound effects are kind of a mixed bag, for the most part they were done well and make most subweapons, whip slashes and relic techniques stand out, however, a few don't put enough effects to give off a true feeling of that particular effect, such as Leon's holy water and orb combo, it doesn't implement satisfaction when he creates a fissure in the ground that produces energy within it, amassing countless deaths on screen. Again, for the most part, it's not really an issue per se when there's so much going on and to contend with.

This is where this game shines, brightly, might I add. This game truly is a staple/poster child for variety that keeps the game motivating to play and keep coming back to, to witness such marveling aspects of play.

Just about anybody who's partaken in the Castlevania series can discern that these games have a vast amount of combinations in attacks, and that's very welcomed, even more so in this 3D counterpart to watch such integration.

Leon starts off the game with a pocket full of moves, but as he progresses he stocks up on some serious and large amount of techniques at his disposal, which is really a godsend, considering that games lately have been lack-a-dai-si-cal in their gameplay, so it's rather freshening to behold this title that restores faith in the gaming industry again in the hopes of upcoming releases getting it 'right' in regard to variety. I can't stress that enough, variety, variety and variety is essential to keep the gameplay moving with umph.

Moving beyond the digression and back to Leon, his combat abilities are made up of his whips, subweapons, and relics. The whips are pretty interesting to use, as most weapon based games rarely have a character that utilizes whips, much less like the way Leon is accustomed to. More whips can be found and come in an assortment, like a whip of alchemy which is his default, an ice whip, lightning, flame, etc. While using these tools of popular dominatrix demand, Leon can learn skills and new combos that can be chained together to form some serious damaging combos. The whip strikes in two ways, weak and strong, as the case with many games, the weak attacks faster and can combo, the strong is slower, but can also combo alone. Leon also has aerial capabilities, he can combo in the air (this ability must be learned, mind you) and has a default flame kick that can be tied in or used separately as well that can ensue follow ups. Leon even has evasive maneuvers, he can block and by doing so at the right time, he can gain MP, along with being able to dodge using acrobatic ability that's amusing to watch.

Subweapons, these bad boy's are essential to progression as well, they consume hearts in the process of being used. They come in the forms of a knife, holy water, crystal, cross and axe. On their own they really aren't that destructive, they serve as kind of a ranged assault for chip damage , but when combined with various orbs, they unleash all types of hellish-apocalyptic-annihilation, that puts forth some awe factor. This is really the most entertaining aspect of the game, in the subweapons and orb combinations. There are seven orbs and five subweapons (do the math) that can be mix-matched all you'd like to provide some awesome combinations and variety. While it's somewhat unfortunate, it's also kind of strategic, you can't obtain all subweapons at one given time, you have to choose one wisely and use it in accordance to take out monsters and boss's with efficiency. These subweapons are scattered throughout the castle and are pretty easy to come across, so no worries going on a scavenger hunt.

Relics, these work more along the lines of complimenting Leon's attributes and use up MP. They can raise Leon's defense, attack, they can make him maneuver faster, grant invincibility, etc. Very, very cool variety, these instruments give interesting benefits and even better animations. Most are needed for progression as well, some areas can't be accessed without them.

These tools for gameplay really offer depth in attacks, making this experience very enjoyable to exhibit such a wide load of animations.

The only part of this game that keeps this title from receiving a ten is the castle itself. The developers could of paid so much heed to the environments, but chose to showcase such a taxing-on-the-eyes locale. The textures are regurgitated from one part to the next that really detract from the actual gameplay itself by being in such a claustrophobic and bland castle. And it seems that the developers also tried to make the castle feel bigger than it actually is, by attaching these connecting hubs and halls to compensate for a superficial longer ride through the game.

With this much depth in gameplay and with great animation, how could one possibly go wrong? With an extra difficulty and an unlockable character, it provides even more replay.

Over All, it's an astounding title with so much variety and combinations, tagged with very lush animations that accompany gameplay in so many ways that provide such a fantastic experience.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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