Review by nabuch

"At last a good and true Castlevania game"

My first introduction to the world of Castlevania was with the classic ''Symphony of the Night'', a brilliant game that I spent 80 hours on. Unfortunately, no game since has even come close. This latest installment in the series is a very good effort, but with a lot of problems as well, especially the camera. Let's start with what is good.

GRAPHICS: 9/10 This is at the very least one of the best looking games to ever grace the PS2. At the beginning of the game, after you leave the shop and head to the castle, you will be in awe, and whenever you choose to come back here it never ceases to amaze. Whatever you remember from previous games is all here, and better than you could have ever hoped for. If only the entire game were up to this level, then it would be the new classic to which others would strive, unfortunately, it isn't.

MUSIC/SOUND: 9/10 The music is grandly eloquent, and while you might not be humming it afterwards, you will certainly enjoy listening to it while you play. The music fits the environments entirely, and definitely helps to set the mood. The sound effects are equally as good, though you do need a dolby set up to appreciate it. The voice acting is good, but kept to a minimum.

CAMERA/CONTROL: 5/10 While there is nothing wrong with the controls, they are instinctive and responsive, the camera deserves a rating of zero. This game employs a disturbing trend, that is, the no control camera. The last Kain and Raziel game did this, and was unplayable, and ''Gladiator'' did the same thing to add to its demise. At least these rooms are small, but it still is a definite problem, and needs to be fixed for the next time. For far too much of the time you end up running toward the camera and it takes forever to readjust, if at all, and at other times you simply can not see what you need to see as there isn't even a look around view.

MAP: 5/10 In my reviews, from time to time I will add any categories I feel warrant it. I have never been good with maps, but occasionally they are done right. In ''Champions of Norrath'', as in ''Dark Cloud'' before it, you can have the map on screen in the corner, but not so here. You are forced to look at the map, then move your character, then go back to the map to see if you moved the right way( it is hard to see which way the cursor is pointing). The map is very essential to this game, and it gets points for adding markers that you can find and then mark areas you will have to return to when you learn new moves. Another problem with the map is the legend at the bottom, which is always obstructing your view. Yes, you can shrink the map down, but then you can't tell what's on it, and you can adjust the view to a certain degree, but really, guys, this just won't do, fix it for the next game.

GAMEPLAY: 7/10 Forget all you have read about this game; it most definitely is a Castlevania game, and not ''Devil May Cry''( though I never actually played that). Just because you can whip several times while in the air, people think this game is just like that one, and they are wrong. You have your secondary weapons, like the crosses, holy water, axes, etc., though this time the best weapon is the axe rather than the cross. You have the hearts you need to use secondary weapons. You have your whip, and now there are 5 different ones to find, which you get by fighting optional bosses that you first have to find. You have the enemies you know and love, like the floating eyeball, the skeletons, and those annoying fleas. You have the new moves you learn; however, they don't allow access to areas you couldn't get to before; you pretty much have everything you need right from the beginning, but there still is some back tracking involved and you will not be able to finish each area with 100% the first time. Unfortunately, you do not level up, which is a very big mistake, because, unless you enter a room that locks behind you until you kill everything in it, there is really no incentive to fight. Just run and jump past the enemies, especially those irritating fleas. This time around you can find relics that give you powers, which can only be used if you have magic you absorb from enemies, and unfortunately can't be stopped until the magic is depleted, and orbs that can attach to weapons. Pretty much this is the same game as it has always been, kill all the bosses to get to the main one while trying to fill in 100% of the map. You will also notice something new on the info screen of the area you are in. If the area is 100% done, it will say complete.

VALUE: 7/10 My rule of thumb is $1 or less for every hour, after you account for trade in allowance. At $50 this grade would be much lower, but now that the game is $30, it is a decent buy. Forget about this only being a 10 hour game, for us normal folks, it is at least 15-20, and if going for 100% it is 20-30. That certainly fulfills my requirements; however, if you were unfortunate enough to pay $50, used a walkthrough so you could finish it in 10 hours, never plan on playing it again, and trade it in for $10, that would be $4 an hour and a grade of 2/10.

FINAL COMMENTS: This certainly was an admirable try, and I would consider it to be the second best game in the franchise. Topping ''Symphony of the Night'' seems to be an insurmountable goal. It is definitely worth getting, though, at least give it a rent. Hopefully the makers will learn from their mistakes, and the next game will be 4 times bigger, have a controllable camera, and will re institute leveling up, and maybe be the true ''Symphony of the Night'' follow up.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/09/04

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