"A great addition to the Castlevania series."

Game: Castlevania: Curse of Darkness – 7.8/10

The newest addition to the console Castlevania games, it adds to what Castlevania: Symphony of the Night started, and improves on what Castlevania: Lament of Innocence tried to do. You play as Hector, a devil forager that once worked under the rule of Dracula, and you plow your way through forests, aqueducts, temples and more to kill Isaac, the other devil forager that killed your wife. With the help of a familiar face and a few new ones, you're on your way to destroy your rival, and much more.

Graphics: - 7.0/10 - While not the most beautiful game developed by Konami, it's still an above average looking game overall. It's a pretty package that gets a bit gritty as you focus down on it and pick it apart. The main focus of the graphics comes from the character models. The enemies themselves are quite detailed, though not as smoothly rendered as one would hope. Still, wolf skeletons are small and bony, ogres are large and scary, demons are rather hellish looking, and Dracula looks as scary as Dracula can. Hector himself looks a bit off, sporting a rather bland look. Equipped with a small red…something…and a slightly unbalanced outfit, he's a bit of a laugh if anything. However, the familiars are a bit more interesting to look at, especially the battle types. Each one (minus the mage) showing off a different face and body as it evolves, each one looking pretty, or scary, depending on the type. Pumpkin is simply hilarious to look at, even though he may not be the best choice of a familiar to use throughout the game.
The level design is on key to what Castlevania should look like. However, they've made the level design much too repetitive. Every room is nearly identical looking, with enemies popping out in the center. Even the forests can be seen as hallways—it's all the same, mostly, just with different wallpapers attached to the sides. Sitting down on chairs proves to be a slightly humoring sight and a few of the special combo attacks look pretty, but otherwise it's almost a mediocre point of the game. The graphics aren't much of a breakthrough, in any shape or form.

Sound: - 7.5/10 - The soundtrack proves to be a worthy addition to the Castlevania name, however, it's almost too obvious that a lot of the tracks were influenced by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, though that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Regardless, the background music serves as a good addition to the game as you're running through hallways and bland forests. The sound department loses points for its sound effects and voice acting. With numerous annoying “ha!”s from Hector, added with the crashing sound of many bad guys as you beat them, with the sound of evolution crystals being picked up, it can lead to a bit of an annoying moment. Couple it with the familiar Pumpkin's squishy and noisy footsteps and after a few minutes you'll be ready to tear your hair right out. The voice acting, while not as terrible as Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, and not as humorously cheesy as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (two games that seem to greatly influence this game as a whole), is still not very believable, and could use a lot of work. Hector's voice actor is maybe the best, and still his voice lacks on the point of reality for the game. It's difficult not to imagine someone behind the game, in the studio, doing the voice. Simply, the voices don't fit the characters, and definitely doesn't feel like they're saying anything with much emphasis at all.

Concept/Story: - 7.5/10 - It's Castlevania without a Belmont as the main character, and a completely useless addition to the overall Castlevania story. Nonetheless, it's got an average enough plot to play through without vomiting and throwing the game out of the window. During the game, you meet a few friends and foes, some rather useless, some much too important in the overall story. Yet it all seems to come together into a nice little, if not over-the-top in a few parts, package. Nothing grand, but nothing bland either.
The concept of the game, however, is what gives this an above average score. It is Castlevania, but what makes this one a whole lot different is the absence of a Belmont, and a devil forager in their place. With Hector, you're able to create your own devils to use for fighting, making familiars a very useful (and fun) addition to the series. Mix it with weapon-creating and you've got yourself a great concept that every Castlevania game should look to work with in the future.

Gameplay Mechanics: - 9.0/10 - As stated before, devils and weapons are the key to the fun in this game. Aside from all the pretty-ness one would normally look for, the game dives into a part of the gaming world that no other Castlevania has, and somehow succeeds in looking for a great add-on to the game. Having your own familiars with their own personal names, ID numbers and move sets, it starts to become homely and warm in your stomach, almost as if you have a new pet, or dare I say Pokemon, by your side. And the ability to mix and match hundreds of weapons together adds to a great sense of replay for those that try to complete 100% in everything. Taking the item system and equip system from many games before it, and adding in new and fun parts of the game, the gameplay becomes downright fun. Also, stealing is a fun, if not sometimes frustrating part of the game. Becoming a thief has never been so much fun…well…maybe.

Replay Value/Fun Factor: - 8.0/10 - The most obvious point of replay in this game is getting 100% in everything. An easy task to those that have mastered the skill of stealing, but a challenge to those that find it hard to press buttons in an easy enough rhythm to get the item they truly want. It will take a bit, but not a whole lot, to get through the whole game. It will take even a bit longer to get everything in the game. Then you'll put the game down, have it in your thoughts, and come back to it later on to try everything over again. It's an experience you'll actually want to enjoy over and over, much like some of the Castlevanias before it. And in the meantime, you'll actually be having quite a bit of fun. As an addition, I'd like to say that it's also a game that is fun for two people! Believe it or not, playing through the first time with a close friend or relative can be almost as fun as playing through it alone.

Final Thoughts: - 8.0/10 (avg.) - A great addition to the Castlevania series. Not as beautiful and elegant as Symphony of the Night, yet not as easy and weak-hearted as Lament of Innocence. It seems that Konami is definitely finding a way to make a 3D Castlevania game work, after so long. If you're a fan of any Castlevania game at all, buy it, and I promise you'll enjoy this game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 10/18/06

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