Review by Ethel
Take a step back from Lament,
and you get Curse of Darkness. The 2nd 3D Castlevania that came out for the PS2 fails to match up to its predecessor, "why is it so?" you may ask. Well, here goes:
The plot spans around this devil forgemaster named Hector who used to work for Dracula but decided to stop and start his simple life living with his beloved wife, thus betraying the dark lord. His fellow forgemaster Issac was not very happy about that and induces a scheme which got Hector's wife killed. Hungry for revenge, Hector chases after Issac, vowing to strike him down. So begins the pale tale of revenge, with the rat challenging the cat to catch it.
The entire story is not exciting at any point, and doesn't do well in capturing the gamer's attention. Throughout the whole game, the intensity level remains standstill at shallow. There are some attempts at surprise *points to Trevor*, however other than those small pieces, don't expect to get all jaw dropped.
If you were to compare Curse of Darkness with Lament of Innocence (which is probably more fitting since both are 3D Castlevania games out in the same gaming era), you will find the gameplay somewhat familiar. In Curse of Darkness though, Hector doesn't use sub weapons, instead innocent devils are his helpers. Basically, you obtain an innocent devil, level it up, and it will drop a devil shard, forge the devil shard and you get a new innocent devil of that particular type(e.g: fairy).
By defeating enemies which drop different colored evo crystals depending on what type of weapon Hector is equipped with, you can choose the upgrade path you want for the innocent devils, each type having several branches which leads to different abilities learnt. The process may be a little tedious, but fun nevertheless. This is a creative idea implemented in a good way which adds a huge push-up bonus to the enjoyment scale.
You also get to collect materials from defeated monsters and combine them to create different weapons and armory. Hearts are seldom obtained via destroying candle sticks or lamps etc, instead enemies drop them. This is different from the usual, but the problem of instability occurs as sometimes when you need hearts, enemies only gave a few and lotsa evo crystals, and the next moment when you need the evo crystals, they don't drop any, instead lotsa hearts and materials are lying around. This wastes some precious amount of time in fighting monsters.
Another complaint is how slow Hector runs, this could probably be because the game creators have a few spare hours left to reach the quoted gameplay time and can't find anything else to add in that they decided to reduce the speed of Hector that almost 95% of the enemies can move faster than him.
Though looking at the box cover artwork and seeing Hector in the game may make us feel as though Konami has cheated us of our feelings, the graphics in Curse of Darkness has improved, characters have some expressions on their faces, animation is rather smooth and blends well with surroundings. Even though some items in the dungeons are repetitive, you can see that some effort is put in to avoid same old stairways or alleys...
At some points in the game (there is one at the start of the game), there are cut scenes which are pretty well done.
Sounds & Music: 6/10
The music in Curse of Darkness seems to be recycled tunes. There are many times when I thought: "Hey, this sounds familiar" or "I think they picked out some notes from that tune in Lament, jumbled it a bit and created this one."
The music for the first few stages is acceptable, but the ones for later levels are rather blank.
The sound effects are good, the flapping of wings, the passing wind, the screeching of metal scratched across the ground, all are very clear and used very appropriately. Voice-overs are pretty standard, which can be considered a merit, since many voice-acting nowadays are on the downside.
Besides our beloved Trevor, the rest of the characters that appear in Curse of Darkness scream out one word: boring. Some played so small a part it is difficult to figure out why do they exist in the first place, the others are merely playing along and aren't significant or memorable at all. Hector is quite a forgettable main character that he doesn't place very high in the Castlevania's line of impressive protagonists.
Replay value: 8/10
Now the time needed to complete the game is average, but if you choose to get a full 100% in all stages and various other optional quests such as getting all evolutions for the innocent devils, defeating the optional boss, getting materials and creating all of the equipment and so on, it will probably take more than a week to finish it.
What's more, with plenty of items to collect and steal, going through that dreadful Tower of Evermore, playing as Trevor with new items and stuff to check out as well as new moves to perform, time just ain't enough.
Though some of the bad points for Lament of Innocence were obliterated or reduced in Curse of Darkness, yet along with the attempt to mimic Symphony of the Night emerges some new problems and the game feels somewhat unoriginal. Konami needs to know whose advice to take and whose not to, learn from the past flawed installments and that will pave a much brighter path for 3D Castlevania.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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