Review by Rango

"I finally understand the one thing this game needs to get it right."

The long-standing Castlevania franchise has seen its good days and its dark days. The Curse of Darkness is more than a subtitle, but perhaps a trend that goes for 3D Castlevania games in general...or perhaps just this one. 3D Castlevania games have been stereotyped as a whole to be bad, be it in one way or another. Legacy of Darkness, a Nintendo 64 title, was actually better than most who hated Castlevania 64 would expect it to be, but I wouldn't it put it past many of the 2D Castlevania games, despite how fun it was.

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness puts IGA in the lead of another 3D Castlevania. Along with Michiru Yamane and Ayami Kojima at his side, they stand as the team who helped deliver the legendary title, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. With the first attempt at a console Castlevania since Symphony, IGA decides to try his hand at a 3D Castlevania with his team, not those who did the N64 titles. However, did the ratings turn out as good as we expected? Believe it or not, no. Poor dungeon design was probably the biggest hit to it. What happens next? A couple of years later, we get Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for the DS, a 2D Castlevania rivaling Symphony in many ways, and Curse of Darkness, the next installment to the Castlevania series in 3D.

Journey back, far into the land of far back as the 1400s...and as far back as 1989. Travel to the adventure of Trevor Belmont, and the aftermath of his battle with Dracula. Before he was put to a temporary rest (you know it), Dracula uttered a curse upon the land. In doing so, catastrophe spread. Darkness grew into the hearts of people, and they grew the instinct to steal, kill, and other horrible crimes. This was also the time that a Devil Forgemaster, by the name of Hector, had other plans; avenge the death of his beloved, Rosaly, by fighting a fellow devil forgemaster who was once his best friend; Isaac. Isaac sides with the evil Count, although Dracula is currently dead. He's also responsible for the death of Rosaly. As Isaac, you must set out to Dracula's Castle, to defeat Isaac. However, more importantly, is what he's doing right...or is it falling further into the hands of Dracula?

As we can see, the story's pretty good, but so are the graphics, especially the FMV's. Expect some realism through the plots and cutscenes, movements, blood, and all. In the game itself, the graphics were actually implemented well. Don't expect really stunning visuals throughout the game, but know that they get the job done. It's not Soul Calibur III, but you won't be upset. The areas have good detail to them, lighting effects in the temple, and so forth. Also, the battle animations do not cause any known slowdown.

Does the game sound as good as it looks? How about this; Castlevania: Curse of Darkness has the best soundtrack in the Castlevania series since the legendary Symphony of the Night itself. As you start off in the first area, the Abandoned Castle, you are greeted to this epic fast-paced soundtrack with some electric guitar mixed in. It's a bit like Symphony's first area theme of Dracula's Castle, but faster, getting you pumped up. Electric guitar runs through the game's boss themes, especially against some of the more important characters, as well as organ and other instrumentals relevant to a good Castlevania soundtrack. Mortvia Aqueduct takes place close to a bay, and its track sounds like something you'd hear off of an epic pirate movie, in a sense, but also feels very dance-like. The game's soundtrack and high variety are probably the strongest point, definitely.

But why isn't the gameplay the strongest point? After all, unlike Lament, but more like the recent Castlevania games (notably Dawn of Sorrow since they classify equipment), Hector gets a variety of swords, great swords, polearms, axes, and fistcuffs. With these, you can fight effectively against various different monsters. You push X several times for a combo, or you can hit O to finish it. With each button press comes a new combo finisher when you hit O, thus adding battle strategy and fighting capabilities to the game significantly, given the amount of weapons. You can also synthesize weapons by adding materials to them and creating new, more powerful ones. That's only half of it, though. The other half comes from the Innocent Devils. They can heal you, fight for you, glide you, defend you, and each one has a different command. If you're stuck against a big enemy and your combos aren't strong, the fighter-type Innocent Devil is there to assist you. Combat is pretty fast-paced, especially when monsters group up on you. It's very ideal for 3D Castlevania, but what is missing? Why, of course! Something that's been in nearly EVERY OTHER CASTLEVANIA; PLATFORMS. Can you believe that an element that has been present since the very first game just gets left out like that? The platforming era in gaming is not dead, let me tell you. It's so important that, without platforms, traveling becomes tedious, rooms are designed the same that they're repetitive, and there's much less challenge. One little mistake can throw a chunk of the game's fun out just like that, killing the level design. I guarantee you that, if it weren't for that, this would be the Castlevania that would perfectly rival Symphony of the Night in terms of quality.

It's more than just the gameplay, though. If you want, you can beat the game as another character, beat it on a harder difficulty, level up your Innocent Devils, complete your map, and complete Boss Rush mode. As you can see, and this is a good trend of Castlevania, there's plenty to do after you beat the game. However, if you don't want to, that's understandable. It was fun, but if you're looking to tread through the same rooms again and again, that's you call.

I have no intentions to bash the game, but the taste of losing a huge element of a legendary series is quite bitter, especially since this could have been a lot more as a result. Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is truly worth a rental if you're a fan of the series or you simply loved Castlevania III for the NES, since the story takes place right after it. If you want to finish everything, though, or you just love Castlevania, this is worth it. The level design isn't to be too discouraged about, given everything else it has going for it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/14/05

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