Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
Konami
Developer
KCET
Genre
Adventure
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence, Blood
 
Grade
The Good

• Great Castlevania action in 3D
• Excellent music
• Lots of secrets to find

The Bad

• Repetitive backgrounds
• Lots of backtracking
• Not as deep as previous titles

 
Grade
B+

Castlevania - a series steeped in history and tradition where the most successful and popular titles have remained a two dimensional adventures. Fans will go to great lengths to tell you how great Symphony of the Night, Bloodlines, Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance all are. But, if you mention the series moving into 3D, most will shun you or remind you of the N64 games, which weren't well received to most of the gaming community. So, once word got out that after giving the GameBoy Advance a handful of 2D titles, Konami would bring the series to the PS2 in 3D form.

Dating back to the 11th Century, the story of LOI revolves around the first meeting between the Belmont family and Dracula. Upon finding out that the woman he loves has been captured by a vampire, Baron Leon Belmont gives up his title and rushes off to the vampire's castle to rescue her. From there, the story is told in a few story sequences that really only serve to garnish the gameplay.

The gameplay behind LOI is relative familiar to the Castlevania faithful - you have one button for quick attacks (with your handy-dandy whip) and another button for more powerful attacks. You can also jump and block and even use subweapons which can be found throughout the castle. Subweapons include throwing knives, axes, holy water and crystals. Using these subweapons cost hearts, almost like a monetary system to keep players from abusing them. Luckily, you can find hearts laying around in statues that you can break and even dropped by enemies. If you block while enemies attacked with their more powerful attacks (you'll be given a visual clue as they power up), Leon will acquire Magic Points, which can be used when you activate one of the relics you'll find in the castle. Along with relics and subweapons, players will also find magical orbs, which, when equipped, will alter the properties of subweapons. Because enemies have different strengths and weaknesses, you'll have to be aware of what techniques work against the foe your facing.

The castle itself begins with a hub-like area where the player can choose from one of five locations to explore. Players have the choice where to start and only once all five of these locations are completed will you be allowed to the last location. And, whenever you need more potions, you can always return to Rinaldo's shop in front of the castle. As you fight through each location, you'll need to use some platforming skills, including being able to jump and whip at objects to reach certain ledges, to get anywhere of worth. You aren't penalized for missing, which is a plus as some jumps may be hard to gauge with the placement of the camera in certain rooms. Much like Devil May Cry, the camera is often in an opportune place, allowing you a good view of the area.

During the game, players will unlock special moves and combos, like extended attack combinations and the ability to quickly sidestep attacks. As these moves are handed to you in a fairly regular basis, depending on how you play, the standard method of attacking doesn't tend to get repetitive. The way you play later in the game will be noticeably different than how you start. Throw in all the items you can equip and use and you'll find yourself not playing the game the same way others will.

Visually, Castlevania presents a nice game world to look at. The castle's interiors are extremely well detailed and sport a lot of nice visual effects that add to the gothic mood. Leon's animation and character model looks great in execution. Castlevania fans will be pleased to see traditional enemies, like Zombies, Fishmen and Skeletons make an appearance. Most of the enemies look good, even though I get the feeling that some are a little underdeveloped in comparison to the whole. Some of the enemies, especially the larger ones and the bosses are wonderfully realized and outshine the standard rabble. If there's anything to be said against the graphics is that too many locations look the same, so much so that most of the hallways seem to have been built from the same template. And some rooms are built exactly alike, except with the change of a texture here or the addition of a bookcase there. If there wasn't an in-game map, one might wonder if they took a wrong turn.

The music for LOI is magnificent. While taking more traditional themes, it manages to deliver an excellent background focusing on piano, string arrangements and even gothic techno to permeate an emotion that makes the game feel just right. Toss in some really well done sound effects and you have a pretty good sound package. The only real drawback is that the voice acting is rather plain, but that's more a part of the stale script rather than the voice actors. And, for you purists out there, the Japanese voice track is available as well.

Now, not everything is the way I wish it could be with LOI. First and foremost, there is a ton of backtracking to be had. And with how repetitive most locations appear, this can be a bit of a drain. Also, I wish that the subweapons were better implemented. Since your enemies all have different subweapons that they can be weak or strong against, it's a shame that you can only have one subweapon on you at any given time. Need the Cross to drop a boss? Plan on making a trip to go find it. I know that traditionalists may just blow this off, but I would have really liked to be able to change subweapons like you can with relics. And, most will find that the RPG elements of the game are not as deep as previous installments, such as the GBA titles.

It must be said that Castlevania LOI is easy to pick up and get into, and the controls are sharp and responsive. While the main game will take most around 8 to 10 hours to beat, there are more than enough secrets to find to make it worth your effort to go back for more. If you're a Castlevania fan and titles like Devil May Cry and Rygar wet your appetite, then definitely give LOI a try. There more than enough traditional elements here to make the shift to 3D rewarding.

- - Kinderfeld

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