This hasn't been the first time that Castlevania has evolved from 2-D to 3-D.
Back in 1999, Konami released Castlevania 64 for the N64, which was pretty much the
first time the series made the jump to 3-D. A lot of people and critics didn't like
what was done to the game. Personally, I didn't think it was too bad, but I did
realize a problem it had going against it. Castlevania 64 was released within 2 months
of the hugely anticipated Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. After playing the first
3-D Zelda game, there was a new standard that was set for the genre. Unfortunatley,
Castlevania failed to meet that standard. Chock it up to bad timing, I suppose.
So, after 4 years, Konami attempts to bring Castlevania into the 3-D realm again,
but this time took a different direction in terms of gameplay. Instead of being a
Zelda-like adventure, Castlevania LOI pretty much takes the design of the Gameboy Advance
Castlevania games and forms it into a 3-D game. For the most part, it works really
well. There's room and oppertunity for exploration, there are plenty of hidden items
(and many are hidden very well), and there's a fairly smooth progression about the game.
Castlevania: Lament Of Innocence is a bit thin on the plot, but very much gives you
a concrete agenda. You play as a man named Leon, who his significant other has
been kidnapped by guess who : VAMPIRES! Your goal, rescue her! Unfortunatley, this is
pretty much all you have to work off of in terms of story. Every now and then, your
given backstory on a couple of characters (mostly tying into the past of the storekeep
Ronaldo), but it really doesn't enhance the game any more than it does in terms of plot.
But then again, has any other Castlevania game been known for it's epic storylines.
Of course not, which is why the series pretty much relies on it's (mostly) solid
Like I've mentioned earlier, LOI's gameplay is pretty much inspired by the GBA
Castlevania games (as well as Symphony Of The Night). You're pretty much given
a large castle to exlpore, find items, defeat bosses, and get to the main enemy.
The way the game is presented is a little like Resident Evil with a little more
freedom in the camera, or as many others have said, it's like Devil May Cry. Unlike
most horror games, though, the control is suprisngly tight and balanced. One of the
elements, such as grappeling things with the whip to reach higher places isn't so easy
to pull off in the limited isometric-like perspective. But as far as defeating enemies
and exloproing non-grappeling areas is concerned (which is pretty much 95% of the game),
the game is very playable.
The game also gives some depth into the items and weapons you acquire. While
it would have been nice to see a deeper "magic power" system like what was done with
the cards in Circle Of The Moon, a change has been made in what you do with your
secondary weapons. If you remember past Castlevania games, you'll remember that you
can pick up knives, axes, crosses or holy water as a secondary weapon. Here, you have
secondary weapons, but they can become enhanced by colored orbs you acquire through the
game. This can really help when you're in a pinch and you have a really great enhanced
weapon. As far as the items go, you can collect different whips that have special
elemental powers, armor to protect you better, and other items to make your life
easier. Finally, there are special relics you can find that draw off of your
magic meter that can help, such as faster running, higher defense attributes and
health recovery. And you have to plan on what you want, since you can't use all
items at once.
If there's one thing to truly gripe about LOI's gameplay, it has to be the
"real-time" menu system. What a load of crap this is. Everything you need to
use, from potions to item equiping must be done by flicking the right analog stick
and shuffle through some menus to find what you need. This is bad when you need something
in a hurry. I don't care if I have to pause to get what I need, at least that didn't leave me vulnurable
to enemy attacks. Basically, if I need to find something AND I'm in a room full of enemies,
I have to run in a circle while fumbling through the menus. This was just a poor
decision on the developer's part. It might have been better if the menu was used just
for consumbale items, but pretty much everything needs to be done from the real-time
Visually, Lament Of Innocence looks pretty good, but it's obvious that the PS2's
texture compression is holding the visuals back. There are moments when the game looks
really good and the textures are even pretty sharp. But there are also rooms that
have some muddied textures, which does hurt the consistency a bit. As far a character
models go, they look very good. The model for Leon looks a bit unusual, at least in the
face. He almost looks like the one girl from "Dead Like Me". He just looks a little
feminine period. And who the hell has hair like that in that time period? I didn't
know there were "Ye Olde Fantastic Sams" salons in that period. For the most part,
the game looks solide, but there are questionable moments.
As for sound, it's pretty good. Most music tracks are orchastral, but you have
a few stages that throw in some techno beats along with it (Anti Soul Mysteries Lab
is one that comes to mind). Mostly, the music is consistent, and does match the
theme of the game. As for sound effects, they're good, but almost par for the
course. It's just as we should expect and nothing more.
Castlevania: Lament Of Innocence is a better representation of classic Castlevania
making the leap to 3-D. The end result was a lot more natural and even more fun
than what was done on the N64. Although I would have preffered a better perspective
(or a better camera system), the game still works pretty well. The biggest knocks
against the game are the elements the developers thought were innovative, mostly,
the real-time menu system. It just didn't work for me, and it was more hassle than
help. Still, I was pretty suprised on how tight and addictive Castlevania LOI was.
It felt much like the GBA Castlevania games, but with a new perspective and gameplay
elements. It's a game worth checking out, especially for fans of the franchise.