Monday, September 19, 2005

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence

Genre: Action / Adventure
Platform: Playstation 2
2003 Konami Digital Entertainment America, Konami TYO. Screenshots courtesy of Amazon.

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Thundersenshi's Description:
"The forest of Eternal Night is swollen with darkness, as if it would rob away everything, and only moonlight provides a ray of hope for those who seek to reclaim the love they have lost." - Intro

This is the adventure of Leon Belmont, the first of a long line of famous vampire-hunters, and the story of how the centuries-old feud with Dracula all began.

It could have been the best Castlevania game. >>> by thundersenshi
I must confess something before starting this review. Although I consider myself to be a Castlevania fan, I have actually only played three of the games in the series, two of which I finished, and only one which I completed 100% on my own (that would be this game, Lament of Innocence). My interest in the series only started while watching my brother play Dracula X or Symphony of the Night and then eventually, when I attempted to play it myself. However, I have long been familiar with this series since I was but four years old. I was too young then to play the game, and the sight of floating medusa heads gave me nightmares; it was only my siblings and their friends, all a good deal older than my four years, who played the game and called it fun. And because of their enthusiasm years ago, and because of Symphony of the Night was such a great game (and I had long overgrown the fear of medusa heads by then), I came to be knowledgeable of the series’ characters and storyline though I hadn’t done much of the playing myself.

So you might call me a fan of the series’ story. However, if I were to rate Lament of Innocence bearing this particular element in mind, then I would say that I was a BIG disappointment. It started off with promise, but as I was nearing the end of my game, there wasn’t much else to look forward to, and even the ending left a blank look on my face and I was thinking, “That’s it?” Suffice it to say, I had been expecting more drama, a greater tragedy and the characters to elaborate on why things had gone so and so. This is the game about the first vampire-hunting Belmont! It’s supposed to be the beginning of the legend; never mind how predictable the bad guy has been from the start; the story ought to have had more build-up and tension. It’s the least the developers could have done.

Despite this, the game is not without some saving grace. Though it leaves much to be desired as an RPG (the way the story was executed leads me to believe the production of this game was hurried), it’s satisfying as an action game. This just proves how dynamic and engaging Castlevania battle systems can be in 3D. Leon has powerful whips, sub weapons, orbs, relics and magic. I like the orbs especially because they allow more freedom and creativity in the use of your sub weapons. Leon with his whip can do amazing combos from a single target to a roomful of monsters (battling the latter, especially, can be strangely therapeutic). Add this to his skills of double-jumping, dashing, rolling and magic from the relics, playing this particular Belmont can get quite addicting. Everything from old to new, sub weapons included, are spectacular to watch in glorious 3D. So while it may not be the best game in the series, it’s certainly the best-looking.

The battle system isn’t the only thing that’s looking good since Castlevania went 3D. The castle’s gothic interior is beautiful, to say in the least, and the experience is heightened by the accompanying music. If you loved Symphony of the Night’s soundtrack, then you will definitely adore this. Hair-raising chorus, piano, woodwind, strings and more, all converge to set just the right atmosphere for a vampire-hunting adventure.

Lament of Innocence, however, is frustratingly short. And though I ought to be whining that making secret characters won’t make up for that lack since they’d just be going through the same thing, I satisfied myself with this anyway. So yes, I ended up playing Lament of Innocence thrice, with three different characters on each run. I had fun battling the undead and though it can get repetitive and eventually, too easy, the unforgettably horrendous Belzeebub and the last two bosses of the game were always a challenge. I play it again every once in a while, certainly more than three times, even if the story’s execution sucked. Also, I really wish they had put something more into Joachim’s version of the game. His story is just begging to be explored.

COMPLETION TIME: Leon (17:26:02), Joachim (3:54:00), Pumpkin (3:48:50)
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: (Search ratios) Leon 100%, Joachim 96.6%, Pumpkin 72.1%
RATINGS: Gameplay 8; Battle 8; Story 5; Visuals 9; Characters 6; Sounds 9; Replay Value 8

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