The latest Castlevania wasn't really what I expected. From the early screenshots and initial previews I had the impression it would be side-scrolling, much like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. So when I finally ended the first cutscene and walked out into the game, I was in for a shock. Expecting a nice familiar side-scrolling viewpoint I saw in the early screenshots, I stepped out into Resident Evil style viewpoint. Needless to say I wasn't impressed. The game isn't without merit, the introduction and opening cutscene were pretty entertaining with above average voice acting. The graphics are beautiful with detailed backgrounds, characters and nice particle effects. Still if I had to sum up the game in a single phrase, that phrase would be Ã‚"poor man's Devil May CryÃ‚". Fortunately I have more space than that, click Ã‚"Read moreÃ‚" to see the rest.First off I'd just like to say I didn't beat the game and don't plan to. In fact, I got most of the way through the second level. This is far from a review, so please don't take my word as gospel. Except for the part where you owe me $10. That part's true.
The introductory story was pretty well written and interesting. Leon Belmont was a knight and Lord, there's a bunch of stuff that happens and his bride is taken to the forbidden woods. The church forbids him to go, he gives up his lordship and goes after her anyway. Does it sound like I don't remember much of the story? Well there's a reason for that, it's abandoned as soon as the first cutscene ends. No dialog save Ã‚"Would you like to buy something?Ã‚" and Ã‚"Would you like to sell something?Ã‚"passes between Leon Belmont and the shopkeeper after their initial encounter as far as I can tell. It's really one of the more disappointing parts of the game so far that the story isn't expanded upon. There could be one large cutscene at the end wrapping everything up, I don't know.
The camera is standard Resident Evil style, with controls similar to Devil May Cry only occasionally sluggish. There's no way whatsoever to control the camera, quite often you find yourself looking straight at the ground when trying to find a door. There's really no excuse for it at this point, none of the environment is pre-rendered. It isn't the most useful camera in the world to say the least. In most cases though it gets the job done.
Fighting is a little different, you use a whip instead of guns. There are moves you can learn, seemingly at random. You can hit a combination several times and then suddenly as you're fighting it becomes a combo. There is no experience to speak of, you don't gain levels or health by killing enemies. Relics allow you to use mana to do special attacks such as trail fire behind you. Subweapons are just like any other Castlevania game, though they can be powered up by Orbs. The cross, axe, knife and holy water are all here, as well as some new ones. Nothing really revolutionary.
The enemies are occasionally very interesting, floating eyeballs, flea men, giant mace wielding knights and man eating plants with eyeballs in their flowers. However most rooms end up with skeletons, zombies and the occasional ghost that will run at you until you hit it with something. What's worse, most rooms cannot be exited until everything in the room is killed. One of the many cheap ways in which this game tries to keep you playing longer.
There are some jumping puzzles, which may have worked had the game been a side scroller. Instead it's a 3D platformer and they are more frustrating than anything. There are only 2 or so a level so far but when you find one it's a doozy. Split second timing is usually required as well as falling down several times. At least they don't instantly kill you for falling.
The environments are detailed and look great. All of the art in this game is top notch, at times I'm surprised that it's a PS2 game. It's a good thing they're pretty because you end up having to look at them over and over again. The first level literally has a hallway repeated every other room. That's not really all that horrible, except that when you get to the other rooms, they all look the same as well. It's a lot like the other Castlevania games in that respect, so I really can't knock it too much. However in 3D it takes much longer to get anywhere and it ended up grating on my nerves. The main character is very detailed, complete in Gothic knight armor and medieval robe. It's all realistic except for the anime Certis is awesome hair. During the crusades, knights in service of the church must've had access to the holy relics of St. Salon Selective.
What really gets me is the objectives of each level. You're supposed to get to five monsters and kill them in order to proceed in the castle, each monster has its own level. Each level has two doors to open to get to the boss. Each door has three switches to open the door. That's it. Nothing imaginative like using metal armor to walk through the spikes on the floor, you push a button and see a light turn on. It got on my nerves very quickly, get to a new area and guess what? More buttons! The level designer's idea of imaginative is usually Ã‚"You see that ledge over there? It looks like you can't get there but if you jump twice just right, slash your whip and stand on your head, you magically teleport there.Ã‚"
Maybe the whole side scrolling confusion got me off on the wrong foot, as you can tell from my general bitterness I didn't care for the game. It wasn't really awful, just painfully mediocre. If you're jonesing for some Castlevania and don't mind a little mediocrity, give it a shot. If you're looking for this game to be great, go pick up Devil May Cry and pretend the guns are a whip. I know I'd have had more fun that way.
PS. You owe me $10