Monday, January 6, 2014

Review #86: Castlevania - Lament of Innocence

 This is Castlevania in 3D done right.
 Castlevania doesn't have the best track record when it comes to going 3D. "3Dvanias" are often divisive, some people like them, some people hate them. Castlevania 64 is either a pretty decent attempt at bringing the series to the third dimension or a really bad game. Castlevania Lords of Shadows is either a great game or a God of Warrior clone that is Castlevania in name only. Good news, Castlevania Lament of Innocence(LoI) is not only a great game, but a great transition to 3D for the series.
 The game would take place at the start of the Castlevania timeline. Leon Belmont's beloved is taken away by Walter, an evil vampire count. Leon rushes to her aide and comes across Rinaldo, a man that lives on the outskirts of the castle and lends him the Alchemy Whip, a weapon capable of damaging vampires and related demons. The story is nothing special, but it gets the job done... the writing is really bad though. Dialogue falls under the "so bad it's good" category, so at least it's not a total train wreck.
 Lament of Innocence is an adventure game that borrows most of it's elements from the "Metroidvania" branch of Castlevania games. Your goal is clear from the very beginning, defeat the five monsters that guard the five orbs that are needed to open the path to Walter's throne. The Castle is divided in six major areas, and you can tackle the initial five in any order. As with any Metroidvania worth it's salt, there's a huge map to explore, and some areas are not readily open for Leon, so he might need to find items in other zones in order to open them up. Luckily, most backtracking is completely optional if you wanto 100% the map and get every item, still, the game could've used some sort of warp system to make it more palatable.
 Combat is very straight forward: Square performs a weak, but fast, swing of the whip, while triangle performs a stronger and slower attack. There's a fair amount of combos that you can perform, and as you defeat enemies you'll earn new ones, don't be mistaken though as there is no leveling up system, you just earn new moves every now and then. Leon also has access to all the classic sub-weapons, the Axe, the Knife, the Holy Water, the Cross and the Crystal, which consume hearts that are obtained from breakables. Each of the five orbs, plus two hidden ones, alter how sub weapons behave, so there's a huge amount of different sub-weapon attacks. Rounding up his arsenal, Leon's enchanted gauntlet can absorb MP by blocking enemies magic attacks, and can then use MP to activate Relics that bestow many different abilities. So far so good, but for some reason they decided to make menus work in real time. You can't pause and use items or equip items, instead, you have to use the right analog stick to navigate menus, using healing items during boss battles can be very annoying.
 Graphics are top notch, the game runs at a silky smooth 60 fps and looks beautiful. There's plenty of different enemies and they all look very nice, the castle itself is very dark, as it should be, but each area has it's own distinct theme. There are a couple of corridors that look very samey and seem to hold no purpose, but I guess that this being Metroidvania 'n all, it's expected for them to be in the game. Music is downright phenomenal, Castlevania is a series that never disappoints when it comes to music. Lastly, voice acting is... it's actually pretty decent considering the awful lines that they must deliver.
 Lament of Innocence lasts a solid 6 hours, and that's what it took me to 100% it, every item and hidden boss found and defeated, but, finishing the game unlocks plenty of extras: Crazy Mode(A harder game), All Skills(Get all skills from the start), Joachim(An alternate character that plays NOTHING like Leon), Pumpkin(A character that shares only the basic moveset with Leon, he gets his own exclusive sub weapons and playing as him actually feels different) and a couple of others. Suffice to say, what it lacks in length it makes up in extras.
 I never had a problem with Lords of Shadows, what's more, I actually loved it. But after playing Lament of Innocence I can understand why fans disliked Lords of Shadows, while in LoI you get to explore a giant castle, like most Metroidvanias, you get to fight classic enemies(Mermen, the floating Eyes, the Doppleganger, Golem, Succubus, Skeletons, Blood Skeletons, the zombies... I can go on),  LoS has NOTHING tying it to Castlevania besides the Belmonts and the name. Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is a game that I can recommend both to fans of Castlevania and people looking for a decent action-adventure game.
 8.0 out of 10.

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