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Lunabean's "Castlevania(R): Lament of Innocence(TM)" Review

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Buy Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Strategy Guide: LB Strategy Guide
Lunabean Rating: 7.0
Platforms: PS2
Release Date: 08.21.03
ESRB Rating: M - Mature
Official Site: Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Purchase Game from Amazon.com: Buy it now!
LB's Ad-Free and Printer-Friendly "Castlevania: Lament of Innocence" Walkthrough: Only $4.95 - Screenshot Version $5.95
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Online Play: No

Review


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A good game experience, even with its fair share of flaws.

Konami's Castlevania series has been one that has kept gamers genuinely entertained for over fifteen years. Despite the fact that "Castlevania" gameplay has never been "ground-breaking", graphics have never been "spectacular", and flaws are always apparent, gamers keep coming back to this series for a good time, and gamers should be pleased to learn that the newest entry, "Castlevania: Lament of Innocence" will, once again, please.

Every "Castlevania" game tells the same story. It's you in a castle working your way to the big boss (usually Dracula) who has done something to tick you off. "Lament" is a prequel to all others in the series, so that's fun, but the story remains the same. You are Leon Belmont, an aristocrat who has come to save his beloved Sara, who has been kidnapped by a vampire. It's that simple.

My first hour of gameplay was painful. I hated it. The game starts off with a loooong cutscene (my pet peeve), it had a "Devil May Cry" feel (a game that's highly over-rated, in my opinion), and the tutorial did nothing but show off the poor controls. I was flat out ticked off that I was stuck with this game while Jer got to play "Rebel Strike 3" for the GameCube. But, I pressed on. And, I'm happy to say that, in all of my years of gameplay, I've never experienced such a 180 in game enjoyment.

Suddenly, I realized the items I carried were the same items I carried years ago in the original game. I had the Knife, Holy Water, Axe, Crystal and Cross all at my disposal, and, like the original, I could only carry one at a time. However, unlike the original, these Sub-Weapons could be used in new and exciting ways. With every boss you kill, you earn a new orb. Different orbs allow for different Sub-Weapon attacks. You can obtain up to seven different orbs in the game, giving you 35 different Sub-Weapon attacks, which really keeps the game new and fresh as you play through.

Relics also play an important role in "Lament" gameplay. Relics are found in "secret areas", hidden behind locked doors, and tend to be off the beaten path. Using them is not vital to getting through the game, but they certainly make gameplay more exciting. Relics use up your Mana Meter, which is built up by blocking enemy attacks, making it so you really can never run out of mana, which is a good thing. Relics do a variety of things, ranging from allowing you to run faster to increasing your attack power to creating a damaging fire with every step. Relics, like the orbs, keep gameplay new and fresh.

A final fun and exciting new element of "Lament" is the ability to earn new Whips. Whips are hidden behind mini-boss doors in very well hidden areas of the game. When I played through the game the first time for a quick run through, I didn't find a single new whip. Playing through again to "100% Complete" the game led me to three new Whips which helped immensely against the enemies, and allowed me access to areas I couldn't reach before. So, if you play this game, I suggest making the Whip Search part of your game. Which, actually, brings up an interesting point. "Castlevania: Lament of Innocence" shines in that it's a game for both the casual and hard-core gamer.

The casual gamer can really fly through the game and beat the boss (some people are complaining the game is a little on the short side). However, for the person who wants to get more out of their experience, "Lament" offers all of these elements I have mentioned (orbs, relics and whips) that are off the beaten path, yet are well worth acquiring as they make gameplay that much more fun.

"Lament" also adds Whip Combos to the fighting mix. People who enjoy button mashing and fighting games should enjoy the Whip Combos. I didn't find them to improve gameplay at all. I was fine with having them there, but they weren't necessary.


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"Lament's" graphics are mediocre by today's standards, but, as always, I'm OK with that as I truly believe gameplay matters more, and "Lament" marks the best graphics "Castlevania" has ever seen. Graphics weren't bad, and there were a couple window lighting effects that were impressive, but nothing "wowed" me. I do have to say "Lament" did mark the first time I said to myself, "Is it me, or do all video game people look alike now?". I've come to hate PS2 hair. Men with spikes, highlights, and that perfect wind-swept look no longer does it for me. It's been done. Characters in "Lament", while I loved playing with and against them, weren't original looking at all, and neither were any of the bosses. Again, I'm fine with all of this, but it should be noted. I did, however, really enjoy seeing old monsters from the old "Castlevania" game in 3-D. Konami did a great job making them come to life. They did look good, they just weren't original.

Sound was good. Different levels had different music, and it fit well. Some were dreamy, some were borderline techno. I know I should pay better attention as many people care about "sound" in video games. I just notice if it annoys me or not. It didn't, so that's all I have to say about that.

The controls were fine, but, for lack of a better word, bitchy. Button placement worked, but I didn't feel I had decent control of my character. There's a double whip jump that needs to be performed on occasion, and the timing has to be absolutely perfect, or you're not making it. I also went a little insane in the early stages of the game where I had to stand on a platform to activate a switch, and I couldn't get on the platform. I could jump straight up and straight down, I could jump over it, but I couldn't jump on it. Finally, I think a good example of poor controls comes in the Map Sub-Screen. The Map Sub-Screen has a compass. If you move the compass, it's almost impossible to get the map perfectly north again. Yes, you can put it back to its default position, but I think it's a good example of how my controls didn't execute as accurately on screen as they should have.

Finally, we have the camera. The camera in this game was absolutely horrible. You have no control over it, and, I, for one, hate that. Sections of rooms are hidden because of it, blind spots are abundant and certain "secret areas" would pretty much be impossible to find if you didn't have a wonderful guide by your side. Again, we think gameplay matters more than anything else, but the camera did hurt the overall experience.

So, to summarize, "Castlevania: Lament of Innocence" is a fun game, but it's not without it's fair share of flaws. If you have the ability to look past such problems, you'll get a kick out of this game. If you're a gamer that demands perfection, move on.

I give "Castlevania: Lament of Innocence" a 7. Better than a "meh", but less than a "wow".

-Allison


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