Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
If you've been lamenting the lack of new Castlevania information, here are a couple tidbits to go with this new screen: Hero Leon's brand-new crystal subweapon will have an important role in Lament's story line (we're guessing he won't be abandoning his plastic-fantastic button-down lifestyle to live on a commune), and we've been told to anticipate roughly 13 boss encounters. Now, if only we could take the whip to those old N64 Castlevania games....
Download Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
You can't expect to waltz into a vampire lord’s castle like you own the place and then put the residents under the lash— unless, of course, you bear the surname Belmont Even with a thick atmosphere of ruined elegance and dark creatures of every ilk howling for your blood, Lament of Innocence is full of so much action, our whip-smart hero hasn’t any time to pay heed to fear. Neither will you. See page 212 for the gory, albeit unfrightening, details.
From an audiovisual standpoint, this is classic Castlevania brilliance. All of the game’s environments spring to life with intense detail, subtle lighting, and an overall creepy aesthetic. This skilled artistry carries over into the fluid character animation and impressive spell effects as well. And although it might seem impossible, the music actually outshines the graphical gloss. Symphony's composer returns with a phenomenal soundtrack of stunning tunes that perfectly fits the action. As expected, the game’s control feels tight, natural, and responsive. Combat works particularly well—you begin with a small arsenal of whip attacks, but as you use each of them over and over against enemies, you learn new branching combos that inflict serious damage (see sidebar). Plus, mixing subweapons with different magical orbs allows for copious experimentation. Simply fighting a gaggle of skeletons offers stylish thrills, and each of the tricky boss encounters delivers a satisfying rush. And while Lament doesn’t have a traditional experience system, you’ll still want to fight enemies in order to learn new attacks, gather gold, and collect rare items. So, with ornate looks, chilling sounds, and spot-on control, how does Lament falter? Well, for one, the story isn’t nearly compelling enough. It’s paced badly, with big chunks doled out near the game’s end, and the conclusion simply isn’t very satisfying. Also, the game feels short, but luckily offers enough incentives for replay to keep you truckin’ a good 20-plus hours before you’ve seen everything. The game’s biggest problem, though, is annoyingly repetitive level design. The castle isn’t one interlocking unit as in Symphony, but that isn’t the real issue—the five substages accessible from the main hub are just too similar. You’ll fight through myriad square rooms packed with enemies...the occasional puzzle or platforming section relieves the monotony, but these respites are rare. A sequel with more inventive levels could be truly perfect."]
The biggest change for the better? Combat. The fighting system is incredibly deep and nuanced, more like a one-on-one brawler than your typical action title. Double jump, block (time your defense just right to receive a bonus), string together strong and weak whip slashes into combos, somersault in any direction—combined with Castlevania’s fluid, responsive controls, all of these options keep combat fresh and exciting. Which brings us to the bad changes: The game sets up this wonderful combat system, then gives you little reason to actually fight. Since you don’t gain experience from fallen enemies (and they rarely drop anything of real value), you’ll oftentimes find yourself using the easier and faster method of running right past the bad guys whenever you aren’t forced to kill them all to unlock a door. Bad change No. 2: Exploring the castle just isn’t as much fun as in recent GBA adventures. You no longer find new abilities or solve puzzles to open up new areas (save a few optional bonus sections), but instead mostly hit switches to progress. A good game—a very good game—but for a series I’ve come to expect triple-A quality from, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed."]
Lament confounds me. I was terribly bored the first couple of hours. Then I grew to like it more and more. But it never felt like a good Castlevania game—just a good action game. Most of the recent series’ entries put emphasis on well-paced exploration, where you can’t access certain areas until you find the right gear. Lament puts just about everything out on the table. So instead of anticipation in finding those double-jump boots or breakable walls, you’re left with, for the most part, an open-book castle and lots of enemies (and extremely wimpy bosses—until the final ones, that is) to whip over and over and over.... Although combat is repetitive and mostly unnecessary, it’s also the thing that kept me going. I was always looking forward to learning new moves, and the Orbs made the series’ standby subweapons (ax, cross, knife, etc.) interesting again. If you’re more the Devil May Cry type of gamer who enjoys fancy fighting, you’ll find plenty to like here. Hardcore Castlevania fans, however, may cry because Lament fails to live up to its pedigree."]
Leon Belmont, Relic Hunter
Lament's many secret rooms and items are extremely difficult to locate. So tricky, in fact, that the majority of players will probably finish the game without discovering the most powerful relics, elemental whips, or secret magical orbs. Even worse, you can easily skip over five optional bosses if you don’t pay close attention to the levels you progress through. Our advice—thoroughly investigate every new room you traverse. Jump around like a maniac, whip mysterious statues and railings, look for weird discolored blocks, hell...even try jumping through suspicious-looking walls. If you find a spot where you can’t figure out what to do. place a marker stone on your map and return there later in the game and try again. Here’s a glimpse of one of the bosses you’re probably missing.