So….remember that Project X Zone marathon idea? Yeah, we are still doing that, but I feel the need to bring up another game I played recently that is top contender for the worst game I have ever played in my life, and yet has some garnered a ton of good scores from players and critics alike. And sadly, it’s from a series I like: Castlevania. The specific game? Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, or as I like to call it, Lament of the Player. This particular game was made for the PS2, so it would be a 3D Castlevania game, which is usually a horrible idea as the series suffers a curse in which no 3D game has ever been good, at least to my knowledge. Don’t believe me? Check out JonTron’s video of an old N64 Castlevania game. Is this game as bad as that? Hell no, but it doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable. Let’s take a look at this disaster of a game brought to us by Koonami!
Now, I know a lot of Castlevania games never dig too deep into their stories, and this one is pretty much the same. However, it is actually an origin story regarding the Belmont Clan and their whip, as you play as Leon Belmont, who is sadly not a really good protagonist as he can be dumb as a brick, and constantly just question others, a lot. Now of course the latter is unavoidable, but even during the beginning of this game, it gets annoying, especially when he doesn’t even know what a whip is, yet knows how to whip monsters good. The goal is that a vampire within the castle has taken his beloved Sara, and now he must do battle with five dangerous beings in order to face the lord of the castle in order to rescue her. The funny thing is that the way it is all outlined, even saying that the lord of the castle enjoys playing this little game by even allowing a shop outside his castle, all immediately take you out of the atmosphere, and serve more as a reminder that “yes, this is nothing more than a game.” It’s just the way it’s all said. Aside from this, the game has mixed voice acting results, as I know these people can turn in good performances, but with character models, it doesn’t help all the time.
Speaking on visuals, those tend to feel a bit bland. I mean okay, they manage to do a decent at capturing environments, giving the gothic feel that’s appropriate for a Castlevania game, and it even has mixed environments, like gardens, opera theatre, and much more. The real downside is that everything is so repetitive, and this couples with gameplay, as you’ll be running around like a headless chicken trying to figure out where to go, and it’s actually easy to lose yourself if you don’t follow the map. Everything looks the same and I couldn’t really tell the difference between one room and the next. And in a 3D game, this is especially problematic. Not even Devil May Cry did this. Some might think that to be an unfair comparison, however, Devil May Cry was released two years before this game, and managed to do a better job in creating a creepy atmosphere. The thing about this game is that it tosses monsters into the room or hallway, or they are just there. Devil May Cry on the other hand usually had the creatures appear, sometimes at random or specific points, while hinting at it, like Sin Scissors, whose laugh you always here but sometimes can never see. So whatever fears they were trying to evoke are pointless in the long-run. The good news is that I at least really do like the new monster designs, as they are made more practical in my opinion, like giving the red skeleton and flea enemies actual weapons. Nice little changes like those are actually fun to see.
And on gameplay, not much to talk about. Critics have done the comparisons to Devil May Cry, or even God of War, which was released two years later, but it lacks any impact either game had. The point of those games was to amass combos to increase your style meter and gain bonuses. Here, not so much, and you probably won’t be able to pull off anything super special, as you are limited to the whip, Relics, and standard Castlevania sub-weapons. There’s also platforming…oh god, there is platforming. Say, do you remember the old days where falling meant instant death? Thankfully this game is not cruel enough to include that, but thanks a camera that refuses to work for you a lot, this makes the process harder. Not helping are the whip-timing platform puzzles, in which you have to time the whip to hit the pole in order to get to the other side of the area. This will be the part where you will fail a lot if you can’t get the timing down, which is easier said than done, considering the timing tends to suck. There are even time limits, and they are required to advance the game to fight a boss, so you have no choice.
Your armory expands with orbs that actually do change how powerful sub-weapons can be, and even change the attack style. For instance, they very weak and small cross could evolve into a devastating forward blast that can hit multiple enemies; one of the few mechanics I liked, as it lent itself to a large number of possibilities, though you can only carry one sub-weapon at a time. Relics are another form of magic that grant special abilities, but I found a lot of them to not be that useful, as MP requires certain attacks, and this can be a problem in certain boss fights, namely the end boss. Moreover, the number of relics available are very small unless you explore, and they manage to turn that into a chore. Now, a normal Castlevania game would at least have more warp points or it would be quick, but given the nature of this game, you’ll have to keep running past monsters if you want things to get done quickly.
Speaking of that, enemy AI usually follows two paths: rock stupid and slow, or attack attack attack! Sometimes I was actually able to walk right past enemies with no resistance, and other times they could be furiously aggressive. The only real challenge that comes from enemies though is if they manage to corner or surround you, as the delay in attack will always leave you vulnerable. And the camera can only make things, as there is no lock-on button, leaving enemies to go off screen, you finding them, and then proceeding to get swatted away by enemy magic as if you were a fly. Complain as much as I want about Devil May Cry’s camera sometimes, at least the lock-on button helped me out very much. Here, not so much, especially when you are trying to shoot a sub-weapon in a straight line. Couple this with a barebones combat system that has very questionable hit detection, and you are now forced to change equipment and use items in real-time, you get a mess of a game. The best I can say is that it’s playable, but if I can just run past all the monsters with no effort whatsoever after beating a single room, then what’s the point of playing? Yes, if you continue to fight, you will learn more and more useful skills, but it’s not really the same as leveling up, or trying to find new equipment through monster drops. It’s just not as fun as play Devil May Cry, which is actually a better Castlevania ripoff than the actual Castlevania 3D games. Think about it: Dante was in Mundus’ castle, has to fight a series of power enemies, has to go around the castle to find artifacts, weapons, etc, and eventually faces a lord of darkness, aka Mundus. Go ahead and try to tell me if that doesn’t smell the least bit like Castlevania in some form!
Sorry, sorry, back to the game. Anyway, music, one of my absolute favorite parts to any Castlevania game, has mixed results. One hand, it does manage to give a good feel to everything and makes it feel like a Castlevania game, event the sound effects as well. The problem comes with it sometimes not really being fitting during fights, not really getting the player fired up enough for what is going to be an incredible challenge and test of skill. This is made sinful in the last battle, which actually has the music cut out, yet at the same time, I was able to hear it occasionally. Strange, but looking up the OST is about the best recommendation.
Really, the fact is Koonami didn’t do a good job with this game at all, especially if a game like DMC did it better, and years ago, so excuses are kinda weak right now. The good news is that there are plenty of extras, liking finding extra gear, playing as extra characters and in harder modes, and even fighting extra bosses. However, with a combat system that is playable at best, and frustrating and boring at its worst, this is a game you can safely let rot in the bargain bins. The story isn’t even compelling enough, and could have used more improvements, like letting us know more about the characters and connect with them. Sadly, it doesn’t. The game is also extremely short, as I finished it in 6 hours.
Castlevania: Lament of Final–I mean Innocence earns a 2 out of 5.
Hopefully now we can get back to a review of a series I promised over a week ago. And maybe someday, we can get to the infamous reboot game known as Lord of Shadows, maybe.
I’m Final, and it’s a horrible night to have a curse.