reviews\ Oct 26, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence - PS2 - Review

Gamers have been longing for the Castlevania series to evolve ever since PSone and Nintendo 64 led classic games into the third dimension.  Their longing only led to lamentation when the first attempt to evolve the series failed, followed by the cancellation of all future Castlevania games (including one in development for Sega's last game console, the acclaimed Dreamcast).

The series saw a rebirth on the Game Boy Advance with Circle of the Moon and two stellar sequels.  Those games were in 2D and were arguably better than the original titles released more than a decade ago.  This got smart gamers thinking: if Konami can still improve upon the 2D formula, isn't it possible to bring this game into the third dimension?  Isn't it possible to take everything you know and everything you've learned and create a new kind of Castlevania adventure?  In Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, the series' first true foray into 3D action, gamers will discover that the answer to their question is yes.

Capcom's mighty popular Devil May Cry series has led most developers to take a second look at their own games.  Or it could be a mere coincidence.  But the basic controls in this game, like the controls in many other games, are very much a re-creation of DMC.  This almost seemed to hurt the game at first, but then I happen to bump the right analog stick.  Disappointingly, the camera is pre-positioned.  It'll move with your character, but that's far as it goes.  However, Konami delegated other actions to the right stick: item usage.  At any time during the game you can tap the right analog stick in any direction to bring up an items window.  From there you can select any item you wish, like a potion, which will come in handy when the unbreakable skeletons are kicking the bones out of you.  Similarly, you can hold down the left shoulder buttons to bring up one of two circular menus.  From there you can use the right stick to circle the menu and quickly choose which relic to use.

That's basic stuff, but the whole game feels basic until you're about 30 minutes into a castle.  You can choose from one of five castles to explore and can leave and return to them at any time!  The castles have a fairly basic layout; not too much climbing, and the puzzles aren't too difficult.  However, the enemies are tough – VERY tough!  They'll come at you in droves, and unlike the idiotic movie ninjas who kindly wait for the superhero to kill the first bunch before attacking, these enemies will not hesitate to go for the kill.  They'll attack at any time, regardless of how many bats, zombies, or werewolves are already in the process of slaughtering you.

Despite feeling surrounded by evil, the game does not give off that typically cheap gameplay feeling.  It's challenging, but it's a real challenge, one that you know you can beat, it's just a matter of how quick you are, and how many times you're willing to drag yourself to a save point.  Because you know that if you don't, you'll eventually die, and all that experience gained is wasted.  If you're going to let that continue you might as well throw in the towel right now.  Why you'd want to do that is beyond me, but some gamers just aren't relentless enough.

The combo system is simple, but very cool.  Try an air combo on for size – just tap the SQUARE button a few times to "whip" your enemies into shape.  The combo requirements are the same on the ground, but there are more options.  You could tap the TRIANGLE button three times to unleash a stronger combo.  This combo is slow, but the whip is swung around a few times, hitting any enemy within a short radius.  For a faster, but still devastating combo, you could press SQUARE twice, TRIANGLE once, unleashing a powerful blast that knocks enemies backward.  There are many other attack moves and combos – including a fiery lunge kick – but you'd be better off discovering them on your own.  It's a lot more fun that way.

Without giving too much away, the projectile items must be mentioned.  The projectiles are here, including the knives, axes and holy water, and they're really fun to use.  Guiding them in the third dimension isn't as hard as you may think.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence will make gamers cry tears of joy.  It's a lovable, enjoyable game that, while not quite perfect, is clearly a classic.  It's almost as good as Aria of Sorrow.  The killer action is the draw, but you'll be really impressed by all that Konami has done with the controls.  The enemies are hard enough to beat that you almost definitely will not plow through this game in one all-night session.  Keep in mind though: as deep and lengthy as the previous Castlevania games seemed (6-10 hours), when compared with 3D titles they were relatively short.  Lament of Innocence is more like its predecessors: short but sweet.  Well worth the purchase, and packed with hours of replay value.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 9
Devil May Castlevania.  That's what you could call this game.  It wouldn't be an entirely incorrect label, considering how the controls are very similar and all.  However, it wouldn't be fair to label this game that way.  Outside of the basic control movement (jumping, etc.), nothing is the same.


There are orbs to collect, new skills to learn, awesome combos to perform, and helpful relics to obtain.  At first the game seems very basic – like a toned down version of Castlevania.  Start pressing some buttons and you'll see that is not the case.  Who would have thought that Konami would still find a number of uses for the analog stick, which does not control the camera but activates items instead.  (The camera is pre-set like Resident Evil: CODE Veronica, only less dynamic).


As much as I was looking forward to this game, I was worried about Konami's ability to re-create the battles in 3D.  Thankfully, they did it with near-perfection!  The new combo system adds so much to the game – it makes the old single-hit whipping of the old Castlevania games seem light-years behind Lament of Innocence.

Graphics: 8
It may control like Devil May Cry, but Lament of Innocence sure don't look like it.  Don't get me wrong, the graphics are pretty.  The character detail and background textures are good but they scream yesterday.  Yesterday is long gone, we need to move forward, and so do the graphics in video games.

Sound: 8
Lament of Innocence will treat its players to some of the best, most subtle music they've heard all year.  Each song is distinct, but several of them have a joining sound that ties them to this game.  You couldn't play Lament of Innocence for an extended period of time, hear one of those songs and not recognize it.

For more on the music of Lament of Innocence, Aria of Sorrow and Symphony of the Night, check out GameZone Online's review of the Castlevania Music Sampler (Limited Edition).

This game has terrible voice acting though.  The story has never been a selling point for me, but now that the game is on PlayStation 2 competing with big-budget titles, it shouldn't have a story that belongs in a cheesy movie sequel.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
Castlevania still remains the hardest when played from a 2D perspective, but this 3D iteration packs a challenging punch.

Concept: 8.7
They finally did it.  Because of the close relation to Devil May Cry, it's not so much the base concept that made this game score big.  The transition from 2D to 3D is never an easy one, and it's even harder to maintain the classic gameplay feel in a 3D game.  Castlevania: Lament of Innocence maintains that feel.

Overall: 9
If you've shed a bucket full of tears, wishing for a 3D Castlevania game that lived up to its name, you'd better dry your eyes, 'cause Konami has finally done it.  The gameplay is combo-rific.  You'll actually enjoy dying!  The enemies keep coming, and you keep fighting, but eventually they win out.  And it never feels cheap.

The replay value is really high – easily a 9 out of 10.  So if you like games that are fun to play AFTER they're over, grab yourself a whip and start swingin'.  Castlevania is here to stay.  Let's all gather around the TV this Halloween and enjoy the gaming goodness.


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