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Castlevania: Lament of Innocence - thoughts?


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#1 of 7 Robert Burkes

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Posted January 03 2004 - 05:15 PM

I picked this up several days ago for $50...of course. I've read mixed reviews of it, so I thought I'd ask you all what you think about the game. Are the levels all that similar? What do y'all think? Is the game worth the new game price? Later!

Rob

#2 of 7 Scott Ware

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Posted January 03 2004 - 06:09 PM

Well, I'm about half way through the game, but from what I've played so far, the levels are all pretty similar. In fact, that's easily the weakest thing about the game. There are five main areas of the castle that you explore. Each area has it's own look. While the five all look different from one another, the rooms within each area are all very similar to the other rooms in the area. You'll be using the map a lot because frankly, the rooms all look so similar that you won't know which part of the castle that you're in.

As for some of the positive things that the game has: The graphics and sound are fantastic. The music, in particular, stands out as some of the best music I've heard in a videogame in years. The combat in the game is repetitive at first, but it gets interesting once you learn some new moves/ combos. The controls are very responsive and easy to use.

I think it's worth the $50 if you're a big Castlevania fan, as I think it does a fantastic job of adapting the gameplay of the earlier games. Unfortunately, the game lacks the RPG elements that Symphony of the Night and the Game Boy Advance Castlevania games had. Even without the RPG elements, it's still a very fun game. It's a shame that the levels are so similar, because that's really the one thing that prevents LoI from being a truely excellent game.

#3 of 7 Romier S

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Posted January 03 2004 - 11:51 PM

I did a writeup for the game when it was originally released here:

Castlevania Impressions

I have subsequently beaten the game and pretty much most of those impressions remain intact. The game is a solid step forward in creating a compelling 3D Castlevania experience. However the level design leaves much to be desired and there are several other areas that still need work. Here is the full text of those impressions for you:

Seriously though, I spent the better part of yesterday playing Castlevania Lament of Innocence. All together I ended up purchasing four games yesterday (Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Crimson Skies and Rebel Strike). Of course the Castlevania fan in me required most of my play time be devoted to Igarashi's latest opus. Thus far, I would have to say that finally, its been proven that Castlevania can be done in the third dimension and it can be done well! Its ashame that I must say so with some reservation as Lament is not without its flaws, some of which can be fatal for all but the most apologetic Castlevania fan (ie mePosted Image).

Please keep in mind that these impressions come to you by way of about 4 hours of play time. I managed to complete the first area of the game (including the first boss and sub-boss) and have made my way well into the second and third sections of the castle.

Lament of Innocence begins with a scrolling text introduction that helps to acquaint the player with Leon Belmont. Along with the current predicament he finds himself in. Leons beloved Sara has been kidnapped by a feared vampire, a minor setback to Leons matrimonial plans. Our latest Belmont decides to give up his title and wealth (His church will not allow him to go after Sara in his current position) to rescue his loved one.

Once you enter the game world, you are greeted with a lengthy opening cut-scene where Leon meets his first ally, a man named Rinaldo Gandolfi. He goes on to explain the origins of the famous whip (known to us fans as the Vampire Killer) as well as why the previous castles in the series seems to have an ample supply of items and hearts. (keep in mind this game is meant to be the first Castlevania, or a prequel if you will).

Its interesting stuff for a hardcore Castlevania fan and its a strong attempt at adding depth and story to what has up until now been a very story "lite" series. Being that I am still early on in the game, we'll have to wait and see whether Igarashi and his team have followed through with the rest of the storyline. The voice acting during this opening sequence is leaps and bounds above that found in Symphony or any other Castlevania title in the past. Its also worth mentioning that Konami Tokyo has wisely added the option for a Japanese language track for those that may have issues with the english dub.

Moving past this opening sequence you get your first taste of controlling Leon Belmont. Anyone that has played Devil May Cry or Rygar The Legendary Adventure for the PS2 should be instantly familiar with how things work here. Leon has the staple strong and weak whip attacks that can easily be combined for more powerful attacks. He can also double jump right from the beginning of the game. Also thanks to a small enchantment from Rinaldo, his gauntlet is able to block enemy attacks as well absorb magical power with each block. This of course ties heavily into the magic system in the game.

Lament of Innocence is quite a bit more structured than the last few Castlevania games. Leon will at first enter the castle's courtyard where he will be met with a "hub" type area. This area will have small platforms that will lead Leon to each individual "world" or "level" of the castle. He must complete the five worlds before he gains access to the main castle area and the final boss world/battle. This will no doubt disappoint those that have played the very open ended GBA Castlevania games or Symphony of the Night. They will feel as though the exploration aspects of the series have been dilluted and they would be right, to an extent.

Its very apparent right off the bat that Lament lacks solid level design. Its a major fault and one that at times can be fatal to an otherwise solid game. The courtyard sets the precedent for the lack of room variety and the first two worlds follow this template to the letter. In fact template is the perfect word to describe the level variety (or lack thereof) in the latest Castlevania title. Each particular section of the castle has its own distinct look that is constantly repeated as if copy and pasted into place. There is a very real sense of deja vu as you explore your surroundings and this is quite problematic to say the least.

Its ashame as there definite moments of variety and greatness. For instance there is room where Leon is required to run along a snaking path of floors that if jumped upon will give way and cause Leon to fall to a lower level of the room where a pack of enemies await. In addition there are three small jewels constantly moving and firing blasts of laser fire at Leon which of course require you to time your runs just perfectly so as to not cause Leon to jump and fall. Its this type of uniqueness and variety that the game lacks as a whole. This example is unfortunately the exception rather than the norm.

The structure of these environments were created to support the games deep combat system. You will move from room to room eliminating creatures in order to find your next objective, be it a switch you need to depress or a key that will unlock a secret door. In this aspect Castlevania shares more than a passing resemblance to Devil May Cry. (which to be fair took its share of inspiration from the Castlevania series).

In talking about the level design I do feel the need to mention the camera. You are no doubt shaking and quaking with fear but thankfully you should not be. The team behind Lament were able to craft a good static camera system very much like that found in (again) Devil May Cry and other titles such as Ico and Rygar. It follows the action superbly and its the perfect camera to use in this type of intensive, combat heavy game. Its only failing is in certain platform scenarios where the camera either has problems keeping up with the player or is far too close for its own good. These are minor frustrations however and to be honest I feel the camera does a damn fine job regardless.

Where Lament does excel is in its combat system which is both deep and very entertaining. Leon is one extremely talented whip toting can of whoop-ass. Every whip action is stylishly animated and the instant targeting system is heavenly. You'll never have a porblem attacking a particular enemy nor shooting off a magic attack in the right direction. You can perform combination moves by alternating button presses between the strong and weak attacks. As you progress through the game you acquire more combo's and special maneuvers which will help you disptach your enemies that much quicker. Most importantly of all the combat system FEELS like Castlevania!

As mentioned earlier this Belmont also has the ability to block enemy attacks, some of which are preceeded by a purple glow which indicates an enemy "special". If Leon blocks this special maneuver he will acquire energy which will refill his magic meter over time. This meter is directly tied into a relic sub-system that gives Leon powerful magic sub-attacks that can clear out rooms of enemies. These relics can be found throughout the castle as well as for sale in a small shop you have access to at any time (which happens to be run by our good friend Rinaldo)

Leon also has access to a myriad of sub weapons that will be familiar to any Castlevania fan out there. The dagger, axe, crystal, cross and more all make appearances and can be combined with colored orbs to create powerful attacks ala the card system in Harmony of Dissonance. These sub-weapons and the combined orb attacks require hearts to use, much the same as the previous games. The orbs can be acquired after defeating the games bosses and several can also be found in Rinaldo's shop.

You are also able to acquire various moves as you explore the castle. These moves have preset conditions that must be met and will give Leon either longer attack strings, perfect block abilities (which give you more magic and hearts) and even air maneuvers. In addition Leon is able to equip various types of armor and accessories and access healing items all in real time while doing combat. The equipment, orb and relic menu's can all be accessed from the start menu or by various button assignments which will pop-up small quick menus. Keep in mind this is all done real time while fighting so you don't get to pause while changing setups.

If you haven't quite wrapped your head around the idea that Castlevania Lament of Innocence has a pretty damned deep and interesting combat system then I haven't done my job yet. Fighting enemies is a stylish dance of joy. The variety of moves, the fantastic animations and the pure fun that can be had fighting the huge library of enemies cannot be overstated. Boss battles are also impressive . I have only been able to experience three of them so far but they are pattern based and the increase in difficutly is noticeable from one boss to the other. Both were suitably impressive and just exude that Castlevania design from start to finish.

All is again not perfect in the world of Dracula however. For some reason Konami removed the experience and levelling system from the previous games which gives Lament an incomplete feeling at times. Most rooms in the game require you to kill all enemies in order to proceed. Makes sense but the problem lies in returning to these rooms as you will find that enemies have automatically respawned and there is very little reason to fight them again. They give no experience or anything useful besides money which is plentiful to begin with and for the most part rarely needed.

Of course you'll want to indulge the games combat system but when you are near a critical point you'll want conserve your health and not bother. Had Konami left the experience system intact it would have added a little more incentive for fighting the games numerous foes more than the one time your required too.

Visually Konami can yet again be proud of what its created. Konami in general is known for taking the Playstation 2 to its very limit, most recently with Silent hill 3 which is one of the most technically impressive games on the system. Castlevania features well defined textures and impressive lighting effects. The particle system implemented here is also very pleasing to the eye producing beautiful spell effects and even a nifty save animation. On the subject of animation Leon moves and reacts wonderfully and on the level of the best action titles out there. From combat actions to his basic running animations, all are transitionally smooth and expressive. Enemy models are almost as impressive as Leon himself. Variety is certainly not an issue here and I'd be lying if I said that its not exhilirating seeing some of my favorite creatures rendered properly in 3D. (Yes you'll turn into a weepy fanboy when you first glance at a fleaman jumping at you! ). I look forward to seeing more as I progress through the game.

As mentioned earlier each section of the castle I've experienced has its own unique look and regardless of the repetition, the texture work and delicate rendering are more than impressive. Unique and detailed texture maps give each area a different atmosphere, which is important in maintaining the well established lore of the Castelvania series.

All in all this is a pleasing visual package that thus far rivals if not surpasses genre front runners like the afformentioned Devil May Cry and Rygar. All of this comes to you at no sacrifice to the framerate. I've yet to notice the game falter in this area and it moves faster than a bat out of Dracula's castle.

Musically this is almost at the level of brilliance that Symphony of the Night was and that is high praise indeed. Michiru Yamane has completely outdone herself here. Glorious symphonies, followed by rough and tumble techno tracks with even more lovely sonata's in between. A musical tour de force that needs to be heard by any gamer out there. Do yourself a favor and track down the promo CD for this game at your local EB or download it from my thread. You'll be happy you did as it is one of the best soundtracks committed to a game in years.

Sound effects are all well done and include many Castlevania mainstays such as the heart pickup sounds and the whip slashing. Its all very high quality and adds to the atmosphere.

Here we are at the end, and after all this Im sure your wondering if this game is for you. Will the level design be too much for you? Will you be able to look past the problems? I don't want to give a final say on that as I'm not done with the game as of yet. I will say that as of now if you are a fan of the Castlevania games you proabaly won't do wrong by giving this a buy. The game has undeniable flaws but even then I am still enjoying it and most importantly this FEELS like Castlevania in 3D. Even with the design problems this is far better than both of the N64 games combined. I'm really having a great time with it and am willing to look past the flaws to get to the heart of the gameplay which is the extremely fun combat system. I'll have more when I finish the game along with a final review and recommendations. Thanks for reading.

#4 of 7 Chris Farmer

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Posted January 04 2004 - 06:59 AM

Lament of Innocence is a good but flawed game. It doesn't shoot for the moon, nor does it reach it, but it's a hell of a ride for what it is.

First, the good. this game FEELS like Castlevania in 3D. The use of the whip, the enemies, the castle appearance, everything about the game oozes that Castlevania style.

The combat system is overly simplistic at first, but by the time you've cleared the first of the five areas you'll be in good shape. The whip attacks are expertly handled, with you being able to string together longer and longer combos of hits that feel perfect for the whip. In addition, as you progress through the game you pick up "orbs" that can be attached to your subweapons to power them up with different styles of attack. This system is almost identical to the one from Harmony of Dissonance on the GBA, but it seemed to work much better to me. Trying out the different methods of mayhem the subweapon/orb combos allow you to wreak is lots of fun, and some of the combinations, while expensive in heart, wreak truly devastating effects on enemies. There's decidedly more focus on fighting in this game then the 2D GBA platformers, but for the 3D castle, this feels appropriate. Had the combat system not worked, the entire game would have fallen apart.

The music is absolutely incredible, just gorgeous, and some of the best I've ever heard in a game. The graphics are also very well done, with movement of both Leon and enemies being fluid and realistic, with only a few clipping errors such as a cloak moving through legs.

The story does a very effective job of laying out the origins of the Belmont Clan, the Hunter Whip, the castle, where all the weapons lying around come from, etc.


The not so good: The level design leaves much to be desired. The castle has six distinct areas plus a main foyer, five of which are immediately accessible. Each area has a unique graphical and musical style that is both appropriate and highly differentiated from each other, and most of the are recognizable as being quite similar to areas in other CV games. The garden, chapel, waterway, and theater areas are all present. The only problem is while the areas are different from each other, within an area it's a painful degree of similarity. Several rooms feel like a copy and paste effort, and this is where the combat is. The connecting hallways are even more bland. Yes, they look gorgeous, but you can only pass the same stained glass windows so many times before you wish for a change.

This also leads into my other big complaint with the game. It's too action focused. While the combat system is incredibly well realized, there's too much of it and not enough platforming. I would have killed for a machine tower area with its moving platforms, spiked walls, and crushing gears. There are a few rooms that require good jumping skills and they're lots of fun, but there's not nearly enough of it. Most of the areas have multiple levels, but the switch is made at designated staircases, there's not the constant up and down motion of the 2D games.

Less of an issue, but still real, is the near total lack of RPG elements. New whip moves are based on number of different kinds of enemies you've killed plus bosses, hit point, hearts, and magic are increased only by upgrades you find throughout the castle. there's no levelling element whatsoever. While on the one hand, this reduces time spent levelling up so you can approach the next area and not get killed after only two hits, and also allows for the first five areas to be attacked in any order, this does takes depth from the gameplay. While you're substantially more powerful at the end of the game then you were in the beginning, you're not the force of nature you are in the 2D games, killing many enemies in a single hit.

So, it depends on what you're looking for. Lament of Innocence is no questions a Castlevania game in 3D, with gorgeous music, great graphics, and a top-notch combat system. It's a good action title. However, the similarity of the different rooms does hurt the game, and it's not nearly as in-depth as the 2D games. It's also not all that long, it took me about 10-12 hours to finish the first time through, and that was finding almost everything. There is a hard mode and two hidden characters to add to the replayability though if you so desire. It was definitely worth the $50 to me, but I'm not sure what you'll think yourself.

Either way, it definitely is a great start to a 3D CV series, I just hope to see a better castle in the next game.

#5 of 7 Ryan_TD

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Posted January 15 2004 - 05:07 PM

I originally posted how dissapointed i was with this game.
i gave it another chance and i've got to say i'm very glad that i did. i think getting over the initial shock of playing this in 3d and getting the controls down it is a fun game. in fact i've beat it twice to unlock two extra characters.
definately worth it if you are a fan of the castlevania series........
and yes, the music is incredible. after you play for a couple of days, the music STAYS with you. timeless.
"One thing about livin' in Santa Carla I never could stomach...all the damn vampires..."

#6 of 7 JamesH

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Posted January 16 2004 - 01:38 AM

I thought it was an average Devil May Cry clone with not much to distance it from the pack. I got it for $33.33 on the TRU deal and I wish I’d have purchased it when it was in the $15-$20 range. Not to say it’s a bad game, since all elements are executed competently, but it feels very generic. The experience system from SOTN wouldn’t have been tough to implement and it would have added a lot to the game. It seems futile to have so much backtracking without any purpose, but leveling up during the process would have made it a lot easier to swallow. It’s also on the short side, which is OK, but a game of this length should be 100% action with no backtracking. I thought this might have been the game to knock DMC off its throne when I sized it up during prerelease but it obviously wasn’t. Then again, even Capcom hasn’t surpassed its own creation. If you want a hack and slash that stands out and does something different from the pack, I recommend Zone of the Enders 2. It’s also a short game, but I guarantee you’ll never be bored while playing it.

#7 of 7 Chris Farmer

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Posted January 16 2004 - 05:23 AM

So Robert, did you end up keeping it?