Castlevania: Curse of Darkness – Review PS2 - Konami
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness ('COD') is the second 3-D outing of Konami's legendary series on the PS2. The previous instalment, Lament of Innocence, was an above average action adventure which was generally well received by the hard to please fans of the Castlevania legacy. A number of notable changes have been made in COD but are they for the better or is this just a routine update of the previous game?? Let's check it out……
As is usual for Castlevania the games do not follow a strict timeline. As such COD is set 3 years after events in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. In Castelvania III Dracula placed a curse on his castle and the surrounding region. This resulted in Trevor Belmont taking on the Lord of Darkness to free the town and its inhabitants. Although Trevor defeated Dracula the curse remained unbroken leading to the timeframe for COD.
You begin the story not as one of the seemingly never ending Belmont clan but as a devil forgemaster Hector. Hector, tired in the service of Dracula decides to leave and live with the human villagers; he falls in love with a beautiful woman named Rosaly where they live in bliss. For some reason the towns people suddenly become convinced that Rosaly is a witch, hunt her down and murder her sending Hector into a blind rage. He decides to confront the one person he feels is responsible for the rumours; Isaac, Dracula's other devil forgemaster. Thus setting the scene for the entire game with your objective to hunt Isaac and exact your revenge.
The story is pretty good, cutscences introduce you to numerous characters with the story holding one or two twists to keep you interested throughout.
I was a little disappointed with the graphics in COD, not because they are by any means bad but mainly as there is almost no improvement from graphics in Lament of Innocence. While I know that you can't expect huge graphical advancements to be made at the end of the ageing PS2s lifespan it appears as though the same graphics engine has been used. The character models are well animated and fit well with the gothic/mediaeval style and your various IDs and bosses within the game all move well and are imaginatively designed. However while these characters seem well done the bog standard enemies that populate the levels, (the ones that you will be seeing a whole lot of), seem a bit bland – also there appears to be a lot less enemy types than the previous game which means that you do get bored of seeing endless skeleton warriors.
The scenery in the game does vary more than in the previous game as you actually get to venture outside the castle however again scenery and colour scheme is a little bland throughout.
Overall graphics are decent for this type of game but if you have played Lament of Innocence don't expect anything new.
The voice acting in COD is high quality as is usual with Castlevania; the cut-scenes are well directed and the main villain of the story, Isaac, is definitely on of the campest and most chilling villains you will encounter. All weapon effects sound realistic and background music changes from haunting classical pieces to gothic techno when the battles kick-off all fitting with the setting.
This is a very difficult category to judge as it seems that while a number of great features and changes have been added to the game since its predecessor, at the same time some of the more enjoyable aspects have been taken away.
The game follows the same hack and slash adventure format as expected from a Castlevania game; you trawl through a level dismembering everything in your path to eventually face off with a powerful boss character. One of the main improvements in COD is the reintroduction of an RPG/levelling element whereby your stats increase as you gain experience – hence you are given a reason and incentive to actually clear every room when exploring/backtracking. As well as levelling up Hector, you are also to upgrade your weapons and armour by combining the various metals you collect from your fallen foes, again giving you reason to savage the masses of undead that attack you. Whereas in Lament of Innocence Leon Belmont could only wield a whip, Hector has access to numerous types of weapon including swords, spears, axes and knuckle dusters, all of which handle differently and have different effects and affinities with each enemy and also dictate the colour of evolution crystal dropped. Therefore you are encouraged to try out all of the weapons available to more easily defeat foes and level up your I.D. the way you want. My only gripe with the weapons is that while the combos for each weapon look different, many of the button presses are the same, which can lead to a lot of repetition.
Another major improvement is the introduction of the innocent devils (IDs), essentially an array of sidekicks which you utilise and evolve/level throughout the quest. The way you evolve each ID is entirely up to you based on the type of Evo crystals you collect and assign. Each ID has different abilities and uses and will prove invaluable in completing your main objectives and also accessing some of the secret areas throughout the game. Managing your team of IDs can prove tricky but again it adds to the RPG aspect of the game.
On the downside the levels seem a lot less inspired – all rooms are on one level and the platforming/jumping element has been removed. If anything this further adds to the repetitive nature of the game whereas it acted as a bit of a respite in the previous instalment. Also removed is the active inventory system that enabled you to select and use items in real time – this made for nail-biting moments in boss fights as you scrambled for your last potion before you died. COD has reverted to the tried and tested menu system which makes the game slightly easier but does rob the gamer of a few tense situations. Another downside is the in game camera, often the scourge of the 3-D adventure game, at times the camera fails to keep up with the action and can leave you struggling to see what is rapidly draining your life – this can be very frustrating.
The controls in the game are standard for this genre and consistent with most Castlevania games – you have a normal attack button, finishing attack and jump. The left analogue stick is to move Hector and the right controls the camera. You also have a new lock on feature but I found that it is only useful when you want to steal an item from a specific enemy – it is better to fight enemies without using it.
The game offers a decent challenge, the main story will probably take around 7-8 hours however there are some extra challenging areas to visit and super bosses if you feel up to it which may require you to level up to God like status before you even try. Also on completion of the game there are a couple of secret characters with which you can replay the game who each play in very different ways to Hector. Overall not too difficult but a challenge is there if you want it!
I am a huge fan of Castlevania; it is one of the truly legendary gaming series that has produced classic games for over two decades. COD is by no means a classic but is a fun adventure that in some ways improves over the previous PS2 title Lament of Innocence. The story is a good romp through the Castlevania universe introducing some exciting new characters (and a few old ones!) along the way. However the gameplay does become repetitive and for me does not take enough steps forward from the previous game as it maybe should have. As such my rating for the game is………………………………………………….
7 out of 10
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