Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
By: Tristan Jones on November 9, 2005  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Konami
Players: 1
Year: 2005
OFLC Rating: M
Castlevania is the father of horror gaming. That's not to say it's scary (8-bit character sprites will probably only scare today's generation of kids where even the lowest of today's consoles are better than the last generation's best), but Castlevania was probably the progenitor for most horror titles that have become available since. The earlier Castlevania games have gone on to become true classics, as have some of the more recent ones in their own rights, but unfortunately, like every long running game series, there is always a lull. A lot of people will point their fingers at the Nintendo 64's seriously underrated entry into the series, however, the true gold coated turd in the long running Castlevania saga, is definitely Lament of Innocence.

Those familiar with the Castlevania series (whose fan base is as rabid as Silent Hill's) will know who Koji (IGA) Igarashi is. This was the man behind PlayStation 1's phenomenal Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and supposedly God to a large number of Castlevania fans. Well, he was also the man behind this little number, along with two of the weaker Gameboy Advance titles. Lament of Innocence attempted to take what worked in the two-dimensional games and translate it to the third dimension. It failed, miserably.

Set before all the other titles in the series, you play as Leon Belmont, the first of the Belmont's to fall victim to Dracula's curse. As a knight in the Great Crusades, Leon returns home from his travels to find is wife Sarah has disappeared. Friend and fellow knight Mathias Cronqvist tells Leon of a Vampire living within the heart of the nearby woodlands. Dutifully, Leon heads out to these woods, and before the game even kicks off; we are privy to a cut scene that explains exactly how the Belmont Clan acquired its famous whip. It all seems a little bit slapdash, comparable to the very first game; where it's simply a matter of "Go and kill Dracula", but the twist at the end is a very nice little set up for the other games. I won't give too much away, but it revolves around the fact that you do not come up against Dracula at all in this game…

However, you do come up against the standard menagerie of Castlevania enemies. All the classics are there and repeated constantly with varying colour schemes to help differentiate a Zombie from a Ghoul and a Gargoyle from a Demon. Do you see where I'm going with this one? That's right, our good old friend Repetition rears his horrendously lazy head and decides to stay for the whole show. Which is a huge shame in every sense of the word, because Lament of Innocence really showed some potential.

The hi-res visuals are superb and the smoothest of smooth frame rates help carry what are some of the best graphics I've seen on the Playstation 2 so far. Fabrics flow like water, and character animations are realistic and never overdone. Like Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube, all the cut scenes are in real time and manage to maintain excellent continuity with the playing experience, the problem is, the playing experience is really, really lacklustre.

What begins well quickly becomes one momentous dungeon crawl and because each room is linked needlessly with long corridors that are all identical to each other, you find yourself getting lost very quickly. There is also little difference between each major room you enter, general layout aside, the aesthetics are exactly the same from room to room. Now, I can deal with repetitious enemies in games like this, but when the levels all look the same, it really is a problem. After killing off the first couple of bosses, I kept thinking back to Gauntlet Legends (available on Nintendo 64, PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast), which, although it was repetitious, was simple enough and had such well designed levels that none of that really mattered and you could sit for hours on end tearing your way through never-ending hordes of enemies. I think this is where Lament of Innocence really missed the mark.

Playing as Leon, you can advance your skills and powers by gaining experience points though battling enemies and collecting hidden treasures throughout the castle. You can also combine weapons and powers and draw powers from your enemies to boost your own, but it's an overly complex character system for a game as straightforward as this one. While it worked superbly for Symphony of the Night, it really isn't that necessary in this one. It's as though the game is stuck between Gauntlet and Symphony and refuses to make up its mind as to what it should be. If the level and play mechanics had been as complex as the character system, I'm pretty sure this would've been a far more enjoyable gaming experience. Likewise, if it had've been stripped back to the bare essentials it would've been far more akin to it's retro brethren, and probably as enjoyable as either them or Gauntlet.

Simon's Quest, the second Castlevania game to be released back in the good ol' NES days has more depth to it than this one, and less annoying repetition. The producers wanted to push Castlevania into the world of 3D, but really didn't push far enough and the result is an awkward and ultimately boring blemish to the Castlevania franchise. Two stars; one for the graphics and the other for the twist ending.
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