Saturday, March 1, 2014

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PlayStation 2) Review

This review has spoilers but it has been 10 years since this came out, so who gives a shit?

Castlevania's storyline covers several centuries, because every 100 years there's yet another Belmont to take on Dracula. Until Koji Igarashi took the reigns, the series' beginning was 1450 when a female Belmont (!), Sonia, took on Dracula for the first time. After Igarashi retconned a fair amount of games, seemingly without any rhyme or reason in some cases, Lament of Innocence came out and placed the series' origins in 1094. This was intended to be the true starting point, showing the origin of the Dracula and explaining why the Belmonts constantly clash with him. It's a pretty lofty goal.

Such gothic. Very melodrama. Wow.

So, does it succeed? Not at all. 

That isn't to say it's a bad game, though. You would probably expect this game to be pretty story heavy, but it's about on-par with the majority of the Igarashi Castlevanias. The entire set-up for the game is in the manual. If you don't have the manual, you're pretty shit out of luck when it comes to the story. It's archaic in the worst way. There is an intro to the game which consists of scrolling text and some voice over, but it doesn't get you up to speed very well. You play as Leon Belmont, who has ventured out to Dracula's Walter Bernhard's castle. Bernhard is a vampire who has taken Leon's (wife? girlfriend?) Sara hostage. Your friend Mathis Cronqvist has told you about this, but you won't see him until the end of the game. Some friend, right?

So, you meet a shop keeper (Rinaldo) who gives you the Whip of Alchemy and fails to tell you any other useful information. Rinaldo seems to be doing his best to be a dick, dishing out tiny amounts of information when it's absolutely 100% vital for you to know it.

Need to know basis, motherfucker.

Anyways, you set off into the castle and that's where the story ends (for the most part). The castle is broken up into sub-areas, each with their own boss. Occasionally a boss will say something cryptic, which Rinaldo might elaborate on a tiny bit, but nothing advances the plot. 

Let's talk about the gameplay for a bit. Similar to other Igarashi Castlevania games (with the exception of Order of Ecclesia, which sucked infinite dicks), this game is a cakewalk. I think I died maybe three times, two of which came on the final boss. One thing that baffled me about the game is that you have basically no character progression. There's a few (maybe 10-15) combos you get late in the game that really expand your arsenal and improve gameplay, but by then it's too little, too late. There is some kind of orb power-up system, but it's so useless and irrelevant that you could make your way through the game being entirely unaware of its existence. Aside from your whip, you get the typical sub-weapons like holy water, axes and daggers. The orbs are actually cool when combined with the sub-weapons, and power them up quite a bit. However, the orb and sub-weapon combo is basically just for that Raiders of the Lost Ark moment where you don't want to waste time fighting a room of enemies.

To hell with this.

Lament of Innocence tries to have some permanent power-ups, like other Igarashi titles, but it fails. Backtracking is tedious because the castle is pretty boring. Long bland halls join similar rooms. It's enough of a chore seeing the same environment over and over one time, backtracking without warp points? Unbearable.

Anyways, once you clear out all of the castle's sub-areas, you get Sara back from Drac...Bernhard. She's in the process of becoming a vampire, so Rinaldo basically goes "kill that bitch to power up your whip, yo." Leon goes "aight, no big deal braj," her soul gets sucked into the Whip of Alchemy and it becomes the legendary Vampire Killer. Sort of a cool origin story for the whip in an otherwise bland game.

Anyhow, Leon ventures back into the castle and kills totally not Dracula. Then, this old friend Mathias shows up and he's a vampire now. He sucks up Dracu-Walter's soul and becomes Dracula. 

This turn of events has basically no emotional impact because you've never even seen Mathias until now. So, Mathula runs off and makes you fight Death because Igarashi clearly had no idea how to write a good story for this situation. You finish off Death, and then this happens:


And...we give a fuck why? Seriously, this is the worst possible origin story ever. On top of that, it makes no sense. You're trying to tell me that in 1000 years of fighting Dracula, not a single Belmont just went "you know what...I'm not going to be a vampire hunter." That would've been all it took. Let's take a deeper look at the implications of this story;

1. This 1000 year feud is because Leon's (girlfriend? wife?) something died. Several generations of Belmonts dedicated their lives to training and killing vampires just because of this.

2. Leon didn't even care that much. For the Belmont bloodline to continue, he had to have a child with someone else. Unless he already had a son with Sara. Either way, we don't know. That's sort of an important detail.

3. Guyliner.

I'm aware that the Belmonts sort of did say "why the fuck do we care?" in the 1800s, but before Igarashi retconned the Nintendo 64 Castlevania, Reinhardt Schneider actually was a Belmont, who didn't take the name. So, without that game being removed from the timeline, that's a lot of people who went "Dracula did what? I'mma get that punk" for 1000 years.


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