Thursday, February 6, 2014

What is a Castlevania?

February sees the sequel to Castlevania Lords of Shadow, which is named as you might expect, Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 .  That being said I wanted to take a minute to talk about this game and Castlevania in 3D.  Ever since Castlevania 64 and its much more complete director's cut edition, Legacy of Darkness were released, fans have been divided about CV in 3D. I personally think that Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness are two of the best games in the series, and was an honest projection of the games' atmosphere into 3D.  The two CV games on the PS2 Lament of Innocence, and Curse of Darkness were great games in their own right, and important additions to the CV Canon, but sadly they are more dungeon crawlers than they are Castlevania.

If you think about the old games you had a hero (usually a Belmont) fighting his way through the Castle and countryside to reach Dracula and defeat him, and that's exactly what CV64 and LOD did. Both games featured stages with very distinct themes, and the 64 games had very distinct stages, with memorable set pieces. I'd also like to point out that the amount of things you can use the "check" feature on and get descriptions of is mind boggling. The developers definitely wanted to put some detail and personality in to the characters. It seems like every so often when I play the game I find some other random object you can click on and get a description, everything from chairs to "the mechanism that opens the portcullis" gets some little snippet of text giving your character's musing on it.  Some of the common complaints you hear about the N64 games is that the camera was bad, or the controls wonky, but having played them both all the way through numerous times I can honestly say the camera was never more than a minor annoyance, and in a time when 3D gaming, and 3D platformers were just getting off the ground I think that any annoyances with CV64 and LOD's camera was no greater than any annoyance you would find any of the other early 3D platformers on the N64 or PS1 at the time.

And don't try to tell me the controls were an issue. Have you played Castlevania 1, 3 or Belmont's Revenge? These are all considered high lights of the series, but the controls are far far from smooth. Not to say that they are bad, but in each one the control of the character was something that had to be mastered. Belmonts and their friends have always moved in less than agile ways, and mastering that was a part of the reward to the game. Once you got to know the controls and how they worked it was no longer hard to dodge enemy attacks, no you had everything you need it was just about thinking carefully how to use it.

Finally I get to talking about Lords of Shadow 2 and what it has to do with all of this. I was very excited for the first game and made the mistake of being very hyped for it, resulting in an excruciating wait for the game's release years ago. This time I have kind of distanced myself from the game and the hype so that I go in fresh not knowing what to expect.  I wasn't one of the types that felt that LOS wasn't a real CV game, because I felt it was, just in a different light.  A lot of people were saying around the release of LOS that they hoped it wasn't a "mistake" like the N64 games supposedly were. Ironically I think that Lords of Shadow 2 may end up being more like the N64 games after all.   The developers have told us that LOS2 takes place in an open world, which interestingly enough is how Castlevania 64 was first envisioned. You had to travel the countryside and the castle to make it to the final confrontation. It had multiple characters, and a freer roam feel to it than any Castlevania had ever had before Symphony of the Night changed the series game play style.  Also I view the plot of the N64 games to be some of the deepest the series has to offer as far as plot twist and back-story.  The whole atmosphere with the plot to ensnare Cornell's wolf spirit and the involvement of Gille de Rais and Actrise was all perhaps a bit campy but as far as CV games were concerned with it was daggum William Faulkner.  Lords of Shadow has done a great job of setting up a new CV lore and setting with a mere 3 games to work with as opposed to mainline CV's some 20 canon games released from the span of the 80s to now.  The reveal that the final scene in LOD 1 was taking place in the present day was quite a jolt to me. A storyline kind of jolt I had never got from another CV game, and I hope that Lords of Shadow 2 will continue to build on that kind of revelation.

My face when at the end of Lords of Shadow 2 you find out that the whole thing took place in modern day all along and that they were using water to fight the monsters because Gabriel was a ghost all along.