There are some games that become legendary because of their gameplay, and some games that become legendary because of their main characters. Mario, Sonic and Lara Croft are just three such characters that happen to have both distinctions. While many of these titles eventually become associated with specific systems, others simply become icons of gaming standards. The Castlevania series fits this description. For more than 17 years, the whip-cracking, vampire-destroying action of the Belmont family has kept plenty of gamers awake till the first light of the morning. Now Konami is preparing to take vampire hunters to the start of the series with Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
Unlike other titles in the Castlevania series, Lament of Innocence takes place during a time of extreme chaos. Set during the Crusades of the 11th century, players are introduced to Leon Belmont, an incredibly skilled knight in the service of the Holy Roman Church. Along with his best friend, Mathias Cronqvist, a brilliant military strategist, Leon’s company was known throughout the land as invincible, having never been defeated in combat. However, one day Mathias became bed-ridden after returning to his homeland to mourn the death of his wife. A year later, monster attacks were seen in Leon’s land, but due to prohibitions by the church, Leon was forbidden to return home to protect his people. Disobeying the order, Leon returns and discovers that his fiancé has been kidnapped and dragged to a desolate castle in the Eternal Night forest….
Players pick up the story as Leon tries to track down his beloved Sara and her kidnappers through the enchanted forest. No slouch in the combat arena, Leon has a number of abilities that he’s apparently picked up with his immense combat experience, like the platform standard double jump. However, with the help of Rinaldo Gandolfi, a mysterious man who lives in the woods, Leon acquires the Belmont trademark whip. With the whip, Leon can perform weak or strong attacks, which can quickly be chained into a series of lethal combos. He can also envelop his whip with flame if he attacks while jumping. Perhaps one of the more interesting developments is that Leon can lash the whip at balconies or other outcroppings, providing him access to new areas.
Like other Castlevania stories, the castle itself is almost like a main character in the plot, providing the hordes of monsters that stand in the hero’s way and the final battle. At least 5 massive and distinct areas comprise the stages within Lament of Innocence, ranging from The Cathedral to the Underground Caverns. Fortunately for Leon, he’ll be able to brave these stages with constant help from Rinaldo, who acts like the shopkeeper from previous games, and the classic Castlevania items, such as holy water and crosses. While the one item at a time convention remains, these super-weapons can be augmented throughout the adventure, making them capable of unleashing a horde of damage against enemies or bosses, some of which fill an entire screen.
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is easily going to be a showcase title for PS2 owners. Huge character models, incredibly detailed backgrounds and levels, and amazing animations combine with mouth-watering cutscenes to deliver an amazing visual landscape. This game is so impressive, you’ll expect fog to roll out of the TV screen, and the copy we got was merely preview code. Plus, the voice acting is nicely done, and in a great twist, players have the option to hear the in-game dialog in Japanese as well. Add a huge orchestral soundtrack, and PS2 owners will have a great title to play when it haunts store shelves later this month. Check back soon for a full review!
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