Let’s have a round of applause for one of the oldest, most revered and enjoyable series to leap from the off-gray cartridges of the NES to the shiny DVDs of today’s systems: Castlevania. Love it or hate it, this series has been around as long as most of us have loved videogames. Bad games, hell even decent ones, can’t last that long without having something special about them. This is the latest installment of the series.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is the second major attempt to bring the franchise to the 3D realm. A much more determined effort this time, coupled with the ability for Xbox players to get in on the fun, makes it poised to be the most successful. Who isn’t interested in vampires? Who hates action games? Come on, it’s not possible to hate this game; you may not think it’s the best game ever, but the odds are that you’ll enjoy it somewhat.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward—it’s a hack-and-slash game. However, there are some new twists that add a few puzzles and more excitement that keep this game fresh. You can certainly buy weapons and armor at the shop in the mountains, but they all pale in comparison to the items you can forge on your own by combining elements and items that you obtain (or in some cases steal) from enemies. The game won’t tell you what each combination will yield, so some trial and error is par for the course. (You’ll figure that out the first time you try for a battle sword and end up with a wet mop.)
Another reason to stick around and keep slashing your way through the game are the Innocent Devils you can find and forge. These little (or in some cases giant) guys are helpers you can evolve into more powerful and specialized warriors. They all have special abilities that, at one time or another, you will need to proceed in the story. These, like the weapon forging, require a bit of experimenting to harness and focus their abilities.
Honestly, I’ve spent about triple the amount of time I thought I would playing this game. It’s just so fun to build your character and the Innocent Devils. The cutscenes are great, and the ending is spectacular. You run the gamut in this game and get paid off at almost every turn. This is the most fun I’ve had with any Castlevania game ever. (As a side note, I recently bought the original Castlevania for my GBA and I really hate it; those Medusa heads can kiss my ass).
The replay value on this game is hard for me to judge, as everybody has their own level of ADD and some can do things over and over for longer than others. I’ll still play this game and I may even start over, but it’s definitely not getting traded in.
I think this game and Simon’s Quest are the two MUST HAVE games in what is becoming the one of the biggest legacies in gaming.