Castlevania PS2 Review

People must love Castlevania, it began life in the 8-bit days and is still generating enough public interest to give the world more sequels even after all these years. As for moving with the raging rivers of time, Castlevania has only had a couple of 3D outings on the N64, but were met by a mixed reception. Hoping to put this right and readdress the real significance of a 3D version, Konami went back to the drawing board.

This title is in fact a prequel to earlier games in the series and sees Leon Belmont (the first vampire hunting Belmont) having to go on a quest to rescue the woman he is engaged to. Long standing fans of the series will feel an emotional connection to the game as it tries to deliver and explore more back-story to this almost immortal of sagas. Too bad that the voice acting is beyond terrible and the script is as equally appalling. We found ourselves in fits of laughter over some of the cheesy tones and the sometimes overly dramatic music during these scenes. For the most part the in-game music is pretty memorable and very fitting to the game.

The best interests here were to create a Castlevania title that stayed true to the 2D game formula, but all played out in glorious 3D. In many ways they have succeeded and in others they haven’t. The famous whip has been kept nicely intact and is a valuable tool for combat and platforming situations. Making your way across various jumps is all about timing and unleashing your whip precisely and is actually more enjoyable (and a hell of a lot easier) then it may sound, it’s the combat that really stands out though.

Utilising your whip and making your enemies taste it, is a beautiful thing to view. The fluid animation exploits a weapon that almost drips with style, and we wonder why such a whip hasn’t appeared in many games before. The whip allows you to string combos together for devastating damage and the more experience you gain the more helpful combos and special abilities you are likely to earn, ranging from attack to special evasion manoeuvres. There are different elemental whips to be found and presents you an easier time if a specific enemy has a weakness to your newfound trophy.

A vast array of sub attacks can be used to great effect, getting you out of some tight situations. You have your sub weapons, relics and orbs, which are key if your health is depleting rather fast or would rather pass up a full frontal assault. These can be found or earned after encountering a boss and beating it. You may find yourself at a preferable range, what better way to sneakily get some long-range cheap shots in with throwing, daggers and axes or getting more up close and personal, lashing out with your whip and branding out bonus damage with sub weapons. The sub weapons themselves can be combined with the different coloured orbs you obtain, which then deal out huge amounts of damage upon your foes. Naturally this all comes at the price of getting nearer to exhausting your MP and hearts, but handily these hearts appear around the locations when you are running low on them.

The item management system is very intuitive, whilst you can’t use items when you pause the game you are able to open a menu with the right analog stick. This keeps the game moving at a frantic pace and abrupt interruptions are a rarity. It’s most welcome, although if you are in dire need of an item during a boss battle, controlling Leon out of harms way as well as speedily scrolling to your intended item does feel rather cumbersome, although the last selected item is always kept in the memory, so for example: those potions can quickly heal those wounds if already selected.

After you meet the mysterious alchemist, Rinaldo (who you can later buy helpful items from) you are then able to journey into the castle. Wanting to be a game that isn’t feared by those who had stopped holding their mothers hand a long time ago, Castlevania tries its best to stray from linear action game territory. This is why you have the option of five locations to choose from (with a sixth and final one available after completion of the first five), true, for full exploration you may have to jump from one to the other but the real budding explorers will have nothing to complain about here. Also notable is some rather ripe replay value, with plenty of secrets to find and an insane difficulty level to unlock and play through.

Each of the six locations are pleasingly varied, but sadly after playing for a bit we came to the miserable realisation that when we were making our way through a specific location, we saw the same corridors more than once. This angered us, as the game became nothing more than an annoying and perplexing maze, making wandering around a chore. The samey long-drawn out corridors seem endless and we would be pushed to say that this wasn’t lazy design, because, simply put, it is. The lack of jumping sections is also a major shame, and more of these could have done wonders to the game.

The confusion of the labyrinths did subside after the discovery of the map, which as gaming maps go, is genuinely helpful. Konami also seemed to guess that gamers could do with a little bit of help and gives you the freedom to interact with the map and place a number of markers in areas, which may be prominent to proceeding. Your search ratio is also greatly in scope at the top of the map, and this does help a great deal. Still, having to refer to the map every few minutes or so can be a tad annoying, although it is one of the games major saviours.

Castlevania is a decent game, all the fundaments are in place, and even in 3D it still is obviously a Castlevania game. It’s just a shame that the corridors start rapidly repeating themselves, and the questionable lack of platforming sections is also a downer. We aren’t denying that we didn’t mostly enjoy this, because we did, it just happens to feel a bit degraded in comparison to its older 2D siblings.