Title: Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Developer: Konami
Platform: Sony PlayStation 2
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date*: 10/21/03 - NA, 11/27/03 - JP, 02/13/04 - EU

Story
First things first, most Castlevania titles seem to have the same general plot. Dracula returns, and whichever random Belmont you happen to be controlling must destroy him. Lament of Innocence, however, is different. The story does wonders to explain some of the foibles of the series. Questions from the series answered include: Why do the Belmonts use a whip? Why are there always power-ups scattered about the castle? Why do the Belmonts hate creatures of the night?

Also, this game has a good enough story to stand on its own. One needs no prior knowledge of the Castlevania series to enjoy this game. This is partly because the story-telling is good and partly because this title is, chronologically, the first chapter of the Castlevania saga.

Gameplay
3-D action games are a tough beast to control well, but Konami put together a reasonable control system. There is one strong pro and one strong con to the control system, in my opinion.

Pros: The controls are responsive and natural. I never forgot what a button did, and every control is quick to respond except for block (assigned by default to R1 and/or R2 shoulder button). My perceived unresponsiveness of the block command, however, is probably because I only realized I should block when I was in the middle of a combination attack. Speaking of combo attacks, the combos in LoI are easy to remember and easy to implement (as opposed to Devil May Cry, which I had to play on Easy Mode to complete because I couldn't get a hang of the combat system). All attacks and combos make use of the Square and Triangle buttons. Square executes a light attack, and Triangle executes a heavy attack. Light attacks are fast and weak; heavy attacks are slow and strong.

Cons: Only being able use items in real-time makes sense. You can't pause real combat to equip a new whip or drink a healing potion. However, making the player choose between using the real-time window and attacking is a major hindrance to gameplay. I should be able to swing a whip with one hand while I take out and drink a healing potion with the other. Equipping weapons and armor should cancel out attacking, but selecting orbs, relics, or items should not because these are all one-handed, non-weapon actions.

Graphics
Konami is able to push the PS2 and the results are stunning. Leon Belmont and Rinaldo are both extremely well-animated. I didn't care for the look of Sara. I hope Leon loves her for her personality because she's not much to look at. The enemies are well-designed. There's a lot of palette swapping, and it's noticeable, but the models themselves are very well-made. The castle looks great. It's not the most interesting thing to walk through, but it's great to look at.

Presentation
The story is told primarily through spoken dialogue. The dialogue is good, but there should be at least an opening and closing FMV. The sequences before boss battles (aside from the final boss) should have been longer.

The castle is boring to walk through. The same rooms are reused time and time again. The rooms are almost all symmetrical, and there are an overabundance of empty rooms. After a difficult room, and empty passage is welcome, but it seems as though the programmers forgot to fill some of the rooms in the castle.

Music
All of the music is extremely well produced and performed. Lament of Innocence is one of the few video game soundtracks I would like to own. However, much of the music early in the game (especially in the Anti-Soul Mysteries Lab) doesn't seem to fit the environment. The electronica-orchestral music detracts from the spooky environment provided by the graphics.

Overall
This game is entertaining to play. It was nice to see an action game with a story, and I enjoyed being introduced to the Belmont clan's beginnings. The level design leaves much to be desired, but the combat is fun (this is one of the first games that I actually used the block command), and the bosses are genuinely fun to fight. The game is not so difficult that you'll throw the controller, but it is challenging enough that you'll have a sense of accomplishment after defeating a boss.

Good Things

  1. Entertaining combat system
  2. Great bosses
  3. Excellent grahpics
  4. Good music
  5. Unlockable characters and modes of play

Bad Things

  1. Repetitive rooms
  2. Annoying camera
  3. Music doesn't always fit


It has been brought to my attention that gameFAQs may not be the best source for release date information. If anybody knows a better source, please drop me a /msg to let me know. Thanks.

Sources: http://www.gamefaqs.com - release date information

This piece was originally written by me and posted in a public forum. This piece, as it was originally written can be found at:
http://www.cheapassgamer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10848

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