Before Simon Belmont, before Christopher Belmont, and before Trevor Belmont there was the first vampire slayer in the history of the Castlevania saga: Sonia Belmont. Konami established the beginning of Castlevania lore in the 1997 Super Game Boy release Castlevania Legends. Our story begins as Dracula has risen to power in Europe. Despising evil young Sonia bids goodbye to her lover, Alucard (son of Dracula) and embarks on a quest through six stages to defeat the great evil.

This game, the third Castlevania game for the Game Boy system, follows the same gameplay style as its predecessor, Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge. Things are slightly different, however. Sonia wields the famous whip which can be charged up to toss fireballs, but unlike most games in the series she cannot use special weapons such as the ax or the holy water. Instead these other weapons are considered sacred treasures that are hidden around the land, and if Sonia can find all six she'll recieve the best ending at the close of the game. Worry not, though, as Sonia can still use some special abilities. At the close of each stage she steals a "soul power" from the level boss that she can use in the next levels. These powers include health recovery, a projectile weapon, freezing power (much like the stopwatch performs in other games in the series), and self-immolation that renders Sonia aflame and immune to damage. These powers are fueled by hearts that are hidden inside candles, and whipping the candles drops the hearts for collection.

While there are six stages and they must be completed in order, there are a number of paths to the end of each stage. Paths branch off in various spots. Some paths lead to the exit, others lead to one of the sacred treasures, while others just go to dead ends. Fortunately dead ends usually contain life-giving pork chops because you'll find that the dead end paths contain the most enemies. And speaking of enemies, I can sum up the beasts in this game in one word: bats. You will find more bats in this game than in any other Castlevania game. You can see them perched on the ceiling and as Sonia draws near they drop into the air and fly around in random patterns. Of course there are other enemies to fight, such as skeleton knights and mudblockades, but it's the bats that you'll see most of all.

At the end of all this madness is Dracula, and if Sonia defeats both his forms the ending plays in which we learn that our Buffy-esque hero lays down her whip, becomes a mother (presumeably to Trevor Belmont, with Alucard as the father), and teaches her son in the ways of the vampire slayer. The sacred treasures that she collected in his quest would go on to become Belmont family heirlooms and the weapons of choice of future generations.

The graphics are rather sharp for a Super Game Boy title and strongly resemble Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge. The Super Game Boy color selection is a nice addition, and the colors paint the level in dark shades for some levels and a soft blue for others. The audio is comparable to the previous game as well, however I find that the musical score is rather forgettable compared to previous Castlevania games. Passwords record game progress and there are two difficulty modes to choose from: Normal Mode, which is the "real" game, and Lite Mode in which Sonia's whip is always at full power, she takes less damage from attacks, and other trainer additions.

Castlevania Legends was the final game in the series for the traditional Game Boy and is still easy to find in the traditional Game Boy markets. Failing that check the online auctions and used game stories. The next handheld Castlevania title would not come for several years, and when it did it came for the Game Boy Advance: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon.


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