Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness Review
The first 3D entry in the long-standing action-horror series is also the best, combining an involving story, diabolical platforming and exciting adventure mechanics.
Since the first entry in 1986 (in Japan), the Castlevania series, concerning the vampire-hunting Belmont family’s quest to destroy Count Dracula, has appeared on nearly every video game system. In 1999 it finally made its first 3D appearance on the Nintendo 64. Simply titled Castlevania but popularly known as Castlevania 64, the game took the mainstay 2D series and attempted to bring it into the new age of polygon graphics. While the game gained many followers, it was diminished by a rushed, unfinished feel, iffy controls and a bad camera. Fans also lamented that neither of the two heroes, traditional whip-wielder Reinhardt Schneider or magic-using gypsy girl Carrie Fernandez, were true Belmonts.
Later that year, Konami released a ‘special edition’ of Castlevania 64, titled Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. In addition to fixes for all the camera and control issues, this ‘director’s cut’ included reworked versions of the levels as well as all-new levels, new bosses, new puzzles, and new cut-scenes. In short, it is the version of choice in every possible way.
In a surprising move, it also features a completely new protagonist, Cornell. Cornell, a member of a ‘man-beast’ tribe, returns from a yearlong training pilgrimage to find his village in flames, its inhabitants slain by an army of undead, and his sister Ada missing. His quest to save her and the terrible price he will pay to do so form the basis for the enthralling adventure. The game’s plot-twist conclusion ties it to the main story of Reinhardt’s and Carrie’s quest to destroy Dracula eight years later.
Cornell’s main attack is a clawing swipe that shoots out a mid-range energy slash. Other attacks include a quick slash for close-range foes and hurling limited-use long-range weapons which can be picked up. These classic Castlevania weapons (the axe, cross boomerang, dagger and holy water) can each be upgraded twice with subsequent pick-ups, another new feature for this edition. Likewise, the main attack can be upgraded for devastating results. Other buttons will make Cornell jump, duck and crawl (turned into a sweet slide attack with the right button presses) and change the camera view. Another button is for context-sensitive actions, such as picking up items, talking to other characters, observing environments, opening doors and activating machines.
One cool feature is that Cornell can unleash his latent man-beast power to transform into a werewolf. Not only does this make Cornell look incredibly awesome, but it also makes his attacks extremely powerful. While this transformation can be activated at any time, it will gradually consume all the red crystals (also used for sub-weapon ammo) in your stock. For this reason this ability is best used only in boss battles.
The game isn’t perfect. Its graphics are somewhat clunky polygons and murky pixilated backgrounds typical of the Nintendo 64, a very different animal compared to the beautiful visuals of its 3D follow-ups Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness. These next-gen Castlevania games also feature kinetic, combo-driven combat whilst Legacy’s action is simple and a bit sluggish. But there are many areas of greatness that set Legacy of Darkness head and shoulders above its newer cousins.