Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness

Castlevania 64 was a game with its heart in the right place.  As every other series made the move to 3d it was inevitable.  And as a first attempt Konami actually did a decent job with the game.  Would I recommend it?  Hell no.  While there some pretty interesting level objectives they were weighed down by an atrocious camera and muddy graphics.  A year later and Konami returned with Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness.  This expanded version of the original is the way it was meant to be released.  But does that make it a good game?

The story takes place eight years before Castlevania 64.  Man beast Cornell returns to his village after training in the mountains to find it burned to the ground.  His younger sister is also missing, prompting him to journey to Dracula’s castle to rescue her.  Familiar characters Reinhardt and Carrie are met along the way, and eventually the young Henry saved early on returns ten years later on his own mission.

Legacy of Darkness prominently stars Cornell, one of the planned characters that was cut.  The other three characters are present but the game must be completed with Cornell first to access them.  I can sort of see the reasoning.  Cornell has the longest quest with the most new levels.  Even still by and large it still covers most of the same ground as the first game.  If you think of this as a remix rather than a completely new adventure you won’t be so disappointed.  But even with four characters and an improved camera Legacy of Darkness still fails to reach the series lofty heights.

As a wolf man Cornell is fairly powerful.  His play style is identical to Reinhardt, with short range claws for melee and a long range wave attack.  He can also use all of the same subweapons, except here collecting doubles will produce interesting effects.  Cornell’s most distinguishing ability is to transform into a werewolf.  Truthfully it isn’t as great as it sounds.  Aside from boosting your power it drains your red jewels since you can’t switch back manually. 

Although Cornell’s quest is the most complete it isn’t all new.  You’ll revisit nearly all of the same locations as before with a smattering of new levels sprinkled in.  The only thing that has changed is the context.  Instead of leading Malus out of the garden maze you must lead a young Henry to safety.  You fight a different pair of vampire bosses in the bottom of the Villa but the battle is still the same.  The original had a series of different towers before its climax. Cornell has to climb all of them rather than a select few. 

The few new levels are some of the best and worst.  The initial pirate ship is dreary and atmospheric with a pretty cool boss battle at the end.  The following Forest of Silence manages to avoid the confusing layout in the first game.  But the few times the game tries to be daring it fails.  The Art Tower is the only instance where the Sun and Moon cards come in handy.   Here your progress is blocked by doors that open at specific times.  It’s a neat idea in theory but tedious in practice.  If you choose to avoid using the cards (to avoid the late game penalty) what would normally be a five or six minute level is stretched to twenty or more.  The Tower of Ruins drops you into a crypt with nary a hint as to how to progress.   I can appreciate the attempt but they both fail.

While the level design is a bit flat at least it isn’t as frustrating.  The camera isn’t as annoying although it is still far from ideal.  While their quests aren’t as robust Reinhardt, Carrie, and Henry’s campaigns give the game great replay value.  Especially Henry’s unique story to find six missing children.  This portion f the game is nonlinear since you have seven days to complete your objective.  It’s unique but short, almost as though it were cut short.  But even this isn’t enough to make it worth playing.

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Castlevania 64 had notably subpar visuals with incredibly blurry and repetitive textures.  Legacy of Darkness tries to rectify that by supporting the Expansion Pak.  The problem is the frame rate dips so low that the game is nearly unplayable.  The handful of new enemies and bosses are actually well done; it’s a shame they aren’t in a better game.  At the very least the phenomenal soundtrack returns and defies the hardware.

In Closing

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness is a better game than Castlevania 64.  However that simply isn’t good enough.  The game is only worth tracking down for those who never played the original.  For everyone else you are better off going with Curse of Darkness.  While flawed it is a better take on 3d Castlevania.

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