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Developer:
Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: PS2, Xbox
Release Date: November 1, 2005

by Josh Ferguson




Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is the newest installment in Konami's long-running Castlevania series. This latest game takes place three years after the events in the NES game, Dracula's Curse. Similar to the critically acclaimed 1997 hit, and my personal favorite, Symphony of the Night, players will be taking the role of a former member of Dracula's army. In many ways Curse of Darkness reminds me of Symphony of the Night, but can this game really compare? Read on to find out.


The storyline in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness follows Hector, a Devil Forgemaster and former lieutenant in Dracula's army. With the destruction of Dracula by the hands of Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant DaNasty, and his own son, Alucard, many of his forces still run amuck in the land of Valachia. One of these is another Devil Forgemaster known as Isaac, who is also supposed to be responsible for the death of Hector's beloved, Rosaly. In order to seek his revenge, Hector will go and reclaim his power as a Devil Forgemaster.


What is a Devil Forgemaster? Well, Devil Forgery allows Hector to summon Innocent Devils, which are similar to the familiars that were used by Alucard in Symphony of the Night . There are several classes of Innocent Devils, each with their own unique abilities. For example, the first Innocent Devil that you will acquire is a small fairy, which will normally be used only for healing purposes. In the early going, a fairy won't even be able to attack, but as time goes on you are able to acquire some attacks. The second Innocent Devil is a large magma type creature that fits into the battle class. Of course, these Innocent Devils are very strong and can be very helpful kicking the crap out of your enemies. Some other Innocent Devil classes include the bird and mage.


Similar to Hector, Innocent Devils are also able to gain experience and level. Leveling your Innocent Devils is one way to make them fairly strong, but the best way to do this is by evolving them. Once you reach a certain part of the game, defeated enemies will begin to occasionally drop items known as evolution crystals. These go directly to your current Innocent Devil, and once a certain number of these are found, your Innocent Devil will evolve, gaining new abilities and occasionally changing appearance. There are normally a few different types of classes that your Innocent Devil can evolve into, each of which will depend on the current weapon class that Hector has equipped. The only problem is that the game doesn't inform you of what abilities your Innocent Devil is able to gain in the future, meaning that most players will probably continue to keep Hector equipped with a sword, gaining all of the sword classes for your Innocent Devils.


As time goes on, Hector will be able to gain more and more different Innocent Devils, but will still only be able to summon one at a time. Hector will also only be able to carry around a couple Innocent Devils in his inventory, but he will be able to store them back at certain shops throughout the game. Using these shops, and by occasionally acquiring shards from your summons, it is possible to obtain every form of Innocent Devil in the game, but that might take a little too much time for most gamers.


Like I said earlier, Hector is able to equip a few different weapon types. When the game begins, Hector will come equipped with a sword, but as time goes on, he will be able to obtain other forms of weaponry. One of the ways that Hector will be able to acquire weapons is by purchasing them from shops. However, one of the easiest and best ways is for Hector to create them himself. After defeating some of the enemies, Hector will be able to pick up different items which are used to create his equipment, including swords, spears, helmets, and armor. The whole weapon creation adds a little more to the overall gameplay and is a fun and interesting addition.


During combat, Hector is also able to perform a few different combination attacks. Most of these combos are pretty simple to use, and can be done by merely pressing the square button a few times and then finishing it off by using the circle button. The combos are pretty simple and basic attacks, but still manage to look nice and quite different from one another. Even though a larger list of combos would have been nice, what is there is still pretty good. Combat also features a lock-on attack, where Hector is not only able to attack a certain enemy, but is also able to steal items from certain enemies. While the item stealing is pretty simple, the actual lock-on attacks can be a little troublesome at times, especially since it occasionally doesn't seem to really even lock on an enemy.


While I didn't have trouble with it that often, there were times when the camera caused some problems. During one of the boss battles in particular, he would constantly teleport around the screen, causing the camera to move around a lot, leading to some frustrating camera views. Like I said, it wasn't all the time, but there were some boss battles and the occasional other random battles where I ran into some trouble.


One of the best things about Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is the game's sound. For the most part, the voice acting is done very well, especially Hector who is voiced by Crispin Freeman (Heat of Digital Devil Saga and Lord Zetta of Makai Kingdom). Maybe I'm a little biased because I generally like that guy, but I thought he did great, while the rest of the voice actors were good too. The game's soundtrack is another strong point, but I still wouldn't compare it to the great score of Symphony of the Night. Still, it's very well done.


On the other hand, graphically, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness doesn't fare so well. While the cinematics look pretty good, they are limited and don't occur too often. Most of the character designs are generally good, but the enemies are rather boring and the same models seem to be constantly used throughout much of the game. The environments are also a weak point, and much of the areas seem to have a very repetitive-looking level design.


Castlevania: Curse of Darkness does, however, feature some replay value. After completing the game as Hector, the option of playing as an unlockable character is present. While I won't spoil who this character is, he has been playable in at least one other Castlevania game. Even though the game wasn't exactly made for the unlockable character, at least it adds a little replay value. Similar to Symphony of the Night, where players were able to play through as Richter Belmont, a playthrough with the character in Curse of Darkness won't have as much depth to the game as playing through as Hector, but it's better than nothing.


While I do enjoy the RPG elements of Curse of Darkness, this leads to a very simplistic game. Most of the actual game will seem like a cakewalk, and shouldn't be too difficult for even an inexperienced player to pick up and play. While some gamers might not mind the difficulty, those who found problems with Symphony of the Night and the other RPG Castlevanias being too simple will more than likely find a problem here too.


Overall, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness suffers from some problems, including minor camera trouble and some dated graphics. Still, these aren't major enough problems for me to not recommend the game. While this is still one of Konami's few 3-D attempts with the Castlevania series, it still makes me wonder if they will ever be able to bring the greatness of the 2-D games into 3-D. Chances are if you enjoyed Lament of Innocence, you will more than likely want to add this game to your collection. If you didn't, well, then you may want to let this one pass by.


Final Grade: 75%




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