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While certain to alienate some hardcore fans of the series, Mercurysteam's Castlevania 3D debut is an unqualified success. Previous attempts to bring the series into the third dimension have been met with mixed results (Castlevania 64 being a particular low-point), so it may not be surprising that this entry began life without the Castlevania name. However, Konami clearly saw the potential and, with Hideo Kojima overseeing production, the Belmont lore series fans will be familiar with was supposedly retrofitted to an already accomplished action adventure game, according to sources.
Enough about the game's genesis, this is a game that repeatedly throws stunning vistas in your path and really evokes an astonishing sense of place, from the stormy opening in a beseiged village through forests and caves bristling with incidental details and animations, to the frozen beauty of gothic achitecture and beyond. I shall not spell out every environment, as half of the experience is discovering it for yourself. Even though such sights may generate the illusion of a more open-world at times, this game is relentlessly linear and, dare I say it, the better for it. The structure of progression follows the 'Metroidvania' school of game design, involving the gradual accumlation of equipment, magic and abilities - some at set-points in the game's narrative, others can be bought in the game's menus with experience points accumulated by killing enemies and completing (often fiendish) evironmental puzzles. Thankfully, this instills some element of exploration, as your attention is drawn to particular landmarks, walls, barriers, jumps within levels that are insurmountable upon your first playthrough. However, once you have unlocked these abilities, there is a great deal of satisfaction in going back to explore these branching paths in previous levels in the name of accumulating life, light and dark magic gems.
I haven't mentioned the core gameplay of combat and platforming yet for good reason - it's the weakest part of the game. If you have played God of War, Darksiders or Dante's Inferno before, you've played this. Following the lavish presentation and enthralling narrative, for the core mechanics of combat in the game to be so derivitive, encompassing quick-time events for boss encounters and outdated combos for grunts, is quite disappointing. Having said that, the combat is slick, challenging and satisfying, so as long as you're not expecting one iota of innovation, you should still enjoy it. The platforming, on the other hand, can be maddening, yet the scale of the awe-inspiring environments you traverse keeps you plugging away at even the most-fustrating segments.
Finally, this whole package is tied together with a narrative that stalls a little in the middle, but really picks up at the end as the story arc culminates in a number of memorable final boss fights. It's a decent length too, clocking in at between 15-18 hours depending on the difficulty setting. The crescendo will likely stir a little emotion in even the most hardened gamer and remember to wait for the epilogue at the end of the credits if you questioned where Mercurysteam were going with their reimagined Castlevania mythos.
The setting, the characters (voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart and Robert Carlyle, no less) and the functional gameplay all combine to make this a must-play for gamers and well-worth the price of admission. Bravo.
== Castlevania ==
The Castlevania series have been somewhat one of the best and most controversial series to the gaming industry. Back when the Playstation One was released, was when the Castlevania games started becoming a huge success with Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night and also Castlevania Chronicles. There have been many other Castlevania games on other gaming systems such as the Sega Megadrive. In the previous Castlevania games they made them as 2d platform scrolling as you go along but in the new one Lords Of Shadows it is now 3d and in my opinion a mixture of Tomb Raider/Prince Of Persia and RPG elements mixed into one game. Now for the Xbox 360 console and PS3 comes a whole new Castlevania game that is 2 disks and that has been completely made different but is it any better than the previous games?
Castlevania Lords Of Shadow is very different in gameplay wise and even story wise. You play as Gabriel Belmont. Who is skilled with his weapon, which is a retractable pyrokinetic chain whip called the Combat Cross. Gabriel Belmont starts in a village in the pouring rain and the village and the civilians are being attacked by a whole pack of Werewolves. This is basically the training mission to get you used to the new control system. After defeating the pack of werewolves something starts basing down the village gate, after successfully knocking the gate down and savaging some of the village folk a bigger version of the werewolves locks its attention onto you. Upon beating the rabid beast you learn that things aren't right and you then go off on your quest to finding someone known as pan. Pan whom Gabriel finds at The Lake Of The Oblivion and he tells him that he has been sent by the Brotherhood Of Light to help save the world from salvation. Can Gabriel discover all what he desires?
=== Gameplay ===
The gameplay in this recent Castlevania is very different to previous games of the Castlevania series. It used to be a 2d game with just basic platform elements and now Konami have made this into a 3d third person platform, action adventure game. Castlevania Lords Of Shadow is unique with its gameplay and throughout playing the game you come across a whole new lot of ideas that the previous games never had. Some things that impressed me was the ability to learn new combo moves or special attacks and also upgrading things like weapons and also upgrading other aspects to Gabriel Belmont. Also like previous Castlevania games you still get your experience points but they're not really for leveling up and in fact are used for upgrading things. Previous games were just set in Dracula's castle but this is basically a game set before the previous games, more of a prequel than a sequel. You visit a lot of different places such as villages, woods, mountain cliffs, swamps which they call The Dead Bog and also a castle again. Throughout the game you find many health points that heal so much of your health after taking damage. There are a total of 50 individual stages spanning over a total of 12 chapters. The fighting gameplay is some of the best I have seen, its more thrilling as you gain new combo's and special attacks. There are a lot of bosses almost one on every individual level. Some of these bosses include, a giant werewolf, a swamp creature and even a 100ft titan golem like creature. Also as you progress through your quest you will encounter many characters and many many different types of monsters. All in all the gameplay is fair better than the previous Castlevania games.
=== Characters & Setting ===
There are a lot of characters in the game that you can interact with, however you only play the role of Gabriel Belmont who really does look the part and acts very mysterious. Gabriel was taken in and raise by The Brotherhood Of Light as an infant. From a young age he became a fighter and learned how to defend for himself because of problems such as werewolves. Gabriel's wife was murdered and he has sworn to get revenge on the people responsible. Maria is another character you encounter in the game and this is in fact Gabriel's dead wife. She is the daughter of a rich merchant family. Zobek is another character with intensity and he helps you out in the game at some point. Zobek is one of The Brotherhoods most skilled and loyal warriors and also the longest serving warrior. Claudia is an orphan girl who lives in some ruins. Claudia has developed telepathic powers communicating with her guardian The Black Knight. There are many more characters you interact with in your story and as you progress you will meet them and help them.
=== Graphics & Sound ===
The graphics to this game are simply special and by far the best I have seen on the Xbox 360. You can almost tell from the movies in the game that future games are going to be something special. However in this Castlevania the graphics are phenomenal, especially the first mission, I was simply blown away by the realism of the game at the beginning. The pouring rain thrashing it down as your fighting for your life and the civilians lives is brilliant and I was actually speechless. Also the design of the creatures is spectacular in every detail from head to toe (if they have any of them). The buildings and other places such as, towns, crypts, swamps, mountains and even an old abandoned church are brilliantly designed and look amazing, so much better than other places in most games. The weather changes in the game and looks superb from rain to sun to even snowing! Also Gabriel Belmont looks great as the lead character and is equally designed great. All in all the graphics are brilliant and by far the best I have seen on an Xbox 360 console.
The sound to Castlevania Lords Of Shadow is equally just as good as the graphics to the game. The music has always been great to these games and in this one they don't disappoint. The thing that impressed me about the sound effects to this game the most was the monsters the werewolves was awesome sounded so special and unique. Also I loved the sound of the wind, rain and other weather conditions as it made the game feel that much more realistic (except being chased down by werewolves). You can hear the different sound effects on different soils as your walking, like for example on leaves, snow, in puddles and other bits the sound just sounds great! I was really impressed about these two aspects and they are equally as good and make the game a whole lot better when playing it.
=== Difficulty & Longevity ===
Castlevania has always been a quite difficult game and this one is no different. I wouldn't say its so difficult as to not play it, its more the type of difficult where it may take a few attempts to kill a boss and do a tricky part or may take a whiule to solve a puzzle or find the right route where to go. Most the time its the bosses that can be tricky because some are killed in different ways other than just getting stuck in and attacking them. Other than that the game isn't really that too difficult so I would say its suitable for most gamers.
Now the longevity is in my opinion a bit of a bet down. The older Castlevania games could take absolutely ages to complete where as this one took me only a very poor 15-20 hours tops. Although I didn't exactly get 100% completion on it and if I was to get 100% it would of probably took me another 5-10 hours tops. For a game that is two disks to last 20 hours is to be honest really poor and you can tell that the games graphics and sound effects are used a lot for the disks. However there are 50 individual missions and they are quite long some of them and to be fair there are games out there with fewer missions than that. So its not all that bad I guess.
=== Good Bits ===
Castlevania Lords Of Shadows has a lot of great bits about it. The story is actually really good and does keep you entertained. Some of the mythical creatures and other monsters look absolutely brilliant and smartly done. The bosses are HUGE and there are many to fight against in all kinds of different ways. I also find the weather effects really good and the way the weather changes is brilliant. Gabriel Belmont who you play as looks great although his weapon looks slightly strange it is quite impressive what it can do. Also there are platform elements like in the Tomb Raider games and Prince Of Persia where you go jumping from ledge to ledge or even swing on a grappling-hook. The scenery is unique and looks very special. The fights are tremendous and superbly done and well crafted. Also the new moves you can learn also make this an interesting game.
=== Bad Bits ===
There are a few bad bits that disappointed me about the game. The fact they have used two disks isn't really good as the game only last roughly 20 hours and for a two disk game that is actually quite shocking. Also I wasn't to impressed with the fact there isn't one single kind of multiplayer option on the whole game. There never usually is but a co-op story mode would of been great I feel. Other than that there is only a few other niggles that aren't really worth a mention.
=== Final Thought ===
Castlevania Lords Of Shadow is a great and improved version of the older classic Castlevania games and it doesn't really disappoint. Although the game doesn't take an awful long time to complete it does have its fair share of variety. It is one of the best action adventure games for the Xbox 360 and PS3. I enjoyed playing this game and would really recommend anyone who likes horror, pulsating action and puzzle/mystery games to go out and buy this. There are a couple of downloadable bits on Xbox Live that actually does carry on the story even more and are worth getting but do cost Microsoft points to acquire them. Also there isn't any online option but that doesn't really effect the game as you fight loads of creatures and bosses, solve some tricky puzzles. This game has a lot to offer but it does have its fair share of blood that gamers may find offensive. Castlevania has its good bits and bad bits as stated above but all in all if you like platform elements to a game that are very similar to the Tomb Raider games and the Prince Of Persia games then this would be right up your street. The game has a rating of 15 and this is because it does have all kinds of creatures in some scary and some not so scary, it also has an awful lot of blood that some people wont like. Me as a gamer I love the blood and this makes the game more real and special. I bought the game for £19.99 from Gamestation and some places are cheaper I was just a little bit eager as its one of my favourite series. The game is on Amazon for £23.99 and even cheaper if you get it used at £17.95. All in all its a great game with different elements added into it so I would have to give it an 8/10!
Review also on Ciao under the username: MrBrightside1987!