Castlevania: LoI is the first worthy 3D Castlevania.
I don't know about this one. The lack of depth to the storyline was a little weak, the gameplay seemed kinda dumbed down. The game was way to easy, the graphics seemed dated. The game was just really short and the levels were really small. Outside of all of that, it was a fun game while it lasted, and if you're looking for an quick 'in and out' experience, then check this out.
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is an Action / RPG / Platformer hybrid. Leon doesn't gain experience per kill in this game, but rather he has to find special potions that boost his HP, MP and Heart Pieces. This is sorta like the Metroid line of thinking.
Leon can equip different whips such as Ice Whip, Flame Whip,etc.. but that's his only weapon. He can use sub-weapons, which are a staple for early Castlevanias, like the Axe, Holy Water and other ilk, these sub-weapons use up Heart Pieces. My only grief with the sub-weapons is you can only hold one at a time, like the early Castlevanias did, and if you want to switch between then you have to backtrack to their original spot and equip it there. It's a little annoyance they could of changed for a new generation. A cool thing about the sub-weapons though is the the way you can change their abilities by equipping Orbs. You can different Orbs by defeating bosses.
You use magic by equipping Relics, this relics give you special skills such as higher defense or higher offense, or special attacks, but they drain your MP pretty quickly. The only way to replenish MP is by guarding enemies attacks or using an item. Saving does not replenish your MP or Heart Pieces, which I find stupid.
You can equip a few pieces of armor, but there's only 3 or 4 different things, and they get gradually better. You can equip up to 3 different accessories. They can boost your offense, defense, or a variety of other things.
You gain skills over time, but I don't think there's any requirment to get them, they just seem to appear after I kill a certain monster, but I'm not 100% sure, it seemed kinda random how I learned skills.
A couple things that really bugged me is how you HAD to change your equipment or use items within the game, you couldn't pause and change your equipment, you had to stop or run around dodging monsters, and cycle through the annoying menus to change your items or use items. It didn't exactly make the game tougher, it just made it more annoying. Also I hated how you could change the angels of the dungeon maps, it serves no purpose, and I hate accidentally tapping the wrong button that causes the map to change.
So overall, with the lack of weapons, items, skills, and no experience points, this game seems gimped compared to Symphony of the Night.
----------Characters / Story----------
You play as Leon Belmont, who's girlfriend, Sara, was kidnapped by an evil Vampire Walter. Walter does this as a game, to lure new victims to his castle. Leon runs into Rinaldo, an old man with a shady past. Rinaldo lives right outside of the castle and helps Leon on his journey.
That sums up the storyline in a nutshell. There's not much story to this game at all. I think there's only about 3 major cutscenes in the entire game. You'll get a bunch of small ones like before a boss or something, but there game could be summed up without a skip in 3 cutscenes. The was barely an ending for the game.
The graphics are "ok" at best. I can't see anything in here that would blow me away back in 2003. The character models are not that exciting to look at, and looks like they needed alot more polish. They remind me of the models you'd find in a earlier PS2 game like Legaia 2 or something. The hair, especially on Leon, looks ridiculous. The backgrounds and textures are pretty basic, but also repetitive. There's nothing that truely stands out about this game.
The music is classic Castlevania gothic synth. The game ends on a high note with a remix version of one of the classic NES Castlevania themes. The voice work was alright but nothing special.
The world map is very basic and actually very small. There's 6 stages in the game, with one hub castle. Within the hub castle you will find warps to other parts of the castle, these are the stages. Each stage has a boss that guards an Orb, so your goal is to get to the 5 orbs to unlock the final dungeon. There's only one NPC in the game, he lives right outside of the castle and sells you goods.
The level maps are similar to past RPG styled Castlevania games or Metroid Prime, as they're non-linear and require backtracking and puzzle solving. You don't have to travel back and forth between levels with special items or skills to get past any barriers to complete each level. Most barriers in the game are level specific puzzles. There are sidequests, such as finding hidden doors or items, that do require you to jump back and forth, but that is completely optional.
The world is in 3D but with no camera control, much like Devil May Cry. The camera is not really fixed but it does swing around when you reach certain areas of the stage. This threw me off for the longest time because having camera control is important to me, but after a while it makes a little sense because without using the camera they hid puzzles and platforms from you, which makes things a little more interesting.
----------Time to Complete Game----------
Now that is a short game. I could of shaved 2 hous off of this game if I hadn't of backtracked to find secrets. I found most secrets to be completely useless too. After you beat the game you unlock a new playable character and "Crazy" mode. You can save you game after the credits, but fear not, you can start again at your last save to try and find all secrets. I completed the game with 98.4% finished.