A mix of old and new Castevania that kinda just ends with it being very mediocre
Yes, the best way to experience the PS2 era is to play them in the reverse order. Well maybe not. I’ve already posted a review of Curse Of Darkness and thanks to Konami putting this on the PS2 Classics a while ago I bought this recently. If we were going by the official timeline this would be the first in the series, so let's see what the setup is.
Leon Belmont is a renowned knight that has led many successful campaigns in the holy war. Yet one day monsters appeared and for some strange reason his betrothed Sara gets kidnapped by the lord of this new monster domain. With the church being unwilling to let Leon sally forth he gives up all his titles and goes along to face an enemy he is not prepared to face. After meeting an old man named Rinaldo he gains access to an achemic whip that let’s him face the horrors within the castle.
Most of what is in the future game is present here with less options. Leon quickly learns how to dodge enemies and he can perfect block enemies to gain an advantage in battle as well. Yet he only gets one weapon the entire game with a few elemental variations on the classic vampire killer whip. It works well enough in a standard 3 hit combo system that is bolstered by a variety of sub weapons that act differently depending on which orb you equip.
All the sub weapons are what you would expect from the series. Their base form acts like every other game but once the first boss is defeated you get much more useful abilities. For example with the green orb weapons gain hp restorative properties and much longer range than most other types. I can’t say I changed them up that often other than after I beat a boss. Because sub weapons don’t drop that often so I ended up finding the one that seemed the most overpowered and just stuck with it till the end. In a lot of ways the way these work lend to how the game tries to mix the old and new.
It was very noticeable that levels weren’t a thing this time. Health/MP/heart upgrades are all scattered around the world for the player to find. Finding them will be quite easy since other than a rare platforming puzzle you’ll find your way through each zone very quickly. Every zone is themed very well and you can see how simple the layout is since other than the crazy addition of curved hallways near the end each zone feels like a bunch of basic hallways mixed with open arena fights. Really that is all 2D Castlevania is as well but it just feels more uninspired in 3D.
Lucky the soundtrack is still on point. Along with boss fights being unique enough that make them stand out from the sameness you’ll likely start to feel half way through the adventure. Hard to really say that the voice over held up but hey you could always just use Japanese voiceovers instead which is an unexpected addition in a game from this era.
So looking at what this game inspires to be it is adequate. A lot like the sequel while still keeping it at a much faster pace. The whole going down similar hallways thing works a bit better when the entire game is in a castle instead of a whole world to explore. Yet without the game forcing me to fight enemies anytime I went back to use a key to unlock a door I couldn’t get to earlier I just skipped most fights. No leveling meant I had no reason to engage with the combat. At the same time the combat is solid because it gives you the tools to succeed. Turning out to be a very average game that might be enjoyed by some of the users reading this review.