After doing a few Resident Evil games, this week the Halloween Horror games continue with another installment in Konami’s classic gothic action-horror series – Castlevania. We have a review of the series latest installment, and something of a reboot – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

General Information

Title: Castlevania – Lords of Shadow
Developer: Kojima Productions and Mercury Steam Productions
Publisher: Konami Platforms: Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3 (reviewed)
Release Date: October 5th, 2010
Genre: 3rd Person Action Game

Available from Amazon.com.

The Premise

In the 11thcentury, a rampaging horde of monsters controlled by the Lords of Shadow have begun expanding out of Transylvania and are threatening the entire world. Into this comes Gabriel Belmont, a knight of the Brotherhood of Light, who seeks to destroy the Lords of Shadow to save the world and to bring his murdered love, Marie, back to life. To do this, he must retrieve the three fragments of the God Mask from the Lords of Shadow.

High Points

Fighting each of the Titans. Each Titan fight is, basically, like one of the fights from Shadow of the Colossus, but with abstractions like the “grip meter” removed from the game, and each has an incredibly epic scope and feel to it. Similarly, the fights against each of the Lords of Shadow are very well done, with each feeling unique, distinct, and challenging without being annoying. However, the best boss fights of them all were against Pan and Satan. While I basically beat the two fights in one try, it wasn’t because they were too easy, as much as they were designed in a manner where I came into it knowing what I should be doing.

Also, the reveal that Zobek is one of the Lords of Shadow was well done. While the character was voiced by Patrick Stewart, I suspected that the character was going to becomeevil at some point, due to the fact that the character design looked similar to Christopher Lee and, as the main character was a Belmont, I suspect that Zobek would be behind Marie’s death, and would become Dracula at the end of the game. Zobek being the third Lord of Shadow and Gabriel ultimately becoming Dracula in the post-credits cutscene was well done, and made me want to know more about this new Castlevania universe.

Low Points

The Chupacabras – in several levels, you run into these guys. They’re small, obnoxious enemies who steal most of your power-up items (except for expendable items and whip upgrades) and all of your magic, and then require you to hunt them down to get your stuff back. You can’t avoid this initial theft – it’s scripted. You also can’t get the items back before the game will let you get the items back, which usually requires you to get through a few traversal puzzles and a few fights, without the healing powers that would let you regenerate between fights.

There’s also a specific boss fight against the bird-witch which is rather infuriating, and had some rather frustrating deaths due to the minions that she would launch in mid-fight.

There’s also one significant problem with the presentation of the story, is that they tell a lot more then they show. We either get the story through exposition by supporting characters, or explained by Zobek (a fellow member of the Brotherhood, who appears every now and again), in between level narration. Thus, the story is told to us more than it is shown.

Content Notes

This game was rated M by the ESRB and contains graphic violence and nudity.

Scores

Originality: This is a reboot of an existing franchise, and one which draws references to earlier games (a music box playing “Vampire Killer”, an enemy based on the Black Knight enemies from earlier games, etc.) while still being very much its own entity. 3 out of 6.

Story: The story is okay, though the presentation could have been improved tremendously. 3 out of 6.

Graphics: This game is absolutely gorgeous – the environments look great and really nail the pseudo-Gothic style that the Castlevania series is famous for. 4 out of 6.

Sound: The voice acting is tremendous, as is the sound design, and most of the score is enjoyable. However, there are particular musical moments who just don’t quite hit the right notes, no pun intended. 4 out of 6.

Playability: The controls in this game are rock solid. This is probably one of the best controlling Castlevania games alongside Castlevania IV and Symphony of the Night. 5 out of 6.

Immersion: The designers did an excellent job of making sure they know when to remove the HUD and when to show it, and how much. All of this makes for a very engrossing experience, which is perhaps only marred by the excessive narration by Zobek in-between levels. 4 out of 6.

Overall: This is in my top 3 Castlevania games, alongside Super Castlevania IV and Symphony of the Night. I really hope that we get future games in this version of the Castlevania universe. 5 out of 6.

In Total, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow gets 28 out of 42.