Castlevania Legends, by Jorge D. Fuentes
US Release Date: 11/26/1998
System: Game Boy
Castlevania Legends Extras:
Castlevania Legends is the third game that came out for the Gameboy handheld game system. Making its debut some time after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, Castlevania Legends goes back to the Gameboy-style of gameplay. This means that the main character does not climb stairs, but rather climbs ropes, very much like in the previous Gameboy Games.
So let's get into the game now. This game brings about a new character in the Castlevania storyline, whose name is Sonia Belmont. Castlevania Legends is a prequel to all of the Castlevania games and stories that existed at the time of the game's release. As a result, she is the first Belmont at that point to have been recorded in the timeline as a Vampire Killer... and all the Belmonts afterwards come from the same bloodline that she comes from. Of course, now that Castlevania: Lament of Innocence has some out, the events of Castlevania Legends are but a faded memory in gamer's minds. But I digress...
Sonia Belmont is destined to fight Dracula in this game, because apparently he's doing the evil Semi-vampiric Warlock nastiness in the world. She has her trusty Vampire Killer holy whip to help her out, as well as other little tricks up her sleeve, such as "Burning Mode", whereby she becomes a berserked invincible Slayer and starts kicking butt all over the place. The character design makes her seem like a cross between Joan of Arc (Milla Jovovich's character in "The Messenger") and the character "Doris" from the Anime "Vampire Hunter D". The entire game has an Anime flavor to it, as the character designs are done in that style.
Alucard lends a hand in this one, mostly as a cameo appearance, though it appears as if Mr.VampireWhoFightsEvil is Sonia Belmont's lover. It definitely puts a twist on the storyline, and certainly would explain the later Belmonts' Super Human Powers. However, since Sonia's time is before their time, all she gets is her Vampire Killer whip (upgradable to two more degrees, the last one shoots fireballs out of the tip) and her Burning Mode special stuff. The subweapons you find are not usable, unfortunately. And speaking of Subweapons...
Sonia Belmont must make it past five stages (and a hidden one, if you can find it) to reach Dracula. She will have to brave the Mad Forest of Monsters, the Grand Hallway, the Clock Tower, the Inner Quarters, the Dungeon Cave, and a hidden stage which takes some work to find. Located in each stage is a special weapon (which coincidentally become the standard SubWeapons of Castlevania, i.e. the dagger, axe, holywater, pocketwatch, and Cross boomerang), except for the fifth stage, where instead you find the entrance to the hidden stage, which has the final subweapon. Gathering all the subweapons unlocks the game's true ending, so go Scavenger-hunting for those Subweapons.
Unfortunately, this game suffers from a number of stumbling blocks it should not have even had to have dealt with. The game, although the third in the GB series, plays as slow as the first GB title did, which came out years before. Sonia Belmont's game sprite is an androgenous collection of pixels, and she walks as if her feet were stuck on something. Her jumping could have been improved upon by a lot. These 'flaws' in the game could have been avoided if Konami of Nagoya (the little bastard child of Konami) would have just looked at the previous GB CVs and learned from them. As a result, the game suffers from cheap enemy placement, slow control, and many moments of frustration.
The level design is simple, but you will be annoyed at the 'trap stages' that are triggered if you hit the wrong candle, and you will also be annoyed at the nasty enemies that continuously attack you in an odd wave pattern. The music in the game improves things a bit, but since it uses the GB's old NES-like chiptune sounds (not that it can use anything better), they will sound like kickass NES tunes... although lacking in the backbeat that the previous GB CVs had. Basically, this game comes off as being a mediocre game, because for the time in which it came out, it could have been so much better. It could have been a lot worse, I suppose. Then again, the same could be said about the new CV: Lament of Innocence... but that's a different review.
BEST OF TEN Grade (Ten being Best)
The graphics in the game need a large amount of help. Apparently, KCEN did not hire a decent team of Tile/Sprite artist, because the game is so mediocre when it comes to the graphical appeal. It is bad enough that some people have gone and hacked the game so that it has better graphics (KY-RA hacked the Japanese version to make Sonia, all of the enemies, and all of the stages have a facelift). This is the degree of lazyness that seems to emanate from this title. It feels rushed, seriously. Playing this game on a Super Gameboy will bring up a nice Castle wallpaper behind the screen... but it doesn't save the graphics from being sub-par.
The sound in this game is actually one of the better parts of it. The sound is a nice mix of Rock and Classical. Unfortunately, you'd need to have a keen ear for NES-like chiptune music to be able to appreciate it. The music is somewhat similar to Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, but with more rock-like instruments and a lot less channels. It's pretty good. Definitely worth listening to.
Sonia walks like molasses, and her adversaries are much faster and have very odd flight patterns. Even the first enemy in the game, a weird Tree-looking spirit creature, will most likely end up hitting her because of its location and its erratic movements. Bats, Spirits, and other creatures will have you pulling your hair because of their ability to knock you off of platforms, coupled with their ability to respawn if you move offscreen by a little. Sonia also seems to have problems jumping, and every hit downgrades her whip. The game mechanics could have been better done in this case.
Fun Factor: 6
Unfortunately, the game isn't very fun. The gameplay and the graphics are to blame. I like, however, that there are two endings based on whether you collect all of the subweapons. I also like the hidden stage. Another positive is the game's storyline, and the way it ties Alucard to the Belmont plotline. The text in the game is very heroic, and there are actual dialogs at times, which is cool. A remix of Bloody Tears and Vampire Killer exists in this game... Bloody Tears at the beginning, and Vampire Killer at the very end. These are what keep the game from being a 'meh' type of game. It's a good enough game, but based upon the time in which it came out and the games that were coming out at that time, the game could have been a lot better. It's still okay, though.