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The Next Level In Gaming

Although I do play a wide range of games and try to keep an open minded view towards new concepts and titles, there will always be some games that have a special place in my heart – one of them being Castlevania. The straightforward tale of the epic struggle between the Belmont clan and the infamous Lord Dracula, that is so simple yet so spellbindingly fantastic. A tale that spans hundreds of years, Dracula always finds a way to return and the Belmonts are always there to take him down once more.

The series was originally a 2D platformer, chronicling the battle between Simon Belmont and Dracula, released in 1986 on the Famicom in Japan. Since then, the game was re-made a few times and some other basic platformer ‘vanias were released on the Sega, Super Nintendo, even Game Boy. Come the generation of the Playstation and Sega Saturn, Symphony of the Night, sequel to Chi No Rondo (Rondo of Blood) changed the face of Castlevania forever – adding large RPG aspects to the series such as levelling up, items and equipment. Since then, this has been incorporated into into the newer titles, mainly on the GBA and Nintendo DS – such as Circle of the Moon, Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin.

Over the years, there have been a few 3D castlevanias – two on the Nintendo 64, and two on the Playstation 2. Sadly, I havent yet been able to get my hands on a copy of either of the N64 titles, but I have completed the two PS2 titles – Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness. Although these titles were acceptable games, they paled in comparison to the 2D titles, with a lot of bland environments and clunky combat – and as a 3D title felt poor compared to other 3D titles such as Devil May Cry and Onimusha.

At E3 this year, Konami unveiled their latest title – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Hearing that it would be a 3D title, I was unsure how to feel due to my past experiences with 3D vanias, but I have been surprised at the look of it so far. And even more surprisingly, Konami have got Hideo Kojima  (director of Metal Gear Solid) having some input into the title, and its looking good.

Lords of Shadow currently has no known place in the Castlevania timeline, its year unclear – set in the “end of days”. The world has been overrun with the malevolent souls of the dead and dark creatures, the Earth’s Alliance with the Heavens threatened by a mysterious force known as the Lords of Shadow. A descendant of the Belmont clan, Gabriel, fights the dark forces as part of an alliance known as the Brotherhood of Light, protectors of the people. Brutally killed by one of these demons, Marie - Gabriel’s wife - has her soul trapped between the realms of life and death. Aware of some deadly threat, she guides Gabriel to his destiny to save the world from the darkness. Central to the plot are also two masks – relics known as the God and Devil masks – one of which can supposedly ressurect the dead. So far, the antagonist hasn’t been revealed, although I wouldnt be surprised (nor disappointed) if we see a certain pointy-toothed dark count making an appearance somewhere in the course of the plot.

Konami have announced that the title is to be a ‘reboot’ of the series, so unlike Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness, they have created an entirely new engine for the game. Appearing somewhat like God of War, its looking good – with what appears to be a good mix of combat, platforming and puzzles. Combat is looking fluid with the use of Gabriel’s “Combat Cross” which is some sort of retractable whip-like weapon which can be used for both short and long range attacks. Gabriel will also have access to other weapons such as knives and holy water, perhaps not unlike the “sub-weapons” of the older titles in the series. On the platforming side, Gabriel’s whip can also be used for various actions such as scaling walls and swinging across gaps, which is sounding like a good addition so far. Not much has been shown of puzzles so far, but I would assume these will likely use the whip in other ways also. Gabriel will be able to upgrade his weapons, although so far the extent of this feature is unknown, save for that one of the features will be able to turn his Combat Cross into a type of Stake that can assumedly be used for dispatching vampires.

The whip may apparently be controlled in some way using the right analogue stick, although it isn’t clear if that will be the case for most whip actions or only certain ones – or whether or not the combat will be controlled at all in this manner, yet I have heard that the Square and X buttons will be used to do short and ranged attacks respectively, which suggests that the mostpart of the combat would be performed using these buttons. Supposedly, Circle will be assigned to the secondary weapons, and the X button will be jump (These controls are actually identical in configuration to that of the older PS2 Castlevanias).

The enemies range in shape and size, so far we have seen enemies such as humanoid monsters a similar size to Gabriel, large werewolves, huge trolls and a giant Ice-Titan type enemy, which is rumored to have some platforming elements in the vein of Shadow of the Colossus. Gabriel is also shown pulling larger enemies with his whip, perhaps in a similar way to Kratos’ Blades of Chaos in God of War. From the little that has been seen of the combat, it’s looking very fluid, and the upgrades and sub-weapons should help keep it interesting.

The game also has some well known voice actors – such as Patrick Stewart and Jason Isaacs, although personally I think this wont necessarily add anything to the title – as long as the characters are casted suitably I would be happy – so far it’s sounding good, although I can’t help but picture Captain Picard when I hear the voice of Zobek. Apart from Gabriel and Marie, the rest of the cast remains a mystery as to their place and purpose in the storyline, although the names Claudia, The Sword Master and The Lady of the Forest have been revealed.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is announced to be released sometime in 2010, although nothing more specific has been said. So far, its looking impressive so hopefully it will break the mould and be the first 3D title to rock the series. Check out the trailer below.

-Leon

Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow Trailer

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Leon On August - 22 - 2009

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