Review: Castlevania 64: Legacy of Darkness

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The other night we had an wonderful Autumn thunderstorm. Everyone in the house was asleep and the atmosphere was perfect to start the next chapter of my Castlevania playthrough.

Technically, the next game released after Symphony of the Night is actually an old Game Boy title called Castlevania Legends. I do own this game but since its release, it’s been retconned from the timeline. It tried to cash in on the success of SotN by tying the Belmont family tree in with Alucard. The whole thing was a disaster, and thank God it’s been officially declared null and void. For this reason, I chose to skip it entirely.

In fact, the next game in the series was also somewhat struck from the official timeline. The next title was a Nintendo 64 game called simply Castlevania (aka: Castlevania 64). The game was rushed to release in order to meet a marketing deadline, and it showed. Castlevania 64 was panned across the board by fans and reviewers alike. The controls were simply atrocious and many features of the game that were announced ended up cut from the final title.

But, all was set right by an updated version of the game later that year: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. Considered a “Director’s Cut” of the original Castlevania 64 , it includes all of the original game with some level tweaks, new characters, and other unlockables. That is the title I am reviewing today.

These N64 titles are distinct for being the first 3D Castlevania games developed. The camera controls are still a little annoying and compared to today’s 3D titles, the graphics leave a lot to be desired. But what the game lacks technically, it makes up for in atmosphere.

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When the game begins you play the role of a “man-beast” (werewolf) named, Cornell. After a long exile, he returns to his village to find it recently ransacked, and his sister carted off by cultists! He ultimately chases them down to Castlevania. On the way he passes thru several different locales, one of which is the old “Oldrey Family Mansion”. Cornell soon learns that the head of the household has recently become a vampire and at the request of the mansion’s misses, he escorts her son, Henry, to safety.

Through his travels, Cornell runs into a fellow man-beast from his village named Ortega. It seems there has been some bad blood between Cornell and Ortega over the years. In fact, its finally revealed that Ortega has aligned himself with Dracula’s cult in order to finally defeat Cornell in battle. All the chaos and destruction of Cornell’s village was a result of Ortega’s treachery.

Ortega gets his chance and confronts Cornell in one of the towers of Castlevania. After the battle is over, he is remorseful for selling out his village and Cornell’s sister Ada to Dracula and he reveals her location to Cornell.

Rushing to save his sister, Cornell finds her trapped inside of a red crystal. Having no alternative, Cornell shifts into beast form and breaks the crystal to free her. However, in doing so his “beast form essence” is absorbed by the crystal and used to resurrect Dracula. Ummm… ok.

The next portion of the game takes place 8 years later. You plays as Henry Oldrey, the young man rescued by Cornell in the first chapter. Henry is now a knight of the Holy Catholic Church and he has been dispatched to Castlevania to locate several young children that have recently been kidnapped by the Dracula’s cult. You see, it seems cult was able to use the power siphoned from Cornell to resurrect Dracula in the form of an infant. However, they do not know which child born at that time is this “resurrected being”. So now, eight years later, the cult is snatching up kids left and right trying to find their master.

In the third portion of the game you take control of Reinhardt a young man that shares some family ties with the Belmont clan, and in fact has come to possess the legendary Vampire Killer whip. Reinhardt’s mission takes place at the same time as Henry’s. While Henry is freeing kidnapped children, Reinhardt is hunting Dracula. Eventually, after tackling several of Dracula’s minions, he comes across a mysterious young man named Malus. As soon as he is about to escape the castle with Malus he encounters another vampire hunter by the name of Charles Vincent. Vincent reveals Malus  is actually the resurrected Dracula! After an epic final battle, Reinhardt defeats Dracula and as always, Castlevania fades into nothingness.

But that’s not all! there’s another character named Carrie. Carrie’s portion of the game follows the same exact same storyline as Reinhardt – except you play as Carrie, a blood relative of the Belnades clan. So, it exists as sort of an alternate take of the final chapter.

Overall, I found the game to be a nice change of pace, it is very enjoyable once you get the hang of the controls. (That was the hardest part for me). The storyline is intriguing even if it contains a cast of unfamiliar faces.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
1797: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Alucard vs. Dracula
1844/1852: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness – Cornell, Henry, Reinhardt, & Carrie vs. Dracula
1897: Dracula the novel
1917: Castlevania Bloodlines – John Morris and Eric Lacarde vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Medium The first 3D entry into the series was difficult for me to get a handle on at first. Most of the challenge in the game does not come from battles or puzzle, but from the playcontrol. After a while, I did sort of get used to it, but I found that many of my deaths were the result of being unable to control the character than they were from the game itself.
Story: The Legacy of Darkness version of CV64 does an amazing job in terms of storytelling. Each character has a somewhat overlapping destiny that is both well done and intriguing. I have to give the game high marks here.

 

Originality: The developers really stepped out of their comfort zone with this title. Transitioning the series to a 3D world really took some guts. Sadly, the first incarnation of the game was pretty bad, but many of these issues were set right with LoD.

Soundtrack: Not my favorite. Most the tracks are very ambient. They seem more like background noise than actual music. There are some exceptions, and a few of the tunes are pretty fun. But overall, the soundtrack does not stand up to par.

Fun: For the first half of the game I was extremely frustrated with things like the camera control. But in the end, I do have some very fond memories of the game itself. The mansion and tomb levels are some of my favorites. The game will be be remembered by me for its fun characters and levels.

Graphics: When compared with the previously released SotN, this game suffers graphically. That being said, it’s actually quite good for the Nintendo 64. LoD is also a step up from the original CV64. I personally have never been a fan of the look most N64 games have.

Playcontrol:   This is the game’s worst area. Even though much improved over CV64, the camera controls seem very buggy to me. But that being said, I’m also one of the few people I know who absolutely HATE the N64 controller and this game is no exception. I just found the controls to be substandard and lacking any logical sense. Yes, after a while did get used to them, but in my mind that doesn’t make them any better.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – While this game does have it’s moment. I do find it a little hard to recommend. If you have a Nintendo 64, I do feel this is a worthy title to get your hands on. However, I wouldn’t advise buying the system just for a chance to play the game.

This game is not current available.

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

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