Lament of Innocence follows the journeys of Leon Belmont as he searches a vampire’s castle in search of his kidnapped betrothed. It works and establishes the origin of the franchise’s premise and certainly feels like a faithful continuation to where side-scrolling experiences like Symphony of the Night left off. There isn’t a whole lot of depth with the characters, but Lament of Innocence is an experience that focuses more on the game-play and scenery than anything. The dialogue forces the occasional cringe, but it’s passable, and certainly isn’t the worst that we have seen from the franchise.
There’s a lot of atmospheric appeal offered by the game, filled with several intricately embroidered areas to explore and boss-battles. While the graphics were considered dated even for the time, they did well at the style and presentation. The controls are also something worth praising in-terms of their depth. As a hack-in-slash experience, it oftentimes found itself channeling Devil May Cry, however, with the use of relics and sub-weapons, there’s also a lot of individualism.
And so, as far as controls and scenery goes, it actually feels like a well-made installment in the Castlevania series.
Unfortunately, the game-play is something to be desired. I found that there were oftentimes moments while I was playing that there was something absolutely inconsistent about the levels. One of the levels would actually challenge me with a variety of different creatures to fight, and all of the other levels would be extremely easy. I remember moments while I was heading through the dungeons that there were rooms that were completely empty, and others that only had one or two enemies to fight against. It felt as if they did all of the designing for the area, before adding everything else nothing more than an afterthought. Which is terrible, especially when you consider that there wasn’t a lot of anything else.
It never kicked it into second-gear, and I am not even entirely sure if it ever even started. It took me about seven hours to finish Lament of Innocence. This doesn’t take into account any of the times that I died, however, it does take into accounts all of the moments that I was lost. The levels feel criminally unsatisfying, and the only reason that I got as much game-play out of it as I did is because the amount of backtracking that comes with it.
There has always been a lot of obscurities in Castlevania, and while there aren’t any in Innocence that are as infamous as the tornado in Simon’s Quest, there are plenty of moments that unnecessarily slowdown the experience. There isn’t anything wrong with puzzle-solving, in-fact, I enjoy it. I know I enjoyed it in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. However, as far as puzzle-solving goes, there isn’t really a lot of wit or creativity surrounding Innocence. Some of the bigger problems are when I don’t know where to go because one of the rooms is locked by a key. I look and I look, only discover that there was a hidden-door on a balcony in the corner of one of the rooms. If only that was shown on the map.
The hallways and rooms find themselves becoming repetitious and monotonous, each holding basically the same thing, or leading to a item that is ultimately useless. The camera-angle doesn’t make it unplayable, but it makes platforming into a major hassle. There was a lot of times that is seemed like the camera-angle was actually meant to be “part of the challenge” as if a giant flaw in the game was put in intentionally. I had trouble making it through some parts, but it was more because I couldn’t see where the hell I was going than anything else.
Also, during boss-battles, the camera-angle would look away from the boss, and I wouldn’t be able to see when he was attacking. It was an absolute nightmare during the final couple of boss-battles. I didn’t know when to dodge things, and it was trivial even getting in position to attack.
In conclusion, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is artificial and aesthetic evidence of what could have been. It looks like Castlevania, the controls aren’t bad, and the story’s passable, but just about everything else crashes and burns. The experience is repetitive, unsatisfying, and lacks the means to succeed.
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