|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: MercurySteam||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 5, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
As we all know by this point, Castlevania has had an extremely tough time making the transition to 3D over the past decade or so. It's old genre rivals (namely Zelda, Metroid, and even Prince of Persia) have long since made the jump into the third dimension and have seen incredible success (both critically and financially) doing so.
For a while it has been harming the good name of the series, a good name that took decades to establish. If Konami can't come through soon with a solid 3D entry, then it's likely that fans will give up any expectation for a good 3D Castlevania experience.
Konami clearly thinks they've found a winning combination this time around though. First they're planning to start with their classic, trademark gothic visual aesthetic. Then they're adding a heaping does of God of War slasher gameplay. And finally they're tossing a heap of money into making those graphics look absolutely gorgeous.
And for now, well, it seems like it may actually be working. To begin with, the graphics are really quite gorgeous. Maybe it's the incessant low-lighting and the omnipresent shades of black and darker black, but everything in the demo was lavished with care and looked on par with just about anything else on either system. To be fair though, it's not that difficult to make something look awesome when the lights are turned off and it's slathered in black paint.
In order to accomplish their goal of making something - anything - worth playing in the mode of a 3D Castlevania, Konami seems to be taking the safe route. This may prove to be the best conceivable choice. The safe route I'm referring to is the God of War clone. Obviously, Castlevania is absolutely nothing like ancient Greece so you can expect tons of original content, but the slash-em-up combo brawler game mechanics seem to mimic that classic PlayStation series rather closely.
As I said previously, it may not be very exciting, but this is probably the best choice Konami could have made. After all, nobody would have liked to see them keep bashing their heads against the wall failing to translate Symphony of the Night into 3D.
Rather this game will probably have quite a bit more in common with Dante's Inferno than any other game on the market. In our demo we even saw quite a few quicktime events thrown into the mix.
The problem with this series in 3D has always been that it's really hard for players to understand their environment when its as complex as a 3D Castlevania dungeon. A Zelda dungeon is similar, but comparatively small. In Castlevania you are asking the player to memorize every nook and cranny, only now you have to do it in 3D. Moving the series towards a more linear action-based experience side steps that issue.
The other issue, of course, is combat. The 2D versions kept combat very simple. This way you could focus on the complexity of the dungeon, enemies serving as merely a passing distraction (something to do while you traveled to the next area.) This is also hard to do in 3D, and so hopefully by taking out all of the backtracking, then upping the complexity of fighting, Konami can find something that's interesting again.
We're actually glad that Castlevania is getting the reliable God of War treatment. There's almost no way it'll be a bad game, and while that might seem like a back-handed compliment, that's exactly what the series needs right now. If there was another screw up with this series there's no way that it would have continued to have the relevance that it enjoys now. Even right now this game will not get the press that one would have expected from a Castlevania game six years ago. I wholeheartedly hope (and expect) and expect this to be a first step for this series. Think of it as a reboot.
If this game can get out onto the market and do fairly well with critics, fans, and sales, then Konami will probably use this as a launching point to push Castlevania further into 3D. Then they can use the rebooted popularity to get back to the basics of what makes Castlevania great.
I question whether this is exactly what Castlevania fans want right now, but realistically this is a good move for the franchise overall. It could potentially mean great things for Castlevania down the road.
CCC Freelance Writer