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Castlevania 64 Package Art
GENRE
Action/Adventure
DEVELOPER
Konami
PUBLISHER
Konami
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1
CONTROLLER PAK
yes
RUMBLE PAK
no
RAM PAK
no
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Castlevania 64

I never really got into the Castlevania series on the NES; played it as I may have, I never owned or completed any of the games, but I DID enjoy them severely. The series has always had a reputation for it's solid gameplay and gothic theme, and, in addition, it's classic 2D style that continued all the way up onto the much hailed Symphony of the Night on the Sony Playstation. So when Konami announced the jump to 3D for the N64 incarnation, there was quite a stir among longtime fans. In development for quite some time, the game has finally made it out; so how does it fare?

visuals

This is, by far, the most disappointing area of the entire game. Whereas the story isn't terribly strong, the atmosphere holds a lot of potential to recreate an almost Resident Evil horror feel to it. But the drastically low quality textures, rough polygon models of both characters and enivronments alike, and the lack of any real dynamic coloring, makes the game look washed out and extremely first generation styled. Which is an incredible disappointment considering all the recent graphical feats and achievements recently being accomplished. Although it's hard to blame the development team for such a poor outcome: the entire game is crammed onto a 96-bit cartridge -- on par with games such as Rare's Killer Instinct Gold in size. That's no way to treat an epic series.

But let's make this much clear: the game isn't ugly. Well, not usually anyways. It resembles Body Harvest in many ways, with a simple design and similar execution. There's heavy fogging to keep things running smoothly which, while annoying, does keep things going; but the game still slows down at times. There's also some realtime lighting and day-night changes, but neither make much difference in graphical feats. The sky textures are nice enough if you look high enough and the full moon is also rather nice looking, but the rough appearance never fades. At the very least, there are a notable amount of cinemas to keep you interested and some are rather fun to watch, the intro most notably; however, the sometimes awkard animation and first-gen graphics can make some of them look awfully sillier than they should be. For example, in one cinema, Dracula appears and rears his head back and laughs wickedly -- only to jerk his head back into position spontaneously in such a way that it makes it look goofy. But those are rare instances, the cinemas are quite a treat in the long run. Although the walking motions of the characters need some drastic improvment; Reinhardt sometimes appears as if he pulled a groin muscle.

But hey, when the back of the box states such amazing features as, and I quote: "Amazing graphic effects! Transparency, dynamic lighting, and awesome special effects!", I think it sums up pretty much it all right there. Konami, welcome to the N64... again.

audio

Here Konami succeeds. The theme is absolutely beautiful, featuring a lone violinist playing a rich and deep memorable solo, only to be accompanied shortly after with some great cello and bass that give the theme an almost waltz beat to it. And of course, there's a bit of synthesized piano in there for good measure. The rest of the musical compositions remain in the background, but are triumphantly well done. And the carefully implemented silence at times....eerie.

Another good touch: Voice. There's quite a bit including a fully narrated intro and some quick excerpts in the more important cinemas -- it does later switch to text in lesser cinemas though. It's articulate, clear, and has a nice resounding tone; although oddly, enough, if you read along with the text you may catch some slight errors in comparison. Sound effects are also nicely done, but are sometimes a little bit off, making some effects kinda misplaced. Overall though, this is Castlevania's strongest point.

gameplay

Castlevania plays something like a 2D game in three dimensions; that is, it almost always feels like a 2D game set in a 3D enviroment -- there aren't too many times you can feel the entire world of the game. For example, in Zelda, players could see into the distance and spot Lon-Lon Ranch, and ride or run right on up to it. In Castlevania, there's almost always something there to provide an obstacle or backdrop that makes that immersion impossible. At the very beginning of the game players start off in a foggy forest -- here the fog acts just as a 2D backdrop would in a two-dimensional game, and while players can techincally move about in 3D, it just doesn't feel it.

Control is somewhat of a problem as it isn't as precise as it could be, but it manages once you get accustomed to it. Here's a quick rundown: analog is used to move, R to adjust the camera to the nearest target if there's one present, A to jump, B to use the primary attack, Z to duck, C left for a secondary attack, down C for item use, right C acts as an action button, and top C plays with the camera views. A slight nuisance is that hanging onto ledges must be manually done, making some areas harder than they should be.

But where the largest complaint of Castlevania's gameplay comes in, is in the obstinate camera system. It's rather half assed, causing all sorts of problems: misjudging distances leading to an INCREDIBLE amount of unnecessary deaths, getting stuck behind objects, causing clipping on various occasions, and choosing some downright awkard positions at times. When fighting a vampire in a large room for example, the player may choose to run towards the walls to avoid an attack, and jump over the vampire -- but this often leads to the camera staying in the corner, making your view obstructed and leading you to be rather confused; all the while you're being attacked relentlessly. Misjudging distances is another big problem -- the camera will often remain fixed during some platforming areas, and since it's off to an awkard angle, and since your character's jumping abilities is sensitively focused on exactly what direction you're facing, death is almost inevitable.

There is one thing Konami did rather well, and that's saving. There are plenty of save points all around, distinctively pointed out by white gems scattered throughout the levels. And if you die, and you will, you won't have to replay much of the your progress. Unfortunately though, on this note, you only get one life. Meaning if you die, then you have to start back from wherever you saved last -- and since the camera system is shoddy and a misjump is almost always instant death, you may find yourself playing up until that certain trouble spot a gazillion times over. Just wait for Duel Towers, where your character can't quite seem to grasp those ledges, and you gotta keep fighting your way to the first save point. Argh.

And then there's challenge. Or lack of depending which way you care to view it. The enemies are entirely too incompetent; they run right by you, or stand near you and wait a few seconds before attacking. Hellooooo... Furthermore, the endless array of skeletons get absolutely annoying after a bit. They attack when picking up items, and never stop coming usually. What's worse, is these are the most basic creatures created -- the very same that run straight past you and wait to attack; they soon become tedious work to dispose off so you can progress. Don't get me started on the self-destructing skeletons either, ugh. The main challenge doesn't come from puzzles or enemies -- they combine entirely to form busywork. Surprisingly, the obstacles haven't changed since the NES days...much. Oi. What challenge arises, comes from the control and camera system. Honestly, it's not unplayable, but it's incredibly frustrating.

Still the game manages to chug along at a fair pace, and keeps the player entertained from time to time with huge bosses and mini bosses that liven up the tedious gameplay of finding keys to unlock doors. And there are nice moments in the game, just nothing really memorable. It's not to say the game isn't fun at times, because it is. It just requires a patience and slow mastery of the controls and camera to get it down pat; which unfortunately is bound to turn off newcomers to the series. Still, it entertains, and the final boss is a treat to fight as are the cinemas.

The gameplay that instantly lets players know they're playing a classic is gone from this one. It's rather sad; the potential this game has is monstrous -- what Konami could've done with a few more months and a larger cart size can only be speculated now. But the 3D idea of the game is taking the series in the right direction; now let's just see some polish on the old pair of shoes.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

It's one of those games you just buy on the name alone -- unfortunately, it's also one of those games that hold the potential to make a killing, but leave the impact of a mosquito on a windshield. It's not horrendous or even bad; just extremely disappointing in execution. My suggestion: Rent a few times or just borrow it. Or if you really want to, wait and find it cheap. Don't bother with full price unless you'rea die hard fan of the series or you're just looking for a new experience.

final score 7.3/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Aldo Merino
Staff Profile | Email
"To be or not to be? That is the question."


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