Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness Review

Less than a year after Castlevania first hit the Nintendo 64 comes the prequel, which is known as Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. The original plan for Castlevania was much more ambitious, with four playable characters and a larger cartridge size. That didn’t happen because of time constraints, so many have unaffectionately referred to this follow-up as a “director’s cut.” Upon closer inspection, however, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness has more value than initially meets the eye. Don’t dismiss this game just yet.

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness plays very similarly to its predecessor. Item and control information, therefore, can be gleaned from that review. The only differences are an extra attack (Cornell’s werewolf attack with the L button) and a few other items that are linked to events and secrets during your quest.

For starters, only one of the four characters is initially playable in Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. Cornell, a.k.a. Blue Crescent Moon, is a man-beast. He looks like a mortal and lives in harmony with humans. But he has tremendous physical ability and is almost immortal. When he returned to his village from a year of ascetic training, it was engulfed in flames and his closest blood relative, his sister Ada, was missing. Through the magic of the Ancients, which gives him his magical sickle throw attack, he vows to rescue Ada by tracking her scent.

The three other playable characters are Reinhardt, Carrie and Henry. Reinhardt Schneider and Carrie Fernandez were fate’s warriors in the original game. In Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, their quests are eight years before the first game, which will reveal even more truths for die-hard fans of the N64 incarnations. The fourth character, Henry, is a holy crusader sent on a quest to rescue six children in seven days while Reinhardt and Carrie battle Count Dracula. You need to complete the game with Cornell first to enable the other characters to be playable.

Cornell’s quest will take him through somewhat familiar and very unfamiliar territory. His adventure starts on a ship destined for the Forest of Silence. But once he finds his way off the ship, he will take a different trip through the forest, making the quest completely different at first. Then, just like before, he’ll have to scale the Castle Wall and enter the Villa. But traps and events have changed, leading Cornell on a different yet familiar looking path. Once inside the castle, there are completely new levels and a few of the same levels with completely different layouts. It’s like a completely new quest, which is even longer, but similarities (texture design, same items, returning characters) will give you a sense of déjà vu.

Story is once again a strength in Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness. Much more impressive introductions and endings only fall below The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Rare’s latest efforts (Jet Force Gemini, Donkey Kong 64) in terms of presentation. The movie-like introduction, complete with opening credits, uses cinematic techniques, choreographing, and timed sound to revel Cornell’s story. The story isn’t moved along as much during the actual quest as the original, but it’s more inspiring overall.

Both control and the camera system are improved, too. The control isn’t as loose, and the character seems more responsive and seems more accurate with his or her attacks.

Veteran fans of the system’s first Castlevania game will notice the much-improved camera. The camera is closer to and a little higher off the ground compared to Castlevania. It now swings around behind the character more quickly, too. Most importantly, however, “auto cam” is now used quite often to give you the best fixed view possible when navigating platforms and other events.

Graphics weren’t overly impressive in the original, but they’re noticeably better here — that is, if you have the Expansion Pak. Without the Expansion Pak, the graphics are still low-res and blurry. Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, however, does move more quickly and smoothly thanks to a better frame rate. With the Expansion Pak, expect much clearer graphics and much less fogging. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t move as fast. Still, the clarity of the high-resolution mode is worth the slightly slower speed, which is equivalent to the original, anyway.

The sound in Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness ranks among the system’s best. Instrument sample rates seem higher, making the music sound even better. The music ranges from remixes of tunes in the first N64 game to completely new compositions to exact replicas. Sound effects are more numerous and realistic, lending even more to the audio. Voice plays a less prominent role in this prequel, however, which is the only slightly disappointing part.

Is Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness worth the full price of admission for owners of the original Castlevania? That depends on how much you enjoyed the game. Big fans of 1998’s game will appreciate the new back-story and the challenge of new level layouts. And the game is just so much more polished overall. Others will see Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness as a “director’s cut”-type game that should have been released as the original in the first place.

No matter how you feel about this, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, on its own, is a great game. The excellent story, good level design, and amount of action add up to engrossing gameplay. Any way you slice it, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness is a winner.

Graphics

The graphic design is starting to show its age, but the visuals have been improved drastically with the Expansion Pak.

Sound

Better instrument samples and more realistic sound effects help this category keep with the times. Voice is used in a more limited way, though.

Enjoyment

The story is presented more impressively. Additionally, the so-called “familiar” levels aren’t quite so similar once you play through them. But Cornell’s quest isn’t quite as enjoyable compared to the first time going through as Reinhardt in the original.

Replay Value

Two brand-new quests with Cornell and Henry exist, and Reinhardt and Carrier are here to reveal the shroud of darkness surrounding the “truth.” The only question is, do you want to play through that much with a feeling of déjà vu?

Documentation

The design and layout of the manual are much, much better. One only wishes there was more information about our heroes and the monsters.

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