You may wonder why, with games like Infamous and Punch-Out, I would be playing a DS game, an older DS game, in a series like Castlevania. With such high-profile, incredibly exciting titles on the more advanced systems, why would I play an old-style 2D platformer? Because gamefly didn't have anything more interesting to send. :P
In all seriousness, I've never played a Castlevania game before. Never. This was my first foray into the realm of Dracula-slaying. So, this review is not from someone who knows Belmonts from whoever else, this is the review from someone who never picked up a Castlevania game before, didn't know anything about the series. I added it to my gamefly as an afterthought, surprised to find it in my mailbox.
But, holy crap, what the hell have I been missing out on?
I know it's not the official NA box, but I like this one more. :D
Castlevania begins with Dracula's castle rising out of the ground for some reason, and two people, Charlotte and Jonathon are apparently the only two that can do something about it. Who are they? Why are they in the Castle? What makes them so special? Well, the game kind of explains this, but the story isn't really that interesting. Jonathon is a member of a family that isn't Belmont, but knows the Belmonts, and he has the Vampire Killer for some reason but can't use it...or something. I don't really know, the cutscenes were very brief and uninformative. But, what was there was fairly smartly written and at times humorous, which I found surprising.
Needless to say, it's the gameplay that really drives the game. At first, I was kind of disappointed with the gameplay. You don't really have any fighting combos, you just kinda hit a button for one strike. And you jump. Charlotte has magic, Jon has weapons, and you can switch. That's about it, at first. But then, I got more stuff, could perform more actions, and gameplay took off.
This was helped immensely by the awesome music. I had no idea Castlevania's tunes were so dang catchy. I found myself humming the songs long after turning off the DS, something that -very- rarely happens. I started searching for the soundtracks, and everything. It's great.
Graphics in the game are 2D, but very nicely done and well animated. The smoothness of the sprite's animation varies depending on the character, but for the most part, they are very fluid. Monsters are all beautifully rendered in a great art style. The character portraits are generic anime, but the actual monsters you fight are far more original.
Speaking of monsters, Castlevania has really awesome boss battles. They followed a kind of formula, at least I found. You would fight, die twice, on the third attempt get the hang of it, and win on your fourth. Otherwise, the game isn't really overly difficult, but not exactly easy either. It was the perfect difficulty, just challenging enough to keep things interesting.
I do have some complaints. There has to be a better way to switch specials then pausing the game each time, and going through the menus. It's tedious, and more than a few times in epic boss battles I would think I had one special equipped only to have a different one. Also, the two-character idea isn't very useful. I played most of the game as Jon, and switched to Charlotte in very specific circumstances.
But that's all nitpicky stuff. Overall, Casltevania is one of the most fun games I've played in a while. I'm definitely a fan, and now I'm going to search out the others. :D