I'm a gamer from the NES era and onward. I love pretty much all kinds of games with the exception of racing, sports, and bad games (obviously). I'm also the co-host on the weekly podcast HYPER KNEE (http://www.hyperknee.blogspot.com), which is almost 1 year old now. I aspire to be either a video-game journalist, or comic book writer (and currently working hard towards those goals).
I'm not going to lie, as far as gaming goes, I did enjoy the year 2010, for the most part. Gamer's were able to get their hands on some great experiences. Experiences like Mass Effect 2, Megaman 10, Metroid: Other M, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and so on and so forth until it was time to claim Bankruptcy for irresponsible spending habits. However, there was one thing that greatly upset me about this year, and that was the stake in the heart to Castlevania, also known as Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
For those of you that don't know, Castlevania is a series that runs all the way back to 1986 on the original Nintendo. It stars a clan of vampire hunters called the Belmonts, up until around 1996 anyway, when the beast forever known as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night made its debut. If you haven't played the original series, or have no idea what I'm even talking about, which would honestly scare me since you're supposed to be a gamer, then please stop reading this and take the time to play an original Castlevania title. You can't go any later than one of the Super Nintendo entries, those are the rules!
As hard as Castlevania tried, it was never able to truly make the jump into 3D like most. However, it wasn't such a bad thing. At least not for fans of the original's like me, anyway. I liked my Castlevania in 2D. However, as time went on, I could no longer bare the Symphony of the Night play-style over and over again, as the series continued to become saturated with anime-inspired characters, and exceedingly ridiculous/stupid story arcs, I could no longer take it. I just lost interest in the series all together and stopped buying them, except for Castlevania: Dracula Chronicles X on the Playstation Portable, obviously. All hope for me and Castlevania went out the window a long time ago, and this new entry was the last, tiny shred of light at the end of the darkest tunnel you could ever imagine yourself in.
Now that the obligatory history lesson is over, lets jump into Lords of Shadow (hereby referred to as: LoS). First, I would like to say that I was extremely optimistic about this title. I watched the trailers and gameplay videos whenever they surfaced, and I always attempted to ignore the flaws and things that I wasn't feeling in general. I was even one of those forum nerds that would have the audacity to defend the game when people would say it was a cheap, uninspired piece of shit. Yes, I'll admit it, I was that guy.
Then it came out, and there I was, first in line at the midnight opening at my local GameStop. With a big smile on my face, I forked over my hard earned dough for my reserved copy, along with a pretty sweet Castlevania T-Shirt (the best part of the deal, really). I promptly jogged home as I tore apart the shrink wrap and other Fort Knox-like security tapes that all games come with, so I could spend some time with a series that I know and love. I was most certainly in for a disappointment.
First, allow me to dive into the few things that I did genuinely enjoy about the game. The graphics, for one. I loved the way this game looked, the presentation was top-notch, and had some inspiring, vivid, landscapes that were very in tune with Castlevania. As I played through the thirty-some-odd hour adventure, I couldn't help but keep pushing forward simply because I wanted to see all the locales that were being offered. If there was one thing they did right when it came to making it feel like a real Castlevania game, it was how they designed the stages. I also felt that the combat system was very in-line to how a 3D Castlevania should play like. Obviously you can't have that one simple whip stroke like they did in the originals, that just wouldn't be much fun, and at least they gave him a whip-like weapon.
Now, I'm not going to go into the bad things in fine detail, because that would make this more of a review, and that's not what this is about, this is about the fact that the Castlevania series I know and love is dead, and it's never coming back. I didn't care about the storyline in this game, the characters were bland, boring, and mediocre at best, and to top it all off, it didn't feel like a story that belongs in the Castlevania universe. That is assuming we are trying to aspire to be more like the original series, of course (which is what the developers were trying to do).
The music was decent, however, once again, it didn't belong. Where's Bloody Tears? Vampire Killer (and no, not the music box version)? There are so many iconic Castlevania tunes, and instead of that we get some uninspired, orchestral, "epic" tracks. They did have one small music cue in the Waterfalls of Agharta track that was a nod to Super Castlevania IV's Waterfalls track, but that was it. The similarities ended there. The music box was also a cute touch, but not what I expected at all when I heard the Vampire Killer track was in the game.
The bosses were all wrong as well. Fighting silly Titans that reminded me of a watered down version of Shadows of Colossus is NOT Castlevania. Then on top of that, no REAL Frankenstein monster (not that stupid scorpion-machine thing), no mummies, and no true Grim Reaper. Seriously? Every Castlevania game has had the Grim Reaper up until now, even the garbage I didn't care to like. Instead, get ready to fight goblins, trolls, and swamp thing. This isn't Dungeons & Dragons, it's Castlevania! Give me my damn mummies!
I feel like I could go on and on about what I hate about this game, but why bother? It's not going to change the hard, obvious truth. The good old days of Castlevania are gone, and now we'll have uninspired "epic" games like LoS from here on out, and most likely more of the same 2D handheld titles on the side. The transition from 2D to 3D can be done right, in my opinion, and this could have been the turning point for Castlevania that actually made it fun, fresh, and familiar once more, but that certainly did not happen.
Castlevania has been on its death bed for a pretty long time, but it officially died last year, and that's more than enough of a reason to say that 2010 sucked.