Castlevania PlayStation 2
Developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Released - 13th February
Price : £39.99
If you really needed proof of the PlayStation 2's dominance in the 'console wars' you only have to count the amount of classic gaming series that have moved to the console. Castlevania is the latest classic series to arrive on Sony's machine having previously been on a number of other consoles. The transition to the PlayStation 2 has been a smooth one though and whilst there are some differences between this Castlevania and the previous titles, it's still one of the better titles in the longstanding series.
This edition of Castlevania is actually the prequel to the other Castlevania games. You play as Leon Belmont and the game begins with Belmont's betrothed being kidnapped by a vampire. Belmont finds out from his close friend, Mathias, that she has been taken to a castle called Eternal Night in the nearby forest. The vampire's name is Walter Bernhard and it's thought that he is the one who is responsible for Belmont's town being under attack from monsters. Belmont naturally decides to rescue his future bride. On entering the forest he comes across a man named Rinaldo Gandolfi who not only warns Belmont of the danger's that lie ahead but also arms him with a whip made of alchemy and enchants his left gauntlet (which will enable him to block certain enemies and use magic relics). The game begins after you've left Gandolfi and enter the castle.
Once inside the castle you'll have to contend with a variety of enemies such as Skeleton Swordsman, Hellhounds, Poison Lizards and Frost Zombies. Initially you'll only have the whip to use as a weapon but you'll some find other weapons such as knives, axes and even holy water to assist you in your quest to rescue Belmont's future bride. Magic attacks are also an option as you can collect orbs, which can be combined with the subweapons and this will enable you to wield devastating attacks. The various enemies in the games have certain strengths and weaknesses so you'll have to be careful about what you attack your enemies with. Aside from the combat, there is a fair amount of platforming here and your whip can be used to latch on to various objects to pull you up. You're not punished for mistiming any of your jumps and this helps prevent frustration from creeping in. Should you get hurt during the game you'll be able to purchase potions etc. from Gandolfi. Magical tickets enable you to transport back to Gandolfi from anywhere in the castle.
Castlevania is pretty much an all out action game. Whilst other titles in the series have RPG elements there is nothing of the sort here. Belmont does acquire extra combo moves as you progress through the game but he doesn't level up or gain any special abilities like you might expect to see in a RPG. It's by no means a disappointment though and as an action game it's sure to be one of the best on the PlayStation 2 this year. There are over 100 rooms/corridors in the game and in places the gameplay can be a little repetitive but on the whole it's an enjoyable experience.
Whilst previously the great Castlevania games have been in 2D, this one is in full 3D. Of course great 2D games don't necessarily translate well to a 3D environment but thankfully Konami have done a great job with Castlevania. 3D games usually have an imperfect camera that often hinders the gameplay. Castlevania offers you no control over the camera and whilst some might find this limiting, and a source of irritation, it does help you to concentrate on the gameplay rather than having to fiddle about with camera angles. The quality of the graphics are OK although they are a little angular in places. The various enemies and bosses you will encounter all look good but you couldn't argue that they are the finest ever seen on the PlayStation 2. Best of all though the game looks exactly like what you would expect a Castlevania game to look like and that's all that matters really.
Deaf gamers will be pleased to learn that the game is accessible and subtitled. The games introduction has upwardly scrolling text that is word for word with the narrator's speech. During the game the cutscenes are shown in a letterbox format with the subtitles appearing in the lower border which makes them really easy to read. All information you receive, such as the amount of hits you make and when you acquire a new combo move etc. are all shown in text so you'll be able to enjoy the game and follow the story as the game progresses.
There can be no doubt that this is a very good addition to the classic Castlevania series. Longstanding fans of the series will probably wish that the RPG elements from previous Castlevania games had remained and some might think that the dozen or so hours it takes to play through the game is a little short. Indeed I would normally agree that it is a short game but when you factor in the hidden locations and the unlockable character that you can play as, then it's value for money becomes unquestionable. Fans of the Castlevania series and indeed of action games in general should definitely give this one a look.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
The Castlevania brand continues to be an impressive one with this enjoyable addition to the series.
No problems for deaf gamers.