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The epic struggle of good vs. evil between the Belmont Family and the Dracula Clan has won the hearts and imaginations of many generations of gamers over the years. Whips and crosses versus blood-sucking hybrids and other foul creatures of the night is just too irresistible a combination to turn your back on.
But time has its way of changing things. Now a newer and darker adventure awaits fans of the series as a new main character rises from the realm of darkness. Hector, one of two Devil Forgemasters who once trained under Dracula, has fled Vallachia disillusioned with the ideals of his mentor. Now, three years after Dracula was defeated in battle at the hands of the Belmonts, Isaac - a former friend and fellow Devil Forgemaster suddenly reappears and orchestrates the execution of Hectors beloved girlfriend, Rosaly. Fueled by revenge, Hector returns to Vallachia to confront Isaac. He must find his way back to the ruins of Dracula to uncover an intricate web of deception, unaware of the sinister plan that has been orchestrated to lure him back home in Konami's newest installment of the series, "Castlevania: Curse of Darkness."
Curse of Darkness is just as visually stunning out of the gates as "Lament of Innocence" was when it first debuted. The environments are much larger and broader and this year you won't find yourself confined to the hallways of the Count's castle for all of your adventure. Boasting a bigger field of exploration, Hector will seek out the answers that yet elude him within the deep winding valleys of the mountains, the thick and dense dwellings of the forest, dark hollow labyrinth-like caves, and other various hidden dungeons. And even though the theme of the game is darker this year, you'll still find plenty of colorful 17th century artwork and statues, the typical classic memorabilia of the Castlevania series.
Curse of Darkness really takes the series a bold step in a whole new direction as you're no longer bound to carry the weight of the Belmont legacy, but instead you're whole crusade is fueled on a more simple primal instinct : revenge. To make things even more interesting, you have this dark hero who has sort of found his way to the light but is not yet totally cleansed from his dark side if you will. So, consequently, when Isaac orders the execution of Hectors girlfriend, he exploits the one weakness that any man with a soul might have: the gift of love. And we all know that love, un-harnessed, will ultimately lead back to the dark side. (See Star Wars Episode III) Now, ironically, Hector will have to once again call upon the dark powers that he'd forsaken years ago if he's going to have any chance at exacting his revenge on his bitter arch rival.
In order to accomplish his mission, Hector will have to delve back into the dark art of "devil forging." Devil forging is the art of summoning fairy-like sprites and then magically fusing them with "evolution crystals" to form what are called "innocent devils". Innocent devils can be summoned to their master's side at will to help conquer enemies, evade traps, or solve challenging puzzles.
You can evolve innocent devils into stronger more powerful fiends by collecting evolution crystals left behind by felled enemies. As they become more powerful their outer appearances and special abilities increase dramatically. Much of your survival and success during the game will depend heavily upon how useful you make your new found allies.
Besides being able to summon powerful friends at your side in a moment's notice, sometimes you simply need the right tool for the right job. This year a new "item creation" feature has been added to help to further enhance your game play experience. In your travels you'll stumble upon various items dropped by certain enemies which become essential for making new weapons and armor. Once you collect all of the necessary items you'll be able to forge new weapons or upgrade the current ones. From axes and swords to spears and other power weapons, you can fashion your arsenal to your liking. Players can experiment with several different combinations to discover new and extraordinary weapons and armor.
Under the new combat system you can make use of your weaponSmithing and devil forging skills by combining different styles of weapons with various "battle-type" innocent devils to perform devastating chain-combos. This new style of game play makes the series a lot more appealing as the game ventures away from its traditional "crack-the-whip" days.
My only gripe with the series would have to be the "music selection". Don't get me wrong, I know this is the classic theatrical music we've all been entertained with for years but with the series taking on such a dramatic change why not take the opportunity to go with a completely new sound track. I'm sorry, but murder, revenge, devil forging, and "Beethoven's Symphony" just don't seem like the perfect combination to me.
The bottom line, though, is that despite its lack of musical flair, Curse of Darkness introduces several new elements that really help to revitalize the series. Being able to summon powerful allies at your side to do your every bidding is absolutely the best thing since "sliced undead."
WeaponSmithing itself is highly addictive and very rewarding to those that put the proper time and effort into it. An advanced combo system allows players to take advantage of both these new features allowing them to experiment with powerful chain-combos using different styles of weapons and innocent devils. More importantly, the opportunity to role play the game from a different perspective is a breath of fresh air as the series moves away from its traditional ways.
Some may welcome all of this new change with open arms and others might turn their back on it, but the fact still remains that Curse of Darkness delivers an all new game play experience that will most likely be widely received as a nice new change of pace and is absolutely a must have title for any hardcore Castlevania fans. This game easily earns a solid 4 GiN gems.
Jevon Jenkins enjoys all types of games, especially those where the programmer's imagination is evident. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org.