Vampires Suck, but Castlevania rocks

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Vampires. A hapless group of soul-bound individuals with an unquenchable thirst for blood. Countless tales have been told of their superhuman strength, speed, and agility as well as their horrific acts of terror and unholy rituals. For many years they ruled the nights, shunning the light of day, sucking the life out of helpless victims and binding them to their eternal curse.

But amongst the race of vampires there was one foul being whose name stood out amongst the rest. A being, so relentless, so evil, so powerful that all bowed before him and swore their loyalty to him.

Count Dracula.

Risen from his enforced sleep by depraved and corrupt spirits, he stalked the land, shape-shifting into a bat, wolf, or coils of mist, mercilessly sucking the blood of those individuals unfortunate enough to cross his path. All those that refused to pledge alligience to him died horrible deaths.

But in the midst of dark times, one family whose hearts were pure and full of courage chose to take a stand against the Prince of Darkness.

The Belmonts.

A family of formidable vampire slayers whose vast knowledge of the undead and superior weapons skills have helped them successfully, purge the land of vampire threats…at least for a time.

Realizing that as long as corrupt and evil souls roamed the earth, evil again would return to the land, they decided to dedicate themselves to ridding the land of these forces of darkness by passing their knowledge and training down from one generation to another.

As fate or even destiny would have it, the time has come again for the newest member of the Belmont clan to take a stand against Count Dracula and his minions. Reinhardt Schneider sets out to undo Dracula’s evil plan as Konami continues the legacy of Castlevania onto the Nintendo 64 platform.

This year’s installation represents an innovative and inspiring twist in the Castlevania series. The original Castlevania was the 12th game to debut on a console system, and Castlevania 64’s most phenomonal change involves its evolution from 2D to 3D graphics. Now gamers can experience Castlevania in a way never experienced before. For years player’s have explored Dracula’s castle in the classic two-dimensional side-scrolling mode. Now with a new leap to three-dimensional graphics, gamers will be able to roam freely to new environments, exploring the deepest depths of Count Dracula’s home.

Another significant change in the game is the introduction of co-heroes. Reinhardt Schneider, the primary hero and heir to the Belmont clan, is doomed by his blood to challenge the power of Dracula. After the death of his father, Micheal Schneider, Reinhardt set out to go into the mountains and begin intense training in combat skills and vampire hunting. After many years of training Rheinhardt returns to his homeland, Wallachia, only to find it overrun by Dracula’s minions. Wielding the holy whip of his ancestors Reinhardt sets out to thwart the plans of the Prince of Darkness.

But Reinhardt isn’t the only one who senses the need to confront the Count. Carrie Ferenendez was born with magical powers. As Dracula’s minions swepty through the land, people became afraid of the little girl. When Carrie’s foster mother tried to protect her she was killed right in front of Carrie. Now sensing Dracula’s return, she sets out alone to the dark castle, wielding her inherited power in the fight against evil.

Originally, there were supposed to be four playable characters, but Konami narrowed it down to two, eliminating the Frankenstein monster and wolfman.

There’s quite a bit to be said in the graphics department, both good and bad. Even with the influence of the 4 megabyte expansion pak, Castlevania seems to have a roller coaster of graphic changes. Some areas of the game are extensively detailed, having good contrast and color while other areas of the game are less eye-appealing, quite foggy, and have colors that seem to blend together rather than compliment each other.

Reinhardt is dressed in some of the best vampire attire I’ve seen since the series started. His uniform helps give him a modern look and his hair kind of whipped back taps into his cool side. On the other hand though, I’m wondering why Konami decided to give him such a pale skin color and I think his uniform would have looked better if the colors were more defined rather than pastel-looking. Also, in terms of movement, Reinhardt looks great while running but when he slows down to a walk he stiffens up to the point where his knees won’t even bend.

Carrie Fernandez’s uniform goes along well with her magician’s role, but again the misuse of colors makes her look like different parts of her outfit are clashing. Still, who cares to dwell on looks when you can shoot magical energy blasts out of the palms of your hands?

Despite these in-game quirks, Castlevania is in no way a game to be put on the back burner. In fact, I’d say it’s a barn burner, loaded with smoothly animated cinematics, good sound, excellent sound effects, and huge end bosses. There are over 10 stages ranging from the Transylvannian forest to Dracula’s castle. You also have two characters with different plot paths through the game, different boss encounters, and different endings.

What more could you ask for? I give this game 4 out of 5 GiN Gems.


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