When I was a wee lad, Castlevania was one of the first games I had for the PC. It was similar to it's NES counterpart. I played for hours, trying to work my way to the Dark Master himself. As most of you know, that game was a bit on the unforgiving side (especially for a wee lad), and with no save system, I rarely got past the third or first area.
These games have come a long way since then. And while there have been a couple of good console iterations, the series really seems to have found its home on handhelds. If memory serves, this is the third on the DS.
The second game in the series added some RPG elements including a bit of story stuff here and there. Later iterations would flesh out the Belmont clan's story. To be honest, I never really kept up on the story. I play Castlevania games for the same reason I like Zelda... the action > the story.
So, with that being said, I won't give much of the story for those of you who ARE into it. In this log, however, I will talk about gameplay elements as I take this trek with Shanoa, a member of the Order of Ecclesia. In case you were not aware, the Order of Ecclesia is one of many orders that formed to take down Mr. Blood Sucker himself.
First off, the graphics are just amazing for the DS. The first area or two really jumped out at me. Its not so much the actual technical side of it, because the DS is kinda weak in that area. It's the attention to detail and art direction. This one seems to have a more realistic look, leaning less on the manga style seen in the last two.
So far, I've played for about an hour or so, and I've been through five areas. Instead of finding myself in a castle, I've been thrust from a monastery to a town, to some woods to an ocean and to a prison. Wooo. The net result, thus far, is there's a lot less maze and a lot more straight forward platforming (if that makes sense). In one hour I've seen more settings than I have in some whole platformer games.
You can equip three "Glyphs" which are basically spells & weapons. It's fun equipping two swords, because each one of them maps to a different button. This allows you to do quick 1-2 combos. The "magic meter" I'm used to seeing ties into these attacks. If you attack too much at once, you'll have to stop while it recharges. Don't worry... it charges fast. By pressing up, you perform a special attack which consumes hearts (Similar to the first game). The type of special attack you get is dependent on the Glyphs you have attached in the primary and secondary slot.
I was having fun until I made a classic mistake. In the first shop, I went to sell of my 'extra' armor after purchasing upgrades. However, I somehow sold all of my NEW armor as well. Unless I missed something big, the game does not show you which pieces of armor you currently have equipped when you are in the shop. When you are in sell mode, it just shows all your armor in your inventory PLUS what you are wearing. Of course, he bought my BRAND NEW armor for about 1/4 of what I paid for it. *sigh* So, in order to get enough money to buy it back again, I had to sell two of my 'heart repairs' which refills your hearts in battle. I hope I don't need those later on!
So far, this game reminds me of the 2nd Castlevania. With a town you can go to in order to buy supplies, and several different areas you can go to, including a forest, it brings back some memories (and not all of them good, mind you!) Hopefully I won't need an FAQ to figure out ridiculous mandatory secrets to proceed, like that game!
Well, time for bed. I'll play another couple of hours tomorrow... and this weekend, I should get into some good time. I may even complete it by Sunday if its similar in length to the others.
I've played another couple of hours, but the save screen only shows another 90 minutes played. The reason is you die so freakin' much. Castlevania games have always been on the hard side, but holy cow!!
Some of the stages you go through are a cake walk. Others require trial and error just to survive. The boss battles I've been through, <span class="spoiler">including one with a huge crab</span>, really take some repeat runs because there's several parts/stages to the fight, and each one can take some figuring out! I guess I'm surprised, because I'm not used to dying 15 times in the first three hours of gameplay on any game...except Megaman 9, of course!
As you kill enemies, they sometimes drop Glyphs, as I mentioned before. What I don't quite understand, is how does absorbing multiples of the same glyph help you out? It would be nice if the instructions or someone in the game went over details like this.
I like the fact that they went back to the heart system for special attacks. I like to save up my hearts for big baddies. Fun times.
I put some good time into it today. The game shows almost five hours, but its longer than that because you die oh so often! I was actually surprised today. There was a boss that I was able to beat without reloading! Whoot! Overall the game is getting a little easier because I'm taking the time to switch weapons to enemies weaknesses. Doing so seemed more optional to me in other Castlevania games, but here it is a MUST.
One of the things I failed to mention before is that in your travels, you will save townspeople who are trapped in all these different stages. I think I've saved nine so far.
I must have traveled to another 1/2 dozen different areas today, and fought about three bosses. Along the way, I found upgrades to my weapons, and a few new spells. Spells are basically attacks. Using either drains you SP bar which refills pretty quickly. Later on, you get more MP, which allows you to chain more spells or attacks before taking a break. However, it also means that it will take you longer to refill your gauge as well.
I only stopped because of this last boss I fought. But it wasn't the boss that stopped me. While it took me a couple of tries, I was able to beat this last boss with no problem. <span class="spoiler">He gave me the last piece of the Dominous, some powerful Gryph (Special attack) that's supposed to stop Dracula once and for all (bleh, bleh, bleh... I don't care about story in Castlevania games). Anyway, the game takes me to the first chapel where my teach awaits (with no chance to save). He tells me to put all the pieces of the Dominous on an alter. I couldn't figure out how to do that. So, I equipped all three pieces of the Dominous on my attack buttons, and actived a unity attack. My character said something about darkness swollowing her up whole. I then got a GAME OVER and the game saved. WTF? The game showed me three townspeople that were still trapped around the different areas for a split second, and then it took me back to the main menu. When I reloaded, I was in the room right before the big boss.
So, I guess this is sort of the games way of telling me that I gotta find these three extra townpeople before I can take on this big enemy dude and actually live? I'm sorry, but that's stupid. Maybe I missed some text somewhere, but this requirement is NO WHERE in the story line or the instruction book. It's bad enough that I have had to do some boards several times due to difficulty level and whatnot, but having to do stuff over because something was not explained ahead of time is just poor. Not to mention, now I have to go all over God's creation (in the game) looking for the three missing people (SIGH). Of course, this may actually be the end of the game, and maybe I got a bad ending!</span> I may have to peak at some FAQs to figure this out. Any help from you all would be appreciated.
After looking for a while, I broke down and took a look at an FAQs. I found out that<span class="spoiler"> there were two villagers located behind breakable walls. I would have never figured that out on my own. On one hand, I should know better. It's a Castlevania game and I should be trying to break every wall. On the other hand, on my play through, I was using electric the most (especially under water... a great place to use electricity) and one of the villagers was behind a breakable wall in that area. </span>
So, I went back, beat the bad guy, and now Dracula's Castle is open up to me. I got through the first few parts well enough, and now I'm stuck on this big status of Cerebus. Let me say that the parts of the castle I have been through so far as very, very well done. Excellent graphics and animation. It's some of the best 2-D stuff that I've seen on the DS in a long time. The gameplay continues to hold up its end. The baddies are tougher, but I now have more ways to dispatch them. I will say that the first big enemy I ran into was a bit of a gimmick/pushover.
Oh, and for those of you who've actually taken the time to read through all of this, here's a bit of an exploit to help you in your travels. This knowledge will get you a lot of gold really fast. <span class="spoiler">Go to mystery manor. Go inside of the manor and head for the upper left room. It has one candle stick and a couple of flea mobs. Make sure you have the "Inire Pecunia" Gryph on your "R" button. Activate it. Now, run in and out of the room, killing the fleas and candle each time. You'll get between $500-$1000 almost every time. When you run out, there's another candle right there that can also get you money about 1/2 the time. In about 10 minutes, I racked up over $50k! </span>
10.26.08 Part 2
Game finished. At least, the first run through
Games like this are meant to be run through several times, and I would like to see what I can do in some of those old areas with my new powers. The last area rocks. I really enjoyed the castle. However, my fingers hurt from almost 10 hours non stop DS action. So, I probably won't be returning soon! Phew!