This new chapter is called Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. It isn't a sequel to Lament of Innocence. In fact, it's actually a sequel to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, which was released for the NES more than 15 years ago. The main character is a Forgemaster named Hector, who betrayed Dracula to Simon in the NES game and went on to live a normal life in the outside world. Hector fell in love and went on about his business for 3 years, until Drac's other Forgemaster, Isaac went looking for him. Isaac blames Hector for Dracula's death and as revenge has Hector's wife killed. Hector then heads to Dracula's castle to take revenge.
Gameplay is more in keeping with what we usually expect from the Castlevania franchise. Unlike Lament of Innocence, which was a bland dungeon-crawl, Curse of Darkness has RPG-style features and puzzles. Experience points and levels can be gained by attacking monsters, and there are numerous items, weapons, and armor to collect that can also increase your defense, offense, and stamina capabilities.
One thing we noticed from the demo on display here at E3 is that the castle is larger and more architecturally interesting than the castle in the previous game was. There are many different courtyards and walkways, many of which lead to areas outside the castle or on top of it. We noticed overgrown vines in some spots and cracked floors in others, and we're sure that players will be able to interact with these spots later on to access floors on other levels.
The combat has been simplified a bit from Lament, but to compensate the creature A.I. has been improved. Enemies do a much better job of backing off and blocking this time around. Controlling the game seems simple enough. The square button handles attacks, the X button handles jumping (and a double-jump), and the triangle button commands Hector's Innocent Devil assistant to attack. Different attack combos are possible with various combinations of the square, X, and circle buttons.
The main new change in this game is the Innocent Devil feature. In a nutshell, Hector can summon and command ghostly creatures known as Innocent Devils. The demo only gave us access to three different devils, but they seemed pretty useful. The pterodactyl devil spit knives at enemies and helped carry Hector across gaps in walkways. Selphie, another devil, wandered around waving an axe at enemies and gave Hector a health boost when his stamina was low. You can change the attacks that innocent devils have by picking up weapons located around the castle (knives, holy water, crosses, etc.) and command them to take up an attack, support, or defensive strategy by tapping different directions on the digital pad. Innocent Devils remain by your side until their stamina is depleted. Luckily, that doesn't seem to be much of a problem--you can collect hearts to refill their stamina much more easily than you'll come across potions to replenish Hector's.
All in all, the demo showed a lot of promise. It was mainly just a quick trip through a few rooms, an outside walkway, and a courtyard leading up to a boss fight. Another obvious improvement over Lament is the number of different enemies. In ten rooms in Curse of Darkness there were at least ten different enemy types. That's almost as many as were in Lament in total! The boss fight was sweet too. A giant minotaur kept ripping granite pillars off of the castle and using them like baseball bats against Hector. It may be cheap, but we let the Innocent Devils do most of the dirty work. When the minotaur swung the pillar in a circle and stopped to breath, we slashed at his back with Hector's sword until the creature turned to stone and fell apart. From there, the demo ended and told us to watch for the came... which is coming out Fall 2005.
5/19/2005 Frank Provo