Friday, October 15, 2010

VC Look - Castlevania 3

To me fear isn't the expectation of death. What I fear are the things that make me wish for death, like possibly some debilitating illness, maybe a horrific car-crash where I lose the use of multiple limbs, college, or even just being trapped in something that I have no hope of ever escaping. So if the situation is that bad where I question my own sense of self-preservation, well that's something worth being scared of. I'm also deathly afraid of heights.

While it's unfortunate that such a morbid topic is how I introduce Castlevania 3 there's really no other way around it. Since its release this has been one of the few games that I actually fear because I feel trapped in some sort of nebulous space between death and more death that I know I'll never escape. In a way it's become like Demon's Souls, another game where I gain an acceptance for death yet still feel hopeless. I figure if I persevere I will eventually win and everything will work out. Still no matter how many hopes and dreams I throw at Castlevania 3 every play-through ends the same way, I end up getting stuck somewhere dying constantly with no hope of success.

This time around Trevor Belmont and a handful of allies are tasked with the job of slaying Dracula “once and for all”. This makes for a slightly more strategic game as thanks to multiple paths the player can eventually pick from one of three characters to fight alongside Trevor. Grant specializes in agilty as he can jump higher, run faster, and even control his jumps while in mid-air. He’s also handy with a knife and can climb walls and ceilings, provided you’re careful with the d-pad so he doesn’t lose his grip. Syfa (Sylpha) is loaded with strong spells but his (or her) failing is that she bruises easily and his staff is a terrible weapon to rely on. Alucard is rather lacking as he is missing all of his weapons, the ability to equip shields, and his repertoire of spells but he can still turn into a bat and fly around.

Multiple paths are the other big new feature of Castlevania 3. There is no correct path to Drac’s Castle but they vary in difficulty so the player may eventually find the way that suits them best. It really doesn’t matter to me though because all the paths affect is how long it’ll take me before I get completely stuck and give up. Some stages are very lengthy and throw around nasty extras like mid-bosses and multiple end-bosses in a row. The bosses aren’t too much of a problem usually as there are a lot of repeats and most fall very easily to holy water. To balance things out the likelihood of me holding onto holy water for an entire stage is very low. Even if I’m playing as somebody besides Trevor everyone gets kicked back to square one upon death.

Fact of the matter is while I have played through challenging action games this game continues to elude. Way back I remember trading this game in for Startropics and since I didn’t have a receipt I had to lie and say the game was defective (well I am unable to complete the game after all). Apparently all those years playing games like Ninja Gaiden Black, Bayonetta, and the Devil May Cry’s did absolutely nothing for me. I’m still getting knocked into pits by freaking birds, medusa-heads are still a headache, and I still can’t beat a simple Doppelganger boss without the holy water. I’ve beaten arcade 2D shooters without continuing and still, STILL I can’t beat this game with unlimited continues times the number of lives I start each of them with (ten of course because I need the help).

I guess it’s partly because the levels are designed around everything actively trying to kill me. One thing I never really discussed about Castlevania 4 is that the enemy placement was designed more to hurt the player rather than kill them outright. There are points where if an enemy was placed down there instead of up there they’d instantly go from non-threatening to might take a life or two to figure out. This game is all of that and then some as enemies are always placed where they can be the most effective at killing. Towards the end it’s rare to see a platforming section that didn’t involve something like a medusa-head or a crow to make things difficult and bone-pillars are properly placed just out of the player’s reach. Still while this game never seems to get as hard as certain points in the first Castlevania there tends to be more situations that can be a hassle.

If I were to somehow beat this game legitimately I would be welcomed with a second quest. Apparently not being able to beat this game isn’t enough as the second go-round features new enemy-types, tougher enemies earlier on, and Trevor’s crew takes more damage from the start. It’s a brilliant addition and maybe one day I’ll utilize it. On the other hand this game is just one of those titles where I start thinking that I might be getting old, or should probably turn my gamer card in out of shame.

Game rating – 4.5 stars out of 5

While it’s not on the level of Castlevania for the X68000, Belmont’s Revenge is still one of the most difficult entries in the series. It is also one of the best with its great replay value, excellent level-design, and the mechanics are flawless as far as the series is concerned. Some level designs are repeated at different sections of the game however and a few of the stages can be too long, especially when there’s not a whole lot going on in parts of them.

My rating – 4.5 stars out of 5

The newer entries have spoiled me I’ll admit. Being able to control jumps, jump off of stairs, and generally be able to move without considering my options carefully is a luxury I’ll never be able to do without. I’m also not a huge fan of repeating particular sections over and over again until I get them right. This is something that I’ll have to look at more in the future.

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