Oh Konami, when will you learn? How many times have you guys tried to take Castlevania from its classic 2D origins and bring it into the 3D realm now? I've seriously lost count. It never works. That doesn't stop them from trying, though.
Yesterday, at the company's press conference, they unveiled the latest attempt: Castlevania: Lords of Shadows. I get the feeling this is probably Konami's most serious attempt to finally branch out beyond the successful Nintendo DS "Metroid-Vania" styled games. They've lined up an impressive voice cast (Patrick Stewart, Robert Carlyle, Natasha McElhone) and the real kicker is that the project is being overseen by Konami's golden boy Hideo Kojima (and it should be noted that he's overseeing—Kojima Productions is not producing the actual game).
The trailer is pretty spiffy, but if there's one thing I've learned over the years it's to never trust a 3D Castlevania game preview. I've got a niggling feeling that this might be the game that breaks the Castlevania curse, though, I think it's going to be for the wrong reasons. Viewing the trailer, I got the feeling that this is going to be a highly polished game—but I never once had the feeling of "oh, it's Castlevania!"
Lords of Shadow does very little in the trailer to distinguish itself from about a hundred other action games on the show floor. Where's the gothic atmosphere? Where's the ambience? Why is the main character fighting that giant rock monster thing in broad daylight in a lush green environment? Shouldn't there be a graveyard around there or something? About the only concession to classical Castlevania seems to be the inclusion of the infamous whip—and even it's been tweaked around into some sort of whip-cross combo to fulfill all of main character Gabriel's whipping and stabbing needs.
I'm assuming that this lack of traditional Castlevania aesthetics is primarily because this game wasn't originally supposed to be a Castlevania title at all, but was later changed around to make it fit into the franchise. That's a potentially huge red flag.
All that being said, I'm still cautiously optimistic. Castlevania has burnt me too many times with subpar 3D efforts to jump in wholeheartedly, but I'll be following its development closely as we get closer to its 2010 release date.
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A film critic by trade, specializing in Euro-horror, cult exploitation, and Asian action cinema, Mike has written reviews for a diverse group of print and online publications. He covers horror news, movies, books, and games at TheHorrorGeek.com and Horrorsquad.com and spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture game show, Beat the Geeks.
Mike's childhood was spent playing videogames any time he got a chance. His parents had a Pong console and his grandmother had an Atari 2600, where Mike cultivated his skills by playing hour upon hour of games like Space Invaders, Berserk, and Asteroids. From those early experiences Mike learned one thing: he loved games.
In 1999, Mike became a staff reviewer at Cinescape Magazine's website where he spent a year learning the craft of game criticism. After internal changes led to Mike leaving Cinescape in late 2000, he joined up with RPGFan in 2001 and spent several years writing reviews for them. Happy, but looking for an opportunity to expound on a wider variety of titles, Mike joined GameCritics.com and hopes to help Chi, Dale, and the rest of the GC staff bring a higher level of respect to the field of game criticism.