Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
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|Castlevania: Curse of Darkness|
North American box art
|Genre(s)||Action-adventure, hack and slash|
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, known in Japan as Akumajō Dracula: Yami no Juin (悪魔城ドラキュラ 闇の呪印 Akumajō Dorakyura: Yami no Juin?, lit. "Devil's Castle Dracula: Curse of Darkness"), is action adventure game developed by Konami for the Xbox and PlayStation 2. Despite development for both Xbox and PlayStation 2, only the PlayStation 2 version was released in Japan. An Xbox version was released throughout Asia under the NTSC-J Format, with English language dialogue. A manga adaptation was also published by Tokyopop.
Being a 3D game like Lament of Innocence before it, Curse of Darkness differs from its predecessor in a number of ways. It includes a more complex, action/adventure style of gameplay, much like Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow. Hector is not a member of the Belmont clan, so he does not use the "Vampire Killer" whip; instead he has the ability (much like Alucard and Soma Cruz) to equip a variety of different weapons ranging from swords (both one handed and two handed), spears, axes (also both one handed and two handed), brass knuckles and an extra type called special weapons (which varies from tonfas to gatling guns). However, there is an extra gameplay mode after finishing the game that allows players to play as Trevor Belmont, equipped with the "Vampire Killer" and the subweapons which are the knife, axe, holy water, cross, and stopwatch. The battle system is somewhat similar to that of Dynasty Warriors, whereas one button is used for standard combo attacks, and a secondary button is used for stronger "finishing attacks" after a singular standard attack or a combo of standard attacks. As the player acquires progressively stronger weapons throughout the game, the number of standard and finishing attacks the player can perform increases accordingly. Each different weapon type has a different set of combos that can be performed.
Departing from the central hub level layout of Lament of Innocence, wherein the player chooses from a number of distinct stages all accessible from a central hallway, Curse of Darkness features a more complete game world with a complete castle map as in Symphony of the Night. However, the game still uses the same map engine as Lament of Innocence, rather than the square-based grid of 2-D Castlevanias. Furthermore, a noticeable difference in level design is that much of the game does not take place in Dracula's castle, but rather exploring forests, mountains, temples, aqueducts, ruins, and villages in Europe. The player will be also aided by "Innocent Devils", which are demonic creatures developed by Hector himself through the Devil Forgery skill, in order to defeat enemies and solve puzzles within the game. They're similar to Alucard's Familiars in Symphony of the Night, however they level up and evolve together with Hector. The Innocent Devils (commonly referred as I.D.'s) come in 6 different types. Each I.D. gives specifics bonuses to Hector's stats.
In PS2 version only, the player can get the Moai statue. This item can only get it if the player have a cleared file of Castlevania: Lament of Innocence on their memory card. Conversely, load times are faster in the Xbox version.
Curse of Darkness is set in the year 1479, three years after the events of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. Though defeated by vampire hunter Trevor Belmont, Dracula's curse continues to ravage the European countryside, spreading disease, mob violence, and heresy in its wake. Amidst all this devastation is Hector, a Devil Forgemaster who had formerly worked under the employ of Dracula but betrayed him sometime during the events of Castlevania III. Eventually growing disgusted with Dracula's brutal methods, Hector leaves Castlevania and relinquishes his powers to live amongst humans, settling down to live a peaceful life. When Hector's fiancée Rosaly is accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake, Hector learns that her murder was directed by his fellow Forgemaster, Isaac. Seeking revenge, Hector chases his former colleague back to his old home, and back to the demonic life he believed he had left behind him.
When the game begins, Hector arrives at an Abandoned Castle to confront Isaac. The latter scoffs at his desire for revenge and dares him to regain his powers so they can settle their score in a satisfying way. Hector reluctantly accepts the challenge, and starts hunting his former friend across the Transylvanian countryside. During his quest, he encounters several people: Julia Laforeze, a young witch in exile who turns out to be Isaac's sister, Trevor Belmont, who distrusts him for being a Devil Forgemaster, Zead, a kindly holyman who provides him with reliable information about Isaac's whereabouts, and St. Germain, a mysterious time traveller who presses him to abandon his quest, but eventually leaves him alone with some cryptic comments about a "new destiny" having emerged for him.
At one point, Trevor decides to trust Hector, and uses his own blood to unlock a parallel world called the Infinite Corridor, where Isaac is supposedly hiding. However, when Hector fights a Dullahan there, an evil glyph channels his energy and uses it to summon a new incarnation of Dracula's castle. Isaac, who intended this all along, cruelly stabs Trevor and leaves him for dead.
Hector enters the new Castlevania, where he fights and defeats his nemesis. As he prepares to kill him in a fit of rage, he suddenly remembers Julia, who had warned him not to let the Curse take hold of him. Horrified, Hector realizes that his actions are being controlled by Dracula's Curse. A triumphant Zead appears and confirms this, explaining that the Devil Forgemasters were supposed to fight to the death, with the blood-stained Hector becoming the vessel for the Count's reincarnation. Having secured Isaac's body for this purpose, he reveals himself to be Death and attacks, in vain. Hector proceeds to fight Dracula, who is unable to take full control of Isaac's body and returns to the afterlife. Hector then uses his powers as a Devil Forgemaster to lift the Curse. Julia comes to his rescue, and they start a new life together. Meanwhile, St. Germain departs for the distant future, wondering how the struggle between mankind and Dracula will end.
It was produced by Koji Igarashi (also known as IGA), who has worked on several other games in the Castlevania series, including Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. Also returning are series artist Ayami Kojima and composer Michiru Yamane.
Michiru Yamane once again composes the music. Guitars, which were omitted from Lament of Innocence's score, have returned in Curse of Darkness. There was a sampler given away as a bonus to anyone who pre-ordered a copy of Castlevania: Curse of Darkness from supporting retailers.
Reception and legacy
The game was generally well received, generating mid to high review scores. Common praises often go to the game's battle system - which as stated by IGN "...can offer up a fairly wide variety of skirmishes and strategies..." -, the Innocent Devil system and musical score. Common criticisms of the game go to the game's environments, which have generally been considered dull and repetitive. X-Play gave Curse of Darkness a 3 out of 5 while IGN gave it a 7.8, or "Good" rating. GamePro Magazine gave the game a 4.0 out of a 5.0 fun factor, stating that it was a game that got more intriguing as it goes on. Gamespot rated it 6.8, saying it looked good and had solid controls, but the level design was "monotonous". Game Informer's Tim Turi felt that it was "decent" but did not feel like it captured the "overall style and atmosphere" of other Castlevania games.
Adapted and illustrated by Kou Sasakura, a two-volume manga adaptation titled Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (悪魔城ドラキュラ 闇の呪印 Akumajō Dorakyura: Yami no Juin?) was published in Japan from 2005 to 2006. Taking place between the events of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, the manga centers on Isaac and Hector. Tokyopop licensed it for English-language release in North America. The first volume, (ISBN 978-1-4278-0053-4), was released September 1, 2008, and the second, (ISBN 978-1-4278-0214-9), was published January 1, 2009. It is also licensed in France by Soleil Manga.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness was positively received by English-language readers. The first volume ranked 72nd on the list of the top 100 best-selling graphic novels in September 2008 with an estimated 1,564 copies sold. In December 2008, the second volume placed 171st on the list of the top 300 best-selling graphic novels with an estimated 720 copies sold. However, it received mixed reviews from English-language critics—two of whom were fans of the Castlevania franchise. Criticism focused on Sasakura's artwork which tended to focus on close-ups and neglect the backgrounds, and the lack of fleshed-out characters. Mania Entertainment's Nadia Oxford disliked having a child as one of the main characters, calling it "unnecessary pandering to a younger audience" and concluding that "It's disappointing to see Castlevania thrown to a kid like so many other great properties." Conversely, another reviewer described it as "a fairly well done vampire comic book" with a "pitch perfect mood" and pleasant artwork, and About.com's Deb Aoki ranked it fifteenth on her list of the twenty-two best vampire manga.
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