E3 2010: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Hands on

E3 2010: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Hands on

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This is not your grandpappy's Castlevania, but I'm not sure that's a good thing.

To me, the Castlevania of old was all about exploration and the gritty adventure-horror tropes of the classic Dracula and werewolf films. Like Metroid, I don't think that Castlevania needs to be a side-scrolling platforming game to be true to its roots, but I think that exploring the world and gaining new items over time is part of its charm. Lords of Shadow (LoS) is a so-called reboot of the franchise as a AAA action title, but I think that Konami might have been better off using a different name for this game. Calling it a Castlevania just because it features a Belmont and some werewolves feels cheap.

LoS is narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, which is probably the best thing that it has going for it. The demo kicks off with the Shakespearan actor intoning a tale of woe and doom, or something. To be honest, I was too busy jumping up and down with glee that Jean-Luc Picard was talking to me to pay attention to what he was saying. A storybook filled with olde English style script accompanies the opening monologue, setting the scene in the dark ages. The book motif carries through the game's menus and UI, new abilities are added to your book and so forth.

The portion of LoS that I got to play starts with a black cloaked man riding a horse through the rain at night. He arrives in a town which is promptly attacked by werewolves. Luckily, this guy is Gabriel Belmont and he wields a whip made of light, which, in this incarnation, is emanated from a crucifix that he wears at his side. Some enemies drop items, the most common that I saw were consumable daggers that I could then throw for a ranged attack.

Fighting off the wolf dudes feels a lot like most 3rd person action games, similar to Dante's Inferno or God of War. The animations are fluid and it is fun to whip the wolves into dust before they even closed to melee. After you kill a few waves of them though, a much bigger "warg" comes out and is a little harder to kill. I had trouble figuring out the evading and blocking mechanics, but I'm sure it's not very hard with practice. After the fight, I gained enough experience to purchase a new combo. I went with the Guillotine, which allowed me to whip creatures on the ground in the middle of a jump. Again, this unlocking of abilities reminded me of a bunch of other action games.

We learn that Gabriel is a member of the Brotherhood of Light and is tasked with going into the woods to find his mentor. He also has dreams of a woman, who I'm sure is now dead and haunting his dreams, but it isn't explained all up front, which I actually kind of liked. It's good to have to work to figure out the story. Those good feelings were dashed when, in the forest, Gabriel meets a unicorn made of stars, who can talk. Yeah. So. Back to more whipping!

In the end, Castlevania: LoS is trying to take the franchise into new AAA directions. It has many of the hallmarks that we've come to expect, but I hope that they didn't sacrifice too much for more easily digestible content. Like many other reboots of games into other genres (I'm looking at you XCOM), I wonder if Konami might be better off calling this game something else rather than besmirching the Castlevania brand.

Well, at least you have Castlevania: Harmony of Despair to look forward to. This XBLA title coming out in August appears to be the spiritual successor to what most of us think of as Castlevania.

Los is slated for release this Fall 2010 on the Xbox 360 and the PS3.

Keep track of all our E3 2010 coverage here.

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yea...I'm gonna pass on this. I never really liked God of war action/hack-n-slash genre to being with, and I also never really liked Castlevania.

In fact I'm not entirely sure why I'm even posting this. I'm just gonna go to bed. 'Night.

Going to still have to try this. I liked God of War, but I always felt Castlevania needed that extra bit of difficulty to be true to the series.
Would have rather heard it was more like Ninja Gaiden's latest titles.

Can't say I like the idea of the whip not being a real whip but otherwise it sounds pretty decent. Castlevania hasn't really done too well in 3D in the past and I'll stay optimistic for this but I hope we get more 2D games on handhelds or something because those are just as fun.

Also, just for the record even though the guy who made the article probably won't read this, you do know that exploring wasn't really in the series until Symphony, right? Up until then it was mostly just about walking through a level hoping medusa heads and crows didn't knock you down a hole until you reached the boss and whipped it to death and moved onto the next stage. Repeat until you killed Death and Dracula.

LordNue:

Also, just for the record even though the guy who made the article probably won't read this, you do know that exploring wasn't really in the series until Symphony, right? Up until then it was mostly just about walking through a level hoping medusa heads and crows didn't knock you down a hole until you reached the boss and whipped it to death and moved onto the next stage. Repeat until you killed Death and Dracula.

actually...castlevania 2 was about exploring it was the first to feature rpg elements to the series also cv3 had multiple paths so the series has always been about exploring

anyways this game seems like every hack and slash game that came out the last couple of years...is a real shame
still gonna play it though lol

We'll see what the finished product comes out as. I remain hopeful.

It could still be Metroidvania third person action like Darksiders.

Why does EVERYONE pick Guillotine?

Cheefa_Da_Reefa:

LordNue:

Also, just for the record even though the guy who made the article probably won't read this, you do know that exploring wasn't really in the series until Symphony, right? Up until then it was mostly just about walking through a level hoping medusa heads and crows didn't knock you down a hole until you reached the boss and whipped it to death and moved onto the next stage. Repeat until you killed Death and Dracula.

actually...castlevania 2 was about exploring it was the first to feature rpg elements to the series also cv3 had multiple paths so the series has always been about exploring

anyways this game seems like every hack and slash game that came out the last couple of years...is a real shame
still gonna play it though lol

I'd hardly call that exploration, but I get your point. I'm probably wrong by most standards.

LordNue:

Also, just for the record even though the guy who made the article probably won't read this, you do know that exploring wasn't really in the series until Symphony, right?

ORLY?

But yeah, I get your point. Still, this game is Dante's Castle of War. Which sucks.

I just hope they don't do what most of the castelvania games have done since SOTN, that is make it seem like dracula has nothing to do with this game and then at the last part, reveal that he was behind it the whole time. It was neat when SOTN did it but since then it's been repeated in like 4 games and it's starting to get old.

This may sound fanboy-ish, but I'll play it nonetheless, just because it's Castlevania.

Greg Tito:

LordNue:

Also, just for the record even though the guy who made the article probably won't read this, you do know that exploring wasn't really in the series until Symphony, right?

ORLY?

But yeah, I get your point. Still, this game is Dante's Castle of War. Which sucks.

Well it depends on what you consider exploration really. It didn't become "metroidvania" style exploration until SotN, but if you consider Mario World style extra goals and exits to be exploration then yeah, it was about exploring way before and I was wrong as that other guy said. My post probably sounded far ruder then I had intended it to be, I have a problem with that but eh.

But I dunno, Dante's Castle of War sounds more fun then Castlevania 64. I kinda wish we'd get another Lament of Innocence but I'll remain hopeful for this, it could bring about a surprise you never know. Honestly no matter how you go about it, exploration or action Castlevania pretty much only works in 2D for some reason, there has yet to be a solidly good Castlevania game that was 3D.

sketch_zeppelin:
I just hope they don't do what most of the castelvania games have done since SOTN, that is make it seem like dracula has nothing to do with this game and then at the last part, reveal that he was behind it the whole time. It was neat when SOTN did it but since then it's been repeated in like 4 games and it's starting to get old.

He and Ganondorf should team up one day. IT WAS ME ALL ALONG, NO IT WAS ME!

You have made my day with the Harmony of Despair news. August cannot come soon enough.

LordNue:

sketch_zeppelin:
I just hope they don't do what most of the castelvania games have done since SOTN, that is make it seem like dracula has nothing to do with this game and then at the last part, reveal that he was behind it the whole time. It was neat when SOTN did it but since then it's been repeated in like 4 games and it's starting to get old.

He and Ganondorf should team up one day. IT WAS ME ALL ALONG, NO IT WAS ME!

And then Mother Brain would destroy them both for FAILING TO STOP CAPTAIN N ONCE AGAIN!

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Greg Tito sir, let me first to say I fully appreciate a Videogames Journalist that isn't suckling at the teet of the developers, asking canned and useless questions and generally being a hype mouth piece until the game comes out.

That being said...

You are seriously harshing my buzz, bro! Your so negative in both your Lords of Shadow AND X-Com pieces.

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TsunamiWombat:

LordNue:

sketch_zeppelin:
I just hope they don't do what most of the castelvania games have done since SOTN, that is make it seem like dracula has nothing to do with this game and then at the last part, reveal that he was behind it the whole time. It was neat when SOTN did it but since then it's been repeated in like 4 games and it's starting to get old.

He and Ganondorf should team up one day. IT WAS ME ALL ALONG, NO IT WAS ME!

And then Mother Brain would destroy them both for FAILING TO STOP CAPTAIN N ONCE AGAIN!

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You win +20 internets my friend.

Although looks fun, and definetly puts a modern teistvon an old classic...might be one I rent. Not been a huge fan of the whole god of war fighting thing

While I do like hack 'n slashy games, depending the setting and playable characters, I'm actually even less impressed with LoS after reading this. 3D castlevania hack 'n slash just sounds so.... wrong.

Come on Konami, give us a 2d Castlevania with 3D Parallax on the 3DS, that's what we really want.

Yeah, I am not convinced about this game at all. It looks like God of Dracula. How is this Castlevania again? Oh right, it really isn't. The XBLA one at least looks like Castlevania. I'm not saying you can't do a 3D Castlevania, but right now I think the N64 games were more faithful to the franchise than this generic hack 'n slash.

Well looking at trends and such the last 2 CV games on the pS2/Xbox were generic action game inspired and now this one is generic action game inspired...only missing more CV elements....wht CV needs is a mix of GOW/DI and Zedla scale level design...the trouble is... they will never give it the level design it needs since they are pushing it from a adventure action game to a action game.....

What makes it alright with me is the fact that, pretty early on, they openly said that it's "AU" (Alternate Universe). As in, it has approximatly fuck-all to do with what already exists.

Of course, I'm almost positive that it started off as something completely different (Just "Lords of Shadow"), and than Konami grew interested, so... yeah.

sketch_zeppelin:
I just hope they don't do what most of the castelvania games have done since SOTN, that is make it seem like dracula has nothing to do with this game and then at the last part, reveal that he was behind it the whole time. It was neat when SOTN did it but since then it's been repeated in like 4 games and it's starting to get old.

Mega Man (the main series) has been doing this since the fourth game in the series. Seriously, Capcom, after 6 games of this, we're no longer shocked that it's actually Wily who was behind it the whole time. Though in Mega Man's defense (referring to the series), I think that the whole "You can see it coming right from the beginning" is meant to be more satirical. Basically a "who takes these stories seriously anyway" sort of thing, where Castlevania does try to take itself seriously... :/

Cheefa_Da_Reefa:

LordNue:

Also, just for the record even though the guy who made the article probably won't read this, you do know that exploring wasn't really in the series until Symphony, right? Up until then it was mostly just about walking through a level hoping medusa heads and crows didn't knock you down a hole until you reached the boss and whipped it to death and moved onto the next stage. Repeat until you killed Death and Dracula.

actually...castlevania 2 was about exploring it was the first to feature rpg elements to the series also cv3 had multiple paths so the series has always been about exploring

Castlevania 2 is also regarded as the worst game of the series pre-SotN, and I don't really consider picking which linear path you take as "exploring", so Cv3 doesn't really count. If you did your Castlevania homework, you'd skip those two games and goto Rondo of Blood*. Rondo of Blood is often considered to be the pinnacle of the classic-style Castlevania games, rivaled mostly by Cv4 on the SNES, and it has multiple paths that you have to actually look for, so it isn't just a matter of picking your linear path, it's a matter of having to find the other path.

*And now that Rondo of Blood is available on both Virtual Console and PSP, you have no excuse for not doing your homework unless you're a diehard Microsoft fanboy, but I doubt that since few games have been X-Box exclusive. Now go out there and play one of the best Castlevania games ever! NOW!

Though I still have to call Tito out on that. Castlevania was never praised for its exploration mechanics (that didn't even exist as far as we knew until SotN, at which point the series was already established). Castlevania was praised for simply being a solid action game that would kick your ass down the block and back again, into the back yard, through the neighbor's gate, and then leave you bleeding in some alley about 5 miles away next thing you know. Yet despite that it was very playable, and very beatable if you were willing to get good at it. On top of being a solid game, people loved the series for it's setting.

Even when SotN came out, it wasn't the exploration that made the game, it's that it was simply a good game. The same game done in a linear level-by-level fashion would have been just as good simply because playing as Alucard was so fun, mixed with the awesome combat visuals, fantastic music, and some really fun boss fights. The fact that it was explorable was just a new gameplay direction, but never a defining attribute, especially not for the series as a whole.

So I'm sorry to say this, but you've lost a little cred there, Tito. As long as it has solid gameplay, takes place in a gothic setting, and has a Belmont: It's Castlevania.

You had me at 'unicorn made of stars'.

I'm so sick of these companies hiring AAA actors to do voice work when they could go to any community theater and hire someone for pennies on the dollar to do te same thing. Having Patrick Stewart do a monologue won't push more copies than having Joe Smith, all it does is bump up the production costs and that gets passed down to us. Then if the game doesn't sell at the 59.99 price, they will blame either pirates or say the Castlevania brand is worthless.

This is a pretty lazy project; this wasn't even MEANT to be a Castlevania at first, just some generic hack and slash that no one cared about when it was first shown. But then Konami decided that slapping on a big name franchise's name and making Kojima the spell-checker would instantly make the masses gobble it up regardless of common sense and principle. This is not Castlevania, it's a marketing scheme.

LordNue:
I kinda wish we'd get another Lament of Innocence but I'll remain hopeful for this, it could bring about a surprise you never know.

Actually when I first saw the game I though "Huh this is like a New version of Lament of Innocence. Sweet!" Of course I was hoping more people would remember that game before spouting off the whole "This is a God of War ripoff" thing but what can you do. And its kind of funny since when I first saw God of War in action I though it was Lament of Innocence mixed with the awesome Rygar game for the PS2. Still I'm cautiously optimistic about this, I feel that as long as it gets proper care it will not disappoint.

Its kind of funny how I'm excited about this yet deeply upset about Harmony of Despair. That game simply feels like they just hit Copy and Paste (more so than usual for Castlevania) until they came up with something to sell for a quick buck. Plus the series has been trying to push co-op for awhile to my utter bewilderment.

Greg Tito:
Still, this game is Dante's Castle of War. Which sucks.

As I said I feel as though it is more like Lament of Innocence than God of War. Even if its like a God of War game I feel as though it is to be expected since that is a very successful and easy to play franchise, it makes sense to add some of those elements in order to entice those that are not Castlevania fans to give this a try. Finally I feel that the way the game controls doesn't have as much to do with giving a Castlevania feel as having the Gothic imagery, varied monsters, and the series' fantastic music. Those, in my opinion, lend it way more of a Castlevania Vibe than the controls.

Anyway, enough Rambling, Order of Ecclesia isn't going to beat itself.

 

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