The Castlevania series used to one I held above all others, but over the past few years it has slipped from that position. The N64 game, while nowhere near as bad as people like to think, was a somewhat disappointing transition into 3D, and just when Circle of the Moon seemed to be getting things back on the right track by combining elements of Castlevania's action and adventure styles, it's two follow ups seemed to be more content trying to dopplegang SOTN as closely as possible. Their close resemblance to my all time favorite game made them mildly entertaining, but neither were anything innovative or exciting. By the time I finished Aria I just wanted something fresh from the series.

Looks awfully familiar... So along comes Lament of Innocence. As news about the game leaked out, I couldn't help but be excited. Sure, development was being handled by Koji Igarashi (Or IGA, as he seems to prefer being called.), who was responsible for GBA's rehash twins, but the last time he did something that strayed from the series' previously established formula, the results were absolutely brilliant. Videos I downloaded of the game didn't exactly paint a pretty picture, but I brushed them off. Sure, they looked like an awful lot like Rygar and Devil May Cry, but look how good his Metroid rip-off was! And the videos were early, after all, no cause for alarm. Plenty of room for improvement, those flat environments are SURE to be outta there by the time it's released. IGA's got moxy, he's gonna make this one good, he is. He said so himself. And he would know, need I remind you once again he made Symphony of the Night!? No reason at all to reconsider spending $50 on this one.

You can see where this is going, I'm sure.

What followed my purchase was hours of incredible, mindblowing blandness. There is almost NO level design to speak of in this game. You go through room, after room, after room of nothing but monsters, and then you back track through them again, and again, and again. There are maybe five or six instances where you might need to use any real platform skills, but these all feel slapped on and easy, as there's never any penalty for failure. The rest of the game takes place completely on flat surfaces, or stairs that might as well be flat surfaces. Remember those menacing clock towers back in the day, with those crazed medusa heads that came at you at just the right time to get your blood pumping? Well they're dead now, and IGA killed them.

The enemies and backgrounds may change in appearence, but other than that,this is pretty much every room in the entire fucking game.

So if all you do in the game is run through generic rooms and fight enemies, those battles must be something special, right? Nope! The game gives you a variety of combos and techniques to use, but button mashing and the occasional block does the job just the same. The game's enemy encyclopedia might seem quite large, but most of your time will be spent fighting variations of skeletons and armor knights, and fighting the more unique enemies doesn't really seem all that different. It all ends up making the game feel like a mediocre beat-em up.

And while at first the game's boss battles seemed to be something of a saving grace, I think the only reason I enjoyed them at all was because they were a break from the tedium of castle exploration. They do keep you on your toes in ways the normal enemies don't, but they offer no gimmicks I haven't seen before in other action games, and the only one that's truly challenging is completely optional.

In the end, not even the fact you can play as an adorable little pumpkin man can save this from being the worst console Castlevania I've played yet. Even when I try looking at the game from a completely objective standpoint, not something I foolishly blew $50 on, it's flaws are all still crystal clear. And the thing that worries me the most about it all is that it seems like IGA now has complete control over the Castlevania series. Not only can he continue to plop out half assed efforts like LoI, he's also been cutting games out of the series timeline because they don't fit in with his version of it. While I'm not surpirsed CV: Legends and Legacy of Darkness were cut, despite that I consider the latter to be substantially better than LoI, Circle of the Moon has also been taken out of the official canon. What the fuck? That was ten times the game this was! Sure, it's only a story thing, but look at Snake's Revenge. A perfectly fine game, but the poor thing gets blasted all over the place because it's not part of Kojima's storyline. It sure would be a shame if Circle of the Moon suffered the same fate a couple years from now just because IGA said so.

I hope that the man either finds his head and puts out a decent Castlevania game, or that the series is put in control of someone competent, because at this point just I don't see much that's making me want to keep up with the Belmont clan anymore.

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