The most common question I heard at Konami’s booth while playing Castlevania: Lord of Shadows was “Hey, is that a new Castlevania? I used to love that game back in the day.”
Clearly Konami was prepared for this question because the friendly representative demonstrating the game for me wasted no time in responding to these inquiries with a confirmation and sales pitch that Lord of Shadows is a return to the golden days of Castlevania games. I hope the full game ends up fulfilling those promises, because the demo levels I played barely reminded me of the 2D adventures of Simon Belmont.
Castlevania: LoS looks plays very similarly to God of War. In fact, if it weren’t for the signs above the station, I might have thought Konami scored itself the God of War franchise. Gameplay in the demo was very combat oriented, including the obligatory action combo and grab system. The grab system was actually kind of novel. It plays similarly to a rhythm game (Bemani influence anyone?) where you have to tap the grab button right as 2 concentric circles overlapped each other.
You play as Gabriel Belmont with a weapon called the “Combat Cross” which reminded me of Kratos’ “Blades of Chaos” in that they acted as both short and long range weapons depending on the situation. Gabriel’s Combat Cross will morph between Castlevania’s signature whip and other weapons such as a sword. Other than the aesthetics, the weaponry system works out very similarly to God of War‘s, complete with psuedo-RPG elements such as the ability to upgrade weapons several levels and assorted magic attacks.
Long time series fans will remember the secondary weapons and a couple of these remain unchanged, such as the silver dagger or holy water. Konami wouldn’t disclose the other items Gabriel could pick up though.
The demo ended with a very brief horseback riding combat scene. Again, this played out very similarly to mounted combat in God of War.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved God of War, but I think I was expecting a little something more distinguishing from a new Castlevania game. The Konami rep assured me that there would be familiar “metroidvania” gameplay elements such as level backtracking in the complete game. With Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid) acting as an advisor for this game, I still hold out hope that the final product could end up being something special.
As it is though, the E3 demo left me with the sense I was playing a well executed God of War clone. This could be a good or bad portent depending on what you were expecting from a new Castlevania game.
Castlevania: Lord of Shadows releases this fall on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.