Castlevania Legends (1998)
Castlevania: Legends is probably most notable for being the true first game in the series chronologically. Despite coming after Symphony of the Night, the art style reverts to the anime-style look from the PC Engine Dracula X games, though you can barely tell it from the graphics.
The proganist this time is sexy vampire slayer, Sonia Belmont. Sonia can upgrade to a fire whip just like Christopher, and can actually change directions in mid-jump, making the game feel a lot smoother. She can also move while crawling, which only Simon in Super Castlevania 4 could do previously.
The game starts off in a swamp, but you'll soon work your way through Dracula's castle and into his underground lair. There are six levels in total, and it's completely linear (not like the level selection in Belmont's Revenge.) In order to make the game a little more interesting, you have to collect a variety of "hidden" items (the usual special weapons from the Castlevania series - the dagger, axe, etc.) However, they barely pose a challenge to find - they're usually just slightly off the regular path of a level. However, there is a secret stage near the end of the game - you'll want to find the entrance if you want to get the last special item and get the best ending.
Oddly enough, you never use the special items that you collect. Instead, after each level, you get a soul power. Soul powers can be used to freeze enemies, heal yourself, attack all enemies on the screen and shoot little waves of energy. You can select them at any time from the status screen, and if you happen to have a stockpile of hearts, they can be pretty useful. There's even a special power called "Burning Mode" that turns you invincible for several seconds that can be activated whenever you so desire. Oddly enough, a little power meter keeps track of the burning power replaces the enemy life gauge, so you no longer know how many hits it takes to kill a boss. Ah well, Castlevania 2 and Symphony of the Night did without them...
The previous Gameboy Castlevanias didn't seem to relate to the other games much, but that's been fixed some here. Familiar enemies like those Dragon Skull statues show up, as well as modifications of those Spearmen and Sword Lords that are found in the Dracula X games. Even though there still isn't any stairs (just ropes) at least some familiar tunes are played (Bloody Tears in the first level, and Vampire Killer is played at the end of the game.) Which brings us to the music: it's generally pretty good, but the tunes are kinda a letdown after the awesome Belmont's Revenge music. Come to think of it, the graphics aren't as detailed in this adventure as they were in the second Gameboy game.
Alucard also makes an appearance of the game. Apparently he is Sonia's lover, but you have to fight him. Why? He wants to test her power before Sonia faces his father. I would've liked to see a method to actually play as our friend Al, but I guess not.
Overall, Castlevania Legends isn't too bad a game. Still, the game just feels rather dry. The levels are long and rather dull, and lack the flavor that Belmont's Revenge had. As a result, the whole game comes off as rather average. Still, it's miles beyond the original Castlevania Adventure game.
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Castlevania Games - Castlevania Legends