Rebirth into the Nintendo 64 by Raven
hen most people discuss the first time they played a game in the prestigious Castlevania series, they speak fondly of the original for the Nintendo/Famicom, Super Castlevania IV on the Super Nintendo and Symphony of the Night for the Playstation, and so on. These games and others have stood the test of time and have risen to the ranks of some of the highest esteemed games of the last three decades.
Many Castlevania games, though, fell short in the eyes of fans for one reason or another and unfortunately, will never be ranked quite as high. Others have also been cleaved from the official timeline by IGA, the current producer of the Castlevania franchise. One such game is Castlevania 64 and its later release as Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, which can be fairly judged as the director's cut of the original Nintendo 64 release.
Castlevania 64 was my very first experience being led into the demonic castle, and still holds a strong place in my heart as one of the best, both aesthetically and character-wise. It took on the enormous task of making a fully immersed 3D game out of a 2D side scrolling game and reinvented a never ending copyrighted Castlevania sky above that both sends chills as well as feelings of beauty as we watch the clouds pass in front of the full moon overhead. Of course, the game is not without its faults as all games are and can be quite difficult at times, but in reality, if it was too easy, it wouldn't be Castlevania, would it?
When the Nintendo 64 and Playstation were in the midst of their height, Konami entered a state of adolescence when they were experimenting with new things and releasing its most innovative and creative games. 1999 saw the birth of Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation, based on the original Metal Gear games for the Nintendo home platform. This game featured an emphasis on stealth and remaining hidden and incorporated intense bosses that required strategy and creativity to beat. 1999 was also the year that Konami released an RPG style fighting game known as Hybrid Heaven which offered a turn based action fighting game.
The other well known game to be released in 1999 was Castlevania 64, which transformed the popular and critically acclaimed franchise into a 3D action game. Strict fans who expect special attention to be paid to the small details and demand a game faithful to the original aesthetics were going to judge this game exceptionally critically. Watching your favorite series make such a transformation causes skepticism. All aspects will be taken into account and be judged. People will have personal prejudices; they will add more emphasis to some things, and not focus as much as others. Every player is different, and each needs to be taken into account. Unfortunately, you cannot please everybody.
A fairly major complaint is that Castlevania 64 does not fit neatly into the canonized timeline set by IGA. Fans proclaim that Rondo of Blood specifically stated that it had been one hundred years since Dracula's latest resurrection, and this means that Cornell, Reinhardt Schneider, and Carrie Fernandez could not have ventured into the demonic castle, as Dracula would not be resurrecting for a few more years. If this was taken into heat by the series, we would have no more than 10 individual games and no additional bonus characters to unlock.
Dracula is always finding one way or another in order to resurrect his body early and ahead of schedule and it's been increasingly difficult to place each Castlevania game neatly and perfectly in its slot in the canonized timeline puzzle. IGA and other scenario writers pull out vague generalities in order to force things to fall into place, but the reasoning is usually cheap and a gimmick to keep things in the same series. Even though this game has been removed from the official timeline, what it does is nothing short of falling into the same category of gimmicks.
With Cornell's quest to rescue his sister Ada, he finds his actions directly responsible for the premature resurrection of Dracula. People such as Shaft and even Simon Belmont have been responsible for the resurrection of Dracula in the past, and this situation is only a carefully orchestrated plot concocted by Dracula and carried out by Death, Actrise, and Gills de Rais.
With the official timeline out of the way, another aspect that many fans look unfavorably upon is the controls and the various engines used in the game such as jumping, the limited attacks with the whip, climbing, and general character movements. I will be the first in line to state that the biggest flaw for me is the jumping and climbing engine, which was mercifully altered in the release of Legacy of Darkness. In the original title, to perform a jump and grab onto a ledge, a player had to be facing the wall head on. Any deterrence and slight angles would render the character enable to grab onto said ledge. For this reason, the Tower of Battle often appeared to be a fool's dream, as one missed jump would send the character to certain death. No save points throughout the level sent the player right back to the beginning.
The whip engine used in the game allowed Reinhardt to hit an enemy directly in front of him and there was an option to lock on to an enemy, which made using sub weapons and whipping that much easier. Reinhardt only had one attack with the whip, however, and Carrie had two. Her spell of summoning a ball of energy that she would project at the enemy was nice, but for added power, the player could hold down the attack button and upon its release, the energy would home in with a stronger force. Power ups also changed the color of the energy ball, allowing the player to see exactly what level their attack was. No such options were allotted to Reinhardt.
This being said, the third and probably biggest complaint is the level design, music, and general aesthetics. Castlevania, as a franchise, was never very oriented on plot and character development, and so the method for keeping people coming back was delivering top notch backgrounds, music, and atmosphere. I'm sorry to say, the very first level of Castlevania 64 did none of these. The music was sub-par, the backgrounds were fairly uninteresting, and the level itself was just long and sometimes tedious.
Players faced the same boss twice, and in these two encounters, the battle was pretty much the same. The massive skeleton looked very impressive and took advantage of the powerful (for their time) graphics of the Nintendo 64, but I think the boss would have been much more appealing if he changed. He is ultimately defeated as he falls to pieces in a manner not unlike the massive bull fought later in the Castle Center. With no opening cinematic, this level falls short of capturing fans of the series. The highlight of the level is the skeletons rising from the ground and the various corpses of villagers, but sadly, that just wasn't enough.
This was resolved, however, in Legacy of Darkness as Cornell is brought into the picture. We are shown an exciting segment of a village burning to the ground and Cornell smashing skeletons to the ground as he runs towards his sister. Players are then taken to the next level which is a very well done recreation of the Ghost Ship found in Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood.
This level hit the nail on the head. The music was exciting, the ship looked amazing, and we need to fight a wider variety of enemies in order to survive, such as the mermen, skeletons, and ghosts that we can only assume are the sailors lost in the waters below. The level takes players through the masts and rigging of the ship and ultimately into the hull where they are attacked by a giant claw and water begins to fill the hull, leaving you with a jumping puzzle in an attempt to find the way out.
Nervous as I was, I began the puzzle, and to my surprise and pleasure, the system was fixed! Jumping had become a doable task and I was able to go on to the Leviathan, whose claw broke through the ship and who acts as the first boss. Of course, right afterwards is the forest before the Castle, but with the momentum of the ghost ship, making it through this level is not as agonizing as you know you can expect so much more afterwards. The first level of every game is one of the most important, as it needs to draw you in. Other positives to having three dimensional levels are the ability to place rooms and create realistic environments such as the Villa, the Castle Center, and an un-linear Clock Tower which had never been attempted before.
Other levels of imagination and beauty have been manifested as well, as Castlevania is home to massive supernatural forces of magic as well. Areas such as the Tower of Science, the Tower of Sorcery, and the Tower of Execution have also been brought into play.
Previous games in the Castlevania franchise were fairly straightforward and very linear. We always move forward and never return to previous levels. Everything you need to progress is in your path. It is more a test of skill to make sure you hit the enemy before they hit you, as well as your skills of avoiding traps. Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness are very un-linear and they both require exploration. Each level is closed upon completion, though. I like this system, as it doesn't require players to run all over the map multiple times to unlock puzzles. We are not given a map, which is unneeded. Other games using the ability to go back to previous levels have us continuously returning to levels, and most of the time we are playing, we are back tracking to a place we have already been.
The Nintendo 64 additions show us that we can still experience level exploration and clue finding in a closed level. One of the biggest problems for me with the level design of the more recent games is that we keep returning to the same level time and time again to discover something we missed before, and so I see the same level again and again. Castlevania 64 offers a break from this. We explore each level once and when we are done with it, we are done with it. It is a bit nostalgic of the previous titles in this way. Previous games also offered hidden stairs and secret paths, which has also been implemented in the Nintendo 64 additions. We can run across invisible paths to find crystals to unlock things such as alternate costumes. Completion of the game also allows us to access the "Hard" mode.
Another key moment in the vibrant level design of Castlevania 64 is the magnificent maze throughout the garden. On the outside, it appears to be an ordinary maze. On further exploration, however, it quickly turns into one of the most frantic and frightful moments of the series. Players are shown the newest reincarnation of Frankenstein's Monster, who has been since deemed "Frankensaw". He wields a massive chainsaw on his arm and is not afraid to hack the player to the ground. He is also invincible.
He can be knocked to the ground, but he will always rise. The same can be said for the two Hell Hounds which were previously seen guarding the gates to the maze. With vicious teeth holding the hero in place, Frankensaw can hack through them all the easier. Following Malus through the garden proves to be quite a challenge, but once it's over, all is well. Or is it? Once again, knowing full well what awaits, the player must once more traverse into the depths of the maze given one last challenge; to find the way out. And this time, there is no Malus to guide you. On top of that, you must also locate a key through the maze.
Beyond the first level, both games have very innovative and interactive level designs but the format of having an immense three dimensional world, offers one new opportunity that was previously seldom explored: Puzzles. Each level is contained and once you leave, you are unable to return, but within each level, there are puzzles with all the required materials for the solution available; all you have to do is find them. A good example of this is found in the Castle Center.
Upon entering, you will find a room with a mammoth dead bull and a massive wall with a seal. In order to break this wall, you must first break the seal, which can be done by organize the statues of the daughters of the sun. Then, you must place nitro and Mandragora at the base of the wall. Unfortunately, nitro is extremely explosive. As you run through the level, you will notice strange paths and weird gear arrangements that can be easily avoided by jumping.
When carrying nitro, you must not jump. You also cannot be hit by enemies or fall. This will cause an explosion, and there are no save points between the nitro and its destination. This sort of puzzle would never have been possible in the previous 2D Castlevania games. Puzzles are a fairly common occurrence in Castlevania games today, but in the past, not so much. Of course, this is not to say that puzzles had never been attempted in Castlevania before. They existed in Castlevania 2, which did allow players to travel back to areas they had previously been. Castlevania 64, however, took these to new heights. Key items were hidden in torches and the player could hold and use items at will. Meat was not always used upon discovery and was often used later for consumption at the player's discretion. Because of this ability, players can have a wide range of status effects to cure such as poison and vampirism.
Did I just say Vampirism? Another element that Castlevania had been ignoring up to this point was more vampires than just one. Throughout Castlevania 64's immense levels, players are given the chance to come face to face with vicious and bloodthirsty vampires. The Villa, for example, is home to many, such as J. A. Oldrey and various villagers who wandered too close and became his unhappy victims. The Castle Center is home to more vampire beasts, this time wearing the guises of maids, butlers, and aristocrats.
Of course, where there are vampires, there are vampire hunters. From his first menacing introduction until his final confrontations, Vincent remains a foreboding and somewhat surprising character who cannot be considered a friend or foe. Upon the first threatening encounters, he appears well prepared for his job, adorned with a vicious spiked cross on his back, holy water, and various sizes of crosses around his body. Though he judges the heroes as harmless and not a vampire, he proves his lack of judgment by presenting them with a key after deeming it worthless.
He is not actually seen again until the end of the game, where he is your symbol of which ending you will achieve. If you meet him on the way up the stairs, it is obvious that something is wrong. He has been transformed into a vampire and will now fight you. This is your clue that you took too long and will not be seeing the best ending. If you do not meet him however, you know you are on your way to the best ending. Upon defeating Dracula's first two forms and discovering Malus, Vincent arrives in the nick of time with holy water to unlock Dracula's final form. On the outside, Vincent appears to be a very tough and hardened vampire slayer, but on the inside, he is actually quite wise. He knows how to put up a powerful front and be intimidating, as well as how to achieve what needs to be done. This is one of the first of many fights inside the castle between vampire hunters, as will certainly not be the last.
Boss fights are another area that this game excels at. Each boss is memorable and, as expected from a Nintendo 64 game with the advanced graphics and 3D capabilities, each boss is larger than life creative. The details are exceptional, just as they should be. The Villa is a prime example of this. The level ends in a crypt hidden deep in the garden maze. Upon entering, the sounds of shredding flesh and crunching bones are heard resonating throughout the room.
Out of nowhere, the corpse of a young woman falls from the ceiling, followed by a vampire villager. His gray flesh, sharpened teeth and pointed ears tell his breed instantly, as does the grisly blood smeared over his face and shirt. His battle is not so difficult, but involves the entirety of the space, as he flies through the air and hurries through the room at breakneck speed. But his death does not mark the end of the battle, as his dinner for the night suddenly rises from the ground with a grin plastered on her dead face. Blood stains her dress and neck. She has the power to command bats, become an unearthly mist, and crawl about the floor in the fashion of Linda Blaire.
More traditional battles follow in the form of the Behemoth, Medusa, Death, and ultimately, the many forms of Dracula, which I will discuss in more detail at a later point. An imaginative boss that I would like to showcase at this point is the massive crystal from the Tower of Science.
Because Castlevania has been home to a quite advanced network of gears and pulleys known as the Clock Tower since the origins of the series, it is obvious that the abilities of the Castle transcend time. The knowledge of science and technology possessed by the Castle is far beyond it's time, but is still one of the most respected and amazing levels of the castle. Castlevania 64, however, takes everything a step further and introduces electricity heavily into the series. The first introduction is the ever popular skeletons riding motorcycles.
To make it all the better, the motorcycles are armed with machineguns. With the knowledge that this can be done in this world, the Tower of Science does not seem so out of place. With electric lasers, blocks full of spikes running on conveyer belts, elevators, and various machine guns, it is easy to become used to the overuse of a technology that was nowhere near being this advanced at the time when this game was supposed to be taking place. Indeed, Henry Oldrey uses a very old revolver throughout his mission to save children. When the final boss appears as a massive crystal shooting lasers at Carrie or Cornell, whoever happens to be the hero, it is unexpected, but not farfetched. Carrie has no difficulty destroying the massive enemy when she uses her homing spell, but Cornell is given a much larger challenge, as he really has no projectile weapons. Destroying the guns gives the hero a chance to hack away at the crystal, which one can only assume offers the electrical power to the Tower of Science.
As Carrie makes a nice segue, I'd like to take a moment to talk about her and her role. Carrie Fernandez and Charlotte Aulin bring out a very common stereotype in Japanese games, as the magician is usually a cute young girl. They are both skilled in the knowledge of sorcery and apparently of science. Because they are both young girls and magicians, they are often compared and contrasted, but in my opinion, they both excel and appeal in different aspects.
Because of the graphic style, Carrie has a much more visually interesting costume. She is also given the option to have a Japanese school girl costume, rather than her traditional skirt and bowtie getup. This is probably to appeal to the Japanese otaku fan base of who are very into school girls and maids as a fetish. Carrie is very mature, down to earth, and matter of fact about things, but has a soft heart. She is also stone cold and unshakable. Nothing can upset her, which is a common trait of all heroes in Castlevania up to this point. Unfortunately, it doesn't really fit a 12 year old girl.
Charlotte's attitude and personality might be a bit more childish, but it's much more realistic. Her constant conversations, uncertainty, and short fuse are much more believable and made her much more fun. She gets a lot of abuse from overzealous fans for her childishness, immaturity, but her personality is much more dimensional and believable than Carrie's static nature.
Carrie Fernandez, as a hero, is much more powerful than Reinhart. Her magic is powerful and can home onto enemies. Her power, like Reinhart's, is magnified when power ups are obtained, and once you master the ability to power up, jump, and release in mid-jump, she is all but invincible. If her attack is released as she is running, she will stop in her tracks to attack, using precious seconds that could be used to get away from danger. In her battle with Actrise, for example, any stopped movement is a time for Actrise's crystals to come up underfoot.
Each character in Legacy of Darkness and Castlevania 64 has a convoluted and involved personal storyline explored throughout the game. Carrie's personal story revolves around her family and her relationship to Malus. Carrie was given the choice in the game to join Dracula's minions by Actrise, who was very impressed with her massive power and felt that young Carrie would be a great asset to Dracula's forces. Carrie is a direct descendent of Sypha from Castlevania III, which helps to explain her great power. Not all of her family is as powerful as her, which is seen in the Castle Center, where Carrie must fight her cousin, an unknown Fernandez warrior who has received Dracula's blood and is thus his vampire slave.
Carrie was originally a member of a Spanish clan traveling throughout Europe. Those who weren't massacred and burned as witches were in hiding. When the clan came to Wallachia, the patriarchal leader and some of his followers entered the Devil Castle, but when he came out, he had been transformed. He murdered his clan in cold blood and then disappeared back into the Castle walls.
Years later, Carrie was found cold and alone. She was adopted by a sympathetic older woman who would become her mother. In order to understand Carrie, her family was traced and it was discovered that her real parents had been condemned by frightened villagers who could not understand and burned alive. Dracula's minions had also done their own discovering and found Carrie alive and well. Afraid of her power, they set off to kill her. She was saved by the sacrifice of her stepmother, who she often refers to. Indeed, she tells her cousin upon death that she would see her mother in Heaven. Seeing her mother savagely murdered in front of her released her power and the demon was banished. She returned to the Castle to destroy its evil lord. Upon completion of the game, Carrie rides on a carriage to her mother's grave and places a small bouquet of flowers on the earth in front of the headstone.
Reinhart Schneider as well has a fairly intense story. In the Villa, Reinhart meets a young girl named Rosa. Rosa is placed in the Villa in order to water the "white" roses, turned red from being watered by blood. She warns Reinhart to be aware in the castle and not act too careless, or he may lose his life. She is seen in a red cut off dress with long blond hair and graying flesh. Later in the Villa, Reinhart enters a room with a large mirror, a long table, and a vase of roses on the fireplace. A villager enters the room in panic, terrified of vampires.
Reinhart begins talking to him, but then the camera changes. We see the mirror and the vase of roses, and before our eyes, one rose lifts itself into the air and falls to the ground. Was this the work of Rosa protecting Reinhart? He looks to the roses, but realizes that the villager has no reflection in the mirror. A battle ensues, but afterwards, it's hard to take that as only luck. It's possible that the rose fell by itself, but it makes much more sense that Rosa was there and helped Reinhart not lose his life too quickly. Another reason I believe this to be true is the rose clearly floats into the air above the vase before it falls to the carpet below.
The next time Reinhart meets Rosa is right after the underground mines, which is another level that features an impressive map layout, beautiful music, dead villagers floating in the poisoned waters, and the ghosts of deceased miners. When Reinhart meets Rosa again, she is under an open vent with sunlight pouring in. While he watches in shock, Rosa walks into the light and begins to smoke. Her fear of becoming a full vampire is pushing her to commit suicide. She believes that her soul can never reach salvation, but she believes death would be no worse than being alive as she is now. Reinhart convinces her to continue living, but she remarks that his kindness might cost him his life, which is prophetic, for the next time we see her, Death calls her into the Castle Center to fight him. Reinhart must defeat her in battle, which takes a toll on his spirit.
She is not finished with Death, though. When Reinhart reaches the Clock Tower, the first section features a battle against Death, who begins by summoning scythes spiraling through the air. One heads right to Reinhart, but Rosa jumps in front of him and takes the blow herself. He hands her a cross as she fades away and in anger, Reinhart defeats death. When he defeats Dracula's final form, Rosa has been cured of her vampirism. She joins Reinhart on the cliff overlooking the destruction of the Castle. It can be safely assumed that Reinhart and Rosa will be together for a long time after the game.
Of course, Reinhart has a story before Castlevania 64 takes places. At 25, he is a Vampire Killer because he believes that what he is doing is good and just. He has a very strong sense of what is right and wrong with the holy Vampire Killer and his trusty dagger. As time goes on throughout Transylvania, history forgets vampire killers such as Simon and the Belmont clan, and those with power are revered as dangerous and sent away. Reinhart's father, Michael Gelhart, knows this, but still trains his son to be a master vampire killer all the same, telling him "Someday, you may have choice except to fight."
Reinhart leaves his home of Wallachia upon his father's death to train in the mountains for ten years, but soon hears of children being stolen from the village below. A priest has had a dream of a child born with blue hair and blue eyes who will become the evil one and so children are being stolen and taken to the Devil Castle. Reinhart goes to a priest named Samuel who still remembers the heroes of old. The holy whip's seal is broken and with the Vampire Killer, Reinhart enters the Castle.
When Castlevania 64 was originally announced for the Nintendo 64, there were two additional playable characters by the names Cornell and Henry Oldrey. Cornell was a man with the power to turn into a wolf man, and Henry was a child rescued by Cornell. Of course, to understand Henry, we have to look at Cornell first. Cornell lived in the small village by the Devil Castle as a man beast also known as Blue Crescent Moon with his sister Ada. His best friend Ortega was another member of the village.
Cornell went to the mountains to train, but upon sensing danger, went back to the village to find it burned to the ground. Ada was missing, but Cornell's wolf nose was able to pick up her scent. He entered the Castle in order to find her, but was greeted at the front gate by Ortega who seemed a little strange. As Cornell travels through the Castle, he catches occasional glimpses of Ortega. In the Tower of Execution, he discovers that Ortega has been corrupted by the power of Dracula as he fights another man wolf whose power has been unlocked.
Ortega had been a good friend of Cornell, but could never best him in duel. This infuriated him to the point that he accepted Dracula's invitation to power and torched his own village. All he wanted was one last battle with Cornell to see who was truly more powerful; Cornell or Ortega when enhanced with Dracula's awesome power, even though Death forbid it. Ortega tells Cornell that his sister Ada has been taken to the Castle to be a sacrifice to Dracula and then uses the power obtained from Dracula to unleash monstrous attacks as a Chimera. Once defeated, he agonizes over what he has done to the village and to Cornell and Ada.
Cornell's role in Castlevania is a little different from every hero in the past to brave the ferocious beasts inside and ultimately Dracula. In the past, heroes have come in with one goal in mind: Kill Dracula. Cornell comes into the story as one of the first to venture into Castlevania in a time when Dracula has not yet risen from his rest. Destroying the evil inside is primarily an obstacle that he must overcome in order to reach endgame and save his sister, which is his overall goal. Everything else is done so that he can achieve his goal. Ada's role in the game appears to be a sacrifice to the Count in order to bring him back to life, but finally, Castlevania pulls out an unexpected twist that the series has not seen before.
Defeating Dracula is only the beginning of the story. In short, Cornell coming to the Demonic Castle, reaching Dracula at last, and fighting Dracula was all part of an orchestrated plan to force Cornell to exert his wolf spirit to rescue Ada. The spirit of the wolf is taken by Dracula and the power is locked away to be used in the dark resurrection ceremony. We are shown a scene of the ceremony which really should have been the opening cinematic of Castlevania 64, as this story perfectly sets up the quests of Carrie and Reinhart. We now know why Dracula was resurrected ahead of time.
Places that Cornell visits are often the same places that Carrie and Reinhart visit, such as the Castle Wall, the Villa, and the Clock Tower. Levels were changed in Legacy of Darkness and it is somewhat of a different game. For example, the forests outside of the Castle, the Tower of Execution, the Tower of Battle, and the Tower of Science have all been changed in ways that make them a little more manageable. New areas such as the Art Gallery (which is my favorite level because of the use of "The Sinking Old Sanctuary"), Castle Ruins, and Outer Wall have been added, while Cornell does not enter the Castle Center.
Cornell is also able to solve more puzzles, such as the tombstones outside of the Villa. We are required to explore the contents of the Garden Maze more carefully, as well as guide a young child through it while, once again, being chased by the vicious Frankensaw, who is now killable. Other details, such as the white roses, are brought into play. Rosa waters the white roses with blood, turning them a deep red, but in Cornell's time eight years earlier, the roses are still pure white.
Cornell's back history is not very often discussed throughout the game, but Dracula enters in the end and fills us in on the details. It seems that Cornell's family of man beasts once terrorized a certain town and massacred the poor residents. Cornell felt sorry for a young baby girl that was spared and raised her as his sister. They are not related by blood as much as emotional ties. It is really unclear if Ada knows about this or not until the very end.
For the first time, Dracula really speaks and we have to stop for a moment to comprehend what he is saying. Quotes such as "Did you really think you could atone for your sins and what you have done in this way? It is nothing more than a shallow misconception from a disillusioned man beast." A quote such as this hits Cornell too close to home, and in the final cinematic as Cornell reflects on his quest, he sees a vision of Ortega's final plea for forgiveness, followed by Dracula's haunting words.
Cornell lived his life trying to do what he felt was best without questioning if it really was for the better of the people around him rather than just himself. Did he take in Ada to save her from the world and make up for what he had done to her life, or did he take her in to clear his conscience? We should stop to think about why Cornell saved Ada from Dracula's Castle. Did he do it out of love or did he do it to clear his own conscience? Heroes all selflessly save the day by defeating Dracula for the good of the people, but not anymore. Is it possible that someone might have defeated him for a selfish reason?
Take into account Richter's speech before fighting Alucard in Symphony of the Night. He says to Alucard, "Vampire hunters are those who are called upon when there is evil. Once the evil is gone, our names are forgotten and our glory is lost." Belmonts began fighting Dracula out of Leon's vengeance, but as time went on, it just seemed to be the right thing to do. Belmonts went to the Castle because it was their fate to destroy Dracula when he rises. Cornell came to the Castle to save the only thing keeping his conscience clean. Carrie went to the Castle to avenge her family the death of her adoptive mother.
The final playable character is Henry Oldrey, whom I have very mixed feelings about. On one hand, it is very nice that they give us 4 playable characters, and he ties very nicely into the story. He is, of course, the very Henry that was rescued from the Villa by Cornell. It was very nice to bring him back, and he does look very cool in his armor. My biggest problem with Henry is his weapon. I approve of his sword, as can be very fun and effective at a short range, but his unlimited ammunition for his gun is a little bit too easy. Enemies can be fired upon at quite a distance with accuracy, often making battle too easy and presenting very little challenge. His levels are hardly difficult as they are, with the only challenges being to find the children.
Once the last child is found, the game is over. Boss battles can easily be avoided. Indeed, Henry doesn't even have to solve any puzzles, as the doors are always opened. Even in the Castle Wall, you can easily just run right through the gates, as they aren't even closed. The level designs are exactly the same as Cornell's. I feel it would be a bit more fun if a few additional bosses were placed into the game, a few fake children who turn out to be demons are placed around, and maybe a few challenges that use the gun exclusively.
Once beating Henry's quest, it's not very interesting and there is not much incentive to play it again. The main reason is to unlock Carrie and Reinhart's games. You can, of course, leave levels without finding any of the children, thus drastically killing your score, but the children are so easy to find, it seems pointless to leave any behind. Henry has no interactions with anyone in his game, making his story very simple and a bit redundant from level to level. They really could have done more to make it a challenge. When we play Rondo of Blood, we should find four victims trapped in the Castle, and they really make it an interesting challenge. They are hard to find and not really where you would expect to find them. Indeed, their paths are sometimes hidden or off the beaten track. Other times, we must work hard to unlock the path.
Ortega and Rosa, as mentioned before, developed relations with the heroes and, though it is hard to classify them as heroes, it is also difficult to consider them villains. Ortega, a fellow man beast, has his heart corrupted by the power of Dracula because of his jealousy of Cornell and greed for more power. Power and greed play a large part in Castlevania and are key reasons why Dracula continues to rise from his grave.
Rosa was a tragic victim who is forced against her will to reside in the Castle and do what is demanded of her. She grieves that her soul will never find the happiness that she wanted and wants a way to end it all. These characters are essential in not only the development of Cornell and Reinhart, but they are critical in plot development. Castlevania's original plot can be summed up in one sentence. The plots of Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness take a bit more to make it through all of the substance.
Castlevania has always been known for its mini-bosses, and the Nintendo 64 Castlevania titles are no exceptions. The three main bosses of Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness are the witch Actrise, the vampire Gills de Rais, and of course, Death. A supplementary mini-boss finds its place as J. A. Oldrey, the father of Henry Oldrey and the husband of Mary Oldrey. In the Villa, he attacks Cornell after begging his wife to allow him to drink her blood. Chances are very high that he was the lord of the Villa and was bitten by Gills de Rais. He writes about his discoveries about death and his desire to let all around him know of its infinite and divine wonders. This is, in fact, the puzzle of the tombstones in front of the house.
Actrise and Gills de Rais have a little different purpose. They are those who helped orchestrate the resurrection of Dracula and have planned everything to the finest detail. Nothing is known for sure about where they have come from, but what we do know by the end is where they are going. Gills de Rais is seemingly aristocratic. He doesn't last long. The first we see of him is in Legacy of Darkness in the opening cinematic where we float through the Castle in his point of view up to the Castle Keep where he meets Death and Actrise, but the battle against him happens fairly early on in the Villa. He never appears in Castlevania 64, and so it is only appropriate to kill him, but a battle against Death and Actrise would leave them unavailable, and so they are not to be fought in Legacy of Darkness.
Actrise is my personal favorite boss of Castlevania 64 for one simple reason: Her battle is very strategic. You cannot hope to win by just standing around and shooting at targets like was possible with other bosses. Standing still will cost you your life as Actrise will summon crystals from under where you stand. You must always keep moving and breaking the crystals around her to get in an attack.
An inexperienced player could be at it for well over an hour. Actrise's time to shine is in Castlevania 64 as a character trying to convert Carrie to the evil side of power and corruption. Failed attempts bring consequences. First, Carrie is given time to think about her options. Then, Carrie must fight her ancestor. Finally, Carrie must fight against Actrise in the arena that Reinhart will fight against Death.
This space is especially nice, as it is outside and you can battle in plain view of the Castle Keep. Actrise is a dark character because of the way she got to where she is now. In the past, she slaughtered 100 children in her quest for eternal life. She murdered every last one of them in cold blood, including her own daughter. She claims to love no one but herself and even claims that Carrie is giving her the same look that her daughter did before being slaughtered as a sacrifice for her mother's selfish wish.
Throughout the game, it is possible to find various scrolls lying around. These are the property of Renon, who is another favorite of the game. We are never explicitly told where Renon comes from and where he is going, but I doubt he is limited exclusively to the Demonic Castle. He is a natural salesman and is very punctual. He has what you need and will give it up at the right price. Unfortunately, be careful about how much you choose to buy.
In other games, it is challenging to buy what you need, but if you do, there is nothing to worry about. Renon's case is completely different. His scroll is written in an ancient demon script, as Renon himself is a demon from Hell. Using his shop binds the hero to the contract, which sells their soul to damnation. Renon's character is one of my favorites because of his quirky way of always looking at his watch, his clothes are a little modern for the time period, and he has a demon tale. He is also one of the two optional bosses that you must battle with no warning for doing things you did not realize you were doing, the other being Vincent if you took too much time and allowed him to be attacked by a vampire.
If you did not spend enough, Renon will talk of the impending World War I and how he must prey on the new souls, but if you did spend too much, he will let you know in battle when we are able to see his true demonic form.
I have avoided talking about this in detail and length until this point, but it is time to discuss the most complicated and possibly most important character from Castlevania 64 and Legacy of Darkness: Malus, also known as Dracula. Who exactly is Malus? What is his purpose? Where did he come from and where is he going? To answer these questions, we must re-examine the ritual that Death, Actrise, and Gills de Rais were attempting. They played off Cornell's emotions and his predictable moves in order to steal his wolf power and use the immense energy captured within to prematurely resurrect the Dark Lord, but the ritual did not go exactly as planned and Dracula was reborn, but to a family living in the woods.
A priest, most likely the very priest that unlocked the power of the whip for Reinhart, saw in a dream the birth of a child under the mood with purple hair and purple eyes. Malus was born. Death and Actrise sent waves of minions out to search for Dracula by stealing children in the night and leaving the corpses to rot where they lay, but left around the Castle the children who were not Dracula. Henry came to the Castle and rescued them, but the one that they wanted, Malus, escaped somewhere in the Villa.
Dracula has not completely awakened inside of him and the turmoil deep in his soul over who would finally obtain control caused his head to hurt and forced him to experience unimaginable terror and fear as everything that he was became slowly suppressed and Dracula's will was able to rise to power. Malus escaped into the maze, but was trapped by the malicious Frankensaw because this guy really cannot stay dead. Reinhart and Carrie helped Malus escape, but unbeknownst to them, as he tried to leave, his soul finally gave up and his body was at the mercy of Dracula.
He re-entered the Villa and headed straight for the Castle Center. Malus was now sleeping dormant and his body was a carriage for Dracula to do with what he liked. When the hero meets Malus again, he plays his mind games in the fashion of Dracula and then leaves the confused hero wondering what has happened. After fighting Dracula, Malus is seen once more in the best ending. He is riding a demonic Pegasus, and on the rooftop, the hero must fight Malus' reincarnation into a young bishounen Dracula. Upon defeat, Malus looks safe, but Vincent knows better and makes his appearance as he throws Holy Water which burns Dracula, releasing his final form. In Carrie's bad ending, she promises to marry Malus and upon hearing this, he turns to the camera unbeknownst to Carrie and we see a demonic flash in his eye. We know that Dracula is not dead.
So, now that it is established how and why Malus is Dracula, we can look at Dracula's latest evolution and the for battle forms of Dracula. It's very difficult to say it in such a way because there are too many loopholes and people who disagree about who is really Dracula and who is not. In Legacy of Darkness, does Cornell really fight Dracula? We learn that Dracula won't fully resurrect for another eight years, and so why are we fighting him two times? If Malus is really Dracula, what good does it do to fight his older form first? Just how many manifestations of Dracula really exist in these games? And why doesn't Henry get to fight Dracula if he is a hero in the Castle? The final question is simple to answer. At this time, Dracula has not yet been resurrected and this is assumed that Malus has just been discovered. He has not yet awakened as Dracula. The other questions require a little more explanation.
Castlevania 64, which most people played first, shows that Dracula has another aristocratic vampire who is quite powerful who can do his trademark fire ball attack. He can also send blasts of energy, turn into mist, and create winds pulling the hero to them, thus allowing him to bite their necks and drink their blood. This imposter also makes an appearance towards the beginning of the game in the Castle Wall, threatening the hero that they will lose their life if they venture forward. If all goes according to plan, of course, we learn that this "Dracula" is only an imposter and upon descending the final staircase to the Castle Keep, Malus shoots an arrow from upon his demonic Pegasus.
In Legacy of Darkness, we can also battle this imposter, but then it turns into a larger demonic force that we assume is Dracula. But, as Dracula has not really awakened, I would like to suggest that this force as well could be a conjured demon by Gills de Rais, Actrise, and Death. Like the aristocratic vampire in the original Castlevania 64, this beast could easily be a creation from the Castle, as it has often been known to create various monsters, as well house creatures from mythology, urban legends, and campfire stories. The problem with this theory, though, is the speech that Dracula gives to Cornell.
Was this a plan of Dracula's from years ago or can he really communicate with the world of the living from his state of sleep? If Dracula probably did not foresee Cornell in the ancient past, and the only other explanation is that he can revive himself at a weaker power, or it really was not Dracula's plan, but one created by his minions. If it was created by his minions, we can only conclude that Death knew well enough what Dracula would say and gave the speech to the imposter. It's possible that Actrise and Death were able to resurrect him at a very weak power as a sort of sacrifice in order to bring him back at a must stronger power at a later date, but if that is true, I think that the whole "100 years" thing is completely thrown out the window.
Dracula's premature resurrections, deaths, plots, schemes, and general goings on have mutilated the timeline so often that I would like to suggest that it's hardly applicable today. For instance, please take a look at the time line presented here (http://www.chapelofresonance.com/timeline.html). It's plain to see that Dracula taking a full century to resurrect is actually very rare. If this is the case, then out of all these battles, we fight 3 different imposters and only twice do we actually fight against Dracula. In addition to that, we can only battle him as Carrie and Reinhart.
So, there you have it. Castlevania 64 and Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness has been broken down in an overview look. Of course, there is much more to say about it, but you've done well to read this far, and everything else is minor details. All in all, Konami had a very challenging project. They were to take a famous and closely guarded franchise and transform it from a 2 dimensional side scrolling game and turn it into an interactive 3 dimensional game. They took use of the powerful graphics engine for the Nintendo 64 system, as well as the audio system available. They included puzzles, beautiful aesthetics, and intense and well developed characters. They paid homage to the older games in the series, as well as adding new flavors and concepts.
It's true, the games are flawed, but in reality, every game to date has its flaws and really, you learn to live with the flaws or you let them spoil your appreciation for a game. Many of the flaws are blaring apparent and make some stages frustrating and obnoxious, but in my case, the appeal of the game with its other aspects is too strong to push me away. Flaws and all, the game has many levels of depth not seen on the first run through and the concepts introduced are innovative and ahead of their time. From Rosa's misery and attempted suicide to Dracula's resurrection by stealing the soul of a child, the plot has certainly thickened and the innovation is apparent.
It is something the series does not forget as it continues to plan its character development, though in my opinion, they never captured quite the same character depth that they did in this game. Though often ignored and often unappreciated, I would like to recommend the game as something not seen before and a valid effort and success in the grand history of Castlevania.