Castlevania Legends
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • KCEN
  • Publisher:
    • Konami
  • Released:
    • JP 11/27/1997
    • US 03/11/1998
    • UK 1998
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/30/2015.

Castlevania Legends is a platform video game developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya and published by Konami for the original Game Boy. It was released in Japan on November 27, 1997, North America on March 11, 1998, and Europe in 1998. This is the third and last Castlevania game released for the Game Boy. Because the game was released late into the portable's lifespan, it gets special enhancements on the Super Game Boy, an attachment to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that lets you enjoy Game Boy games on the big screen. As for whether the game is good or not, it's somewhere in the middle. Even longtime producer of the Castlevania series, Koji Igarashi, admitted that the game wasn't so great by saying, "Legends remains something of an embarrassment for the series. If only that development team had the guidance of the original team of the series." Castlevania Legends isn't as bad as the first Castlevania for Game Boy, but it's not as good as the second.

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Madness swept across Transylvania shortly after a man discovered an evil power. He used this power to amass an army of arcane forces and began terrorizing the people of Europe, engulfing the whole continent in despair. This man became known as the Prince of Darkness, Count Dracula. Around the same time, a girl with special powers was born into a family living in a remote part of the country. She was told while growing up that her powers were meant for a higher purpose and not for her alone. On her seventeenth birthday in the year 1450, she met with an enigmatic man named Alucard, who was searching for the father that abandoned him. It was at this point that the girl decided to use her powers to challenge Dracula. The girl's name was Sonia Belmont and she's the protagonist of Castlevania Legends. Sonia is the first female Belmont to be the protagonist of a Castlevania game. Not only that, but according to this game's plot, Sonia is the first Belmont to ever confront Dracula. That's no longer the case, however, as Koji Igarashi doesn't consider this game to be canon.

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Sonia Belmont is armed with a whip and a pretty face. The young heroine is able to walk around, jump over chasms, duck below danger, climb up and slide down ropes, and strike vile things with her whip. Taking a page out of Super Castlevania IV, Sonia is no longer bound to a fixed jump. That means she's able to alter the velocity of her jump in midair and can even change directions during a jump. Also like Castlevania IV, she can move while crouching. In addition to all of that, Sonia can find crystal balls to power up her whip. It can be upgraded twice, and when fully powered up, Sonia will shoot fireballs out of her whip, giving her a ranged attack. If she dies, her whip will go back to normal and she'll have to get more crystal balls to make up for what was lost. It's possible to always start Sonia with a fully upgraded whip if you pick "Light Mode," which is basically easy mode, but Standard Mode has her start with a regular whip. Due to the removal of the fixed jump and the inclusion of the fireball shooting whip, controlling Sonia is a cinch.

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Soul Weapons are a new feature in this game. They sort of replace the sub-weapons from previous Castlevania games, but are handled slightly differently. Instead of merely finding these hidden throughout the environment like the sub-weapons of other Castlevania adventures, Soul Weapons are acquired upon defeating a boss. Like the traditional sub-weapons, Soul Weapons use hearts as ammunition, and those are generally found by breaking candlesticks. I don't get it, either, but that's Castlevania for you. Many of the Soul Weapons are based on the different elements and are extremely useful, like how wind is able to stop all enemy movement for a short time, ice fully restores Sonia's life meter in exchange for twenty hearts, and flame hits all onscreen enemies. Ice is by far the most useful Soul Weapon, since being able to heal is a huge asset. The bad thing about Soul Weapons is that Sonia won't have access to any of them for the entirety of the first stage, but the pro is that, once she obtains a Soul Weapon, it becomes a permanent part of her arsenal. That's right; Sonia can switch between any of her Soul Weapons at will. That ruins the delicate balance sub-weapons had going for them in previous Castlevania games, but it's admittedly quite convenient.

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Burning Mode is another feature unique to Castlevania Legends. Below Sonia's health meter is another, more mysterious meter; this is the Burning Mode meter. Whenever you press the A and B buttons at the same time, you'll activate Burning Mode. When in this mode, Sonia's attack power is doubled, her speed is increased, her jumping distance is extended, she hurts enemies by touching them, and she is impervious to enemy assaults. The catch is that this drains the Burning Mode meter, meaning it only lasts for a short period of time. This meter is only refilled upon Sonia's death or when a stage is completed, so Burning Mode must be used wisely. As a result of that, the best time to flaunt this devastating ability is during a boss fight. You do have the freedom to use it whenever you want, though, provided the meter is full. It's a cool ability, Burning Mode, but it does make the bosses way too easy.

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Stage design is where this game falls short. Coming off the wonderful designs of the previous game, the stages in Castlevania Legends just feel lackluster. A vast majority of the game consists of dull horizontal corridors filled with mundane enemies or vertical shafts with tons of rope climbing. The bosses are rather basic, too. Almost all the bosses can be cheesed to death with Burning mode, and many of them have attack patterns so simple, even a five year old could learn them. Maybe that was the intention. The graphics have also seen a significant downgrade, with the character sprites being less detailed and the backgrounds more plain. While the game does have added color when played on a Super Game Boy, this doesn't make up for the lack of visual detail. Considering this game came out so late in the Game Boy's lifespan and the previous game looked better, these visuals are inexcusable. The music isn't terribly memorable, either. Castlevania Legends has boring stage design, and the music and graphics aren't much better.

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In order to get the game's best ending, Sonia must collect five special items. For some reason, these items are modeled after the sub-weapons of classic Castlevania games, but their only function here is to change the ending. They're the axe, stopwatch, dagger, holy water, and cross. Most of the time, you'll simply have to go slightly out of the way to find them, like taking the correct branching path that leads to a dead end with the item in it. Sometimes, however, the items are hidden. In particular, one of the special items is hidden in an optional bonus stage. To access the bonus stage, one must find a secret path near the end of the game. The stupid thing about this secret, though, is that you have to fall into what appears to be a bottomless pit to get it. There is a minor hint alluding to this in the game, but it's not too clear. Falling into pits goes against all conventional logic in a platform game, so hiding a secret in one is a jerk thing to do.

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Castlevania Legends is a huge step down from Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge. Whereas Belmont's Revenge had stages brimming with personality, the ones in Legends are bland and uninteresting. Just about everything else is worse, too; the bosses, graphics, and music are all mediocre. It's also a bit too easy to break the game with Burning Mode and the Soul Weapon that recovers health, though those mechanics aren't necessarily bad. The only thing this game has going for it is decent controls. Even with all that, however, this game still beats Castlevania: The Adventure, which is the first Castlevania for the Game Boy.

Word Count: 1,403

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