This is my 3rd review and my first game review, so here goes nothing
Alright before starting I feel a brief introduction to the long running Castlevania series is in good order. So the series spans 2 close to 3 decades and across numerous consoles ranging from the the original NES all the way to the xbox and PS2. The actual story of the series spans an entire millennium from 1060 to modern day. I don't have an exact count, but I would say there are at least 20 Castlevania titles.
So the basic premise is that the player controls Hector, one of two men trained in the dark art of devil forging at the foot of the lord of darkness himself, Count Dracula. However, a rebellion arises against the count, led by none other than Trevor Belmont himself. Players familiar with the early Castlevania series will know what a sordid history (and hatred for one another) the Belmont family and Dracula have. Anywho so Hector forsakes his dark power, leaving Dracula to be defeated. However, Dracula does not go down so easily and before he can be pulled back into the abyss, calls down a terrible curse that ravages the land of Valachia.
The game actually begins with Hector racing toward a large ancient castle (surprise, surprise it isn't brown at least) hellbent on avenging the murder of his girlfriend Rosalie at the hands of the other devil forgemaster, Isaac, who is more than a little angry at his master's destruction. Hector though quickly realizes if he is to have any chance against Isaac, he will have to delve into the castle and reclaim the power he forsook.
During his travels, Hector meets the strange and mysterious character Julia, who also owns a small shop where you can purchase goods, recover, and store your innocent devils. She also is in my opinion is one of the better support characters I have seen in a while. Hector also comes across the ambiguous St Germain, the monk Zead, and even the legendary vampire killer himself, Trevor Belmont.
As a devil forgemaster, Hector has the power to summon to his aid innocent devils. To those familiar with D&D, think of the sorcerer or wizard's familiar on steroids. . . and then some. The devils themselves gain their own experience and level up just like hector does, improving their abilities. The devils use "hearts" as both a life meter and fuel for their abilities. In addition, the devils improve by collecting evolution crystals. When a devil collects enough crystals of a certain type it evolves, and different crystals can evolve it one way or another. The interesting thing about that is that which crystal is dropped is dictated by which weapon you used when the creature was slain. I had my one friend tell me it struck him as being very similar to the pokemon games.
The devils provide a myriad of abilities to Hector as he fights the darkness consuming the land. Fairy devils heal and cure status ailments, battle devils pound things to a pulp, mage devils use potent magic, bird type devils combine a little of both battle and mage as well as having a glide ability to get past obstacles. Devil type devils are fierce combatants and possess a magic circle ability that lets you slide underneath cracks. There is even a pumpkin type, and while I really believe they are there mainly for comic relief, they do provide some very nice stat bonuses to Hector. Some devils have two modes others have three. Mode one is auto, where the A.I. controls the devil's usage of its powers, mode to is command, where the player controls ability usage, and the third is guard, where the devil assumes a protective stance to defend itself. With battle devils, guard mode will generate a field that shrinks as it deflects blows and can protect Hector as well while he stands in it. The game is designed so that you will need your devils' abilities not just for fighting the vast legions in your way, but overcoming obstacles as well. When I say vast, I mean it! It can easily seem that half the Olympian bestiary was conscripted to oppose you.
To aid in battling the monstrosities, the game features an item creation system where essentially you take various parts and materials you gather and fuse them together to make items, or with items you have already made to make even better gear, or at least that is how it works in a nutshell.
I played the xbox version and the control seem to worked very well for me.
A jumps, double tap to double jump
b finishes attack combinations
D-pad manages the innocent devils/selects sub-weapon (Trevor mode)
y activates innocent devil abilities/uses sub-weapons (Trevor mode)
black button locks on to enemies
start open inventory
back opens map screen
the triggers control the camera.
Fortunately, if these don't suit you, the controls are completely customizable.
The game should last a good 10-12 hours on your first run through depending on your style. Beating the game allows you to unlock Trevor mode where you play as the famous Belmont, and crazy mode, which cranks up the difficulty. So that level 2 executioner you fight at the start suddenly becomes a level 22.
As for the graphics, they are good considering the technology available at the time this game was released. Not quite this generation but still good. They didn't blow me away, but at the same they didn't have me squinting at the screen either. I must say that the various cinematics were rather crisp and well rendered. Also, the visuals with the abilities of the innocent devils do give off some very nice eye candy.
The background music is very good right from the beginning. It really matches the various scenes and settings. For example, the music in the first area really enforces the idea you are running through a massive castle, and the music during the legion boss fight really helps you believe you are in what just might be the most unholiest place on earth! Some of the tracks I particularly enjoyed where the first area, the first part of the fourth area, and the music during the 3rd and eighth boss fights.
A good addition to the Castlevania series, one I think fans of the series will enjoy.
Decent Graphics, and good sound/background music
Interesting story, and the characters are well developed.
Innocent Devil system is fairly innovative
Possible to get caught up in level grinding (I know, I have one game with 74 hours on it!)
It can be a bit of a nuisance changing weapons constantly.
Innocent Devil A.I. can waste power unnecessarily at times when left on auto
Depending on your preferences it can be either too long or to short
Replay ability is fairly limited with just Trevor and Crazy modes.
Recommendation:Buy if you can find a good price for it, otherwise at least rent.
As always, constructive feedback is much appreciated.