Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Published: 04 :07 : 05
Reviewed By: Andrew Toups
Overall: 2 = Terrible
As a game produced by Koji Igarashi, caretaker
and producer of the Castlevania franchise since its reinvention with Symphony
of the Night, and as a game that uses the Lament of Innocence engine,
I think it's fair for me to view this as a sort of conceptual follow-up to Igarashi's
2003 PS2 Castlevania effort. Lament of Innocence, while never really soaring
to any great heights, was at least never terrible. Lament of Innocence
feels like a sort of a proof of concept demo stretched to fit a whole game: a
cautious step of taking Castlevania into the third dimension, just to see if it
can be done right, to pave the way for a greater 3D version in the future. I can
appreciate it for what it is. I bring it up, however, because it makes me wonder
about this game NanoBreaker.
NanoBreaker seems as if it's
been produced from leftover parts from better Konami games. Jack, our hero, looks
like a Raiden-reject. The creatures, environments, and even soundtrack and sound
effects feel like they just took some unused designs from Silent Hill,
Gradius and Zone of the Enders, gave them a generic sci-fi makeover
with few vague nods to Giger, and then carefully stitched them all together with
Lament's half-broken engine to create the appearance of a complete, coherent
The changes that have been made to the Lament engine
are for the worse. The problem with the design, in this regard, is that NanoBreaker
still thinks like a 2D game. While other 3D action games such as Devil May
Cry and Rygar have made welcome and necessary concessions to the third
dimension (not letting the character automatically walk off platforms, naturally
spacing the jumps and using fixed, planned camera angles), NanoBreaker
ignores all the progress made in this regard. The fixed, automatically tracking
camera of Lament has been replaced with a clumsy, right-thumbstick controlled
viewpoint. At times, the collision detection seems specifically tuned so that
your character falls off a platform right after you attempt to time your jump.
What is the combat like?
Early in the game, there is a sequence where you must hack your way through a
continuous series of inanimate, constantly approaching mounds of flesh to progress
through a narrow hallway. So you sit there for about 10 seconds, holding the left
thumbstick up while pressing triangle over and over again until you can progress
through the hallway. The combat with actual monsters, who only occasionally fight
back, never gets much more involved than this sort of arbitrary button-pressing.
The most common monsters take between 6 to 8 attacks to kill, and you usually
are facing around 5 or 6 at once. Do the math: an average enemy encounter will
require you to push one of the attack buttons at least 30 times; because the enemies
are so dim-witted, you only really need to worry about moving or using a particular
combo for one or two of those button presses. The rest of the time, you are just
mindlessly pushing X and triangle. As the game progresses, you learn combos and
other techniques for instantly killing enemies; but of course these combos can
be up to 8 button presses long themselves.
Despite (and perhaps because
of) all this, NanoBreaker is a tough game. A lot of the fault lies in some
poorly thought out design decisions. The continue points are in illogical and
arbitrary locations, often far from save points, and never immediately before
boss fights. What's worse, you only continue with the amount of life that you
crossed the continue point with. What's even worse, the game is incredibly stingy
with health pickups. It's entirely possible to cross a continue point with a mere
sliver of life left, reach a boss, die, and then go back to that continue point
with the same sliver of life you had left from before. So you are left with an
unfortunate choice: either reset, and start from a distant, thoughtlessly placed
save point, or try and finish the now needlessly difficult task before you.
This wouldn't even necessarily be a problem if the combat weren't so numbing.
Amongst the monotony of the fighting, you will inevitably lose focus long enough
for the occasional monster to chip a little off your life bar. This pattern repeats
as you make your way through the hordes of enemies, which you often must fight
before advancing. All this makes the above scenario even more likely. It makes
one wonder if this game was purposefully designed to be frustrating.
This is all a shame because there are a few well conceived if awkwardly executed
ideas, here worth noting: one room features a cage where regular and "fat" monsters
spawn; the cage is suspended above a pit of radioactive lava. As more and more
of the fat monsters spawn, the cage slowly lowers into the pit. The player must
realize this and focus on killing the fat monsters first to proceed. Of course,
due to the perspective, it's not at all evident that the cage is sinking at all;
however, it's an interesting piece, conceptually. Later, you face a tank boss
which must be fought while standing on it as it drives around a large playing
field; jumping while it moves fast causes you realistically fly off the tank,
and it will occasionally ram into a wall to throw you off. As you destroy more
of the tank, its surface area gets smaller, which makes staying on top even more
difficult. It's one of the rare moments in the game that it thoughtfully paced
and of balanced difficulty, and it actually gets kind of thrilling towards the
end. But these scarce moments are mere drops in an abysmal bucket.
is a bad game. There simply isn't much to like here. Even the few interesting
ideas that are present here are soiled in thoughtless execution. The combat and
platforming sequences are bland, frustrating, and lack purpose and direction.
The art direction and sound design are glossy but consist of generic rehashes
of ideas better used in other games. Despite having to repeat many areas several
times because of the crushing difficulty, NanoBreaker failed to make any
memorable impression on me at all. This game is a waste of time; avoid it.