Remembering… Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
Curse of Darkness was that game that sat in my collection for years, purchased in 2006. The road traveled was fraught with some frustration and the end result was me stuck in a quicksand where I couldn’t overcome Death and Legion. After figuring out my priorities at the time, I had set the game aside knowing that when it came to games built from the JRPG mold, if you’ve made it far on the neglect of certain secrets or having not dared to obtain the knowledge stowed in the GameFAQs coffers, it’d usually equate to uphill struggles doused only by restarting from scratch.
What was supposed to have been a few months turned into years. Real life took control of the wheel and my copy rented a space within a Xerox box along with other PS2 titles. Further extending its lease came with the purchase of my PS3 and all hopes of Curse of Darkness rising from the dust seemed bleak. But I could always hear Death and Legion laughing behind my back, Dracula especially since the running gag was that I bounced before ever meeting him. Enough was enough, early this year I decided to finally close this chapter of my gaming career and back to Wallachia I went.
Admittingly, one of the big reasons why I wasn’t readily motivated to do this sooner was because of the game’s one flaw: repetitive stages. It didn’t matter if you were in the woods, any given cave, or a rustic construct of dark worship, it seemed the floor plans were inspired by corporate business plazas. There’s always a long corridor to be found branching out with small rooms, and the scenery repeats itself over and over with the constant need to hack and slash.
Spicing things up however is the use of Devil Forging – a gothic Pokemon escapade of sorts where you breed a slew of ‘Innocent Devils’, of different types, that evolve depending on crystals harvested through the use of various weapons. While Lament of Innocence went with the old school approach of whip work, Curse of Darkness opted for the franchise’s (at the time) growing popularity of non-Belmonts leveling up while wielding a variety of armaments.
Aside from assisting you in battle, the Innocent Devils are important for unearthing hidden treasure such as material used for forging hardware or HP Max potions – things you’ll definitely need if you wish to have leverage for the journey. These opportunities only present themselves in certain areas with a Devil of a particular ability, such as smashing through a bowling pin formation of giant statues, flying over large gaps, or sensing invisible switches.
Curse of Darkness stands out as the more memorable of the PS2 Castlevanias due to its flavorful assortment of characters. From the eccentric X-factor, St. Germaine, the first 3D rendition of Trevor Belmont, and even the disturbingly androgynous Isaac. While portraying the Castlevania franchise in anime fashion certainly hasn’t been anything unfamiliar, out of all the games Curse of Darkness pulls out all the stops to the point where it comes off similar to an actual OVA. Voice actors such as Crispin Freeman and Liam O’Brien certainly add on to this tone, and the soundtrack, second to only Symphony of the Night in my opinion, is rich in the Eastern take of the Western arts.
This is where it struck a chord with me, like opening a time capsule and going through its contents of things that truly characterized a different era. Today, the community definitely looks towards the Western front to further define gaming, and perhaps for some of us we’ve been too quick to turn our backs on what tickled our fancies during our younger years.
Having finally unearthed all the game’s secrets, and beaten the game I’ve come to realize that when it comes to recommending this title it wouldn’t just be for slaking one’s thirst for gothic horror, but if you want to take a stroll down a memory lane shared amongst the like-minded, Curse of Darkness should be added to your list.