Castlevania Legends is the last of the Castlevania Game Boy trilogy, but also falls short on what made its predecessor great.
|Developer||Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya|
|Purchase (Game Boy)||Purchase from eBay.|
Whaaat? Another obscure Castlevania title? You must be kidding!
Nope. There is a whole trilogy on the Game Boy. Today, we are going to take a look at the last one: Castlevania Legends.
An Anomaly in the Series
So you might be thinking to yourself, “Why is this called Castlevania Legends? What about calling it Castlevania III?” Well, let me tell you the reason. The reason is…
I HAVE NO IDEA.
Let’s go over the sequence one more time:
…You know, at least the second game was appropriately named.
Furthermore, here’s a first: our main protagonist is… GASP! A GIIIIRRRRLLL!!!
Yep, Sonia Belmont. Having a female main character in the Castlevania series is a rare occurrence.
While Sypha Belnades from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse has the honor of being the first playable female character in the series, she was technically not the main character. And of course, there’s… *groans*… Maria Renard from Rondo of Blood…
How the hell did a character like this make it into a series about whip-wielding superheroes slaying monsters?
Furthermore, Castlevania Legends came out in 1997. About six years after the last Game Boy game, Belmont’s Revenge, and after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation.
Sorry, but WHAAAT?
This confuses me. Why release a regular Game Boy game so late? Why isn’t it a Game Boy Color release?
And here’s the most baffling thing to me: Castlevania Legends was eventually retconned out of the official timeline, making Sonia Belmont a non-canon character.
According to series producer Koji Igarashi, this was done because the game’s events conflicted with the plotline of the main games. In what way? I don’t know the finer details about it, but he didn’t seem to like the idea of a female protagonist in the game’s respective time period “since it didn’t quite fit the motifs of a vampire story.”
What time period, you ask? Before Trevor Belmont.
YEP. When Castlevania Legends came out, it was the prequel of all prequels. Even the game’s events heavily implied that she is Trevor Belmont’s mother.
But the weirdness doesn’t end there. Now let’s take a look at the game itself.
The Beginning of the Beginning
So despite that Castlevania Legends came out six years after Belmont’s Revenge, the aesthetics have never really evolved. Sure, on Super Game Boy mode, you get color. But that’s about it. The sprite work is pretty much similar to what we have seen from Castlevania: The Adventure. And the overall art design is… uninspired. It’s honestly kinda disappointing.
But are you ready for more disappointment? Okay. The music in this game is the worst out of the Game Boy trilogy.
Overall, the music isn’t bad but it could’ve been a lot better. Castlevania: The Adventure had great music and Belmont’s Revenge had spectacular music. I see that the original tunes are trying to have a more classical vibe to them, but these are pretty bland and forgettable tunes.
Castlevania Legends did have some changes in gameplay though. Sonia is more maneuverable; she can change direction during mid-jump and can use the crouch-walk (though it’s not terribly useful).
The Soul Weapons replace the sub-weapons, utilizing magic instead. Unfortunately, you only get them after you defeat bosses. But they are yours to keep and you can switch them at anytime.
However, the weapons themselves aren’t too interesting. You can heal to full health, shoot a slow-moving projectile (which is pointless since your whip can shoot flames), destroy all enemies on the screen (from TWO weapons), and stop time. It’s like they’re not even trying to be creative here.
Also, by pressing A and B together, Sonia enters something called Burning Mode. Basically, it’s just temporary invincibility that you can only use once per life. Again, not too interesting.
There are also booby traps, which you can activate by whipping certain candles. However, this is an underutilized feature that ultimately doesn’t add much to the game. It just wastes your time.
All in all, Castlevania Legends is very much like its predecessors with some differences. But there is one problem that Legends shared with Dracula’s Curse: difficult vertical platforming.
Interestingly enough, here’s a bit of trivia: there is one particular trait that the whole Castlevania Game Boy trilogy shares. No stairways. Out of all chief motifs that console Castlevania games have, there is not a single staircase in the Game Boy games.
This is very prevalent in stage 3. You have to climb a lot of ropes and jump onto a lot of isolated platforms. There are bats and ghosts everywhere, and they often come from either above or below you. It doesn’t help that they respawn immediately if the edge of your screen enters their spawning points.
While you can use the Wind Soul Weapon (stop time) here, it will consume hearts quickly. And as soon as you run out of hearts or you die once, you’re on your own. This is an example of bad stage design. Unless you get somewhat lucky, chances are that the enemies are going to be able to get many cheap shots in.
The Disappointing Fight Sequences
There are also mini-bosses in certain stages, who are mostly easy because there always seems to be a way to break them. For example, you can pretty much fight Medusa by staying crouched and using the flame whip until she dies. You won’t even take damage.
While the bosses are somewhat challenging, would you believe me if I say that Death is one of the easiest bosses in Legends? Yes, the Grim Reaper. One of the most consistently difficult bosses in the entire Castlevania series. But in this game, he just changes positions and throws a single scythe at you.
Then there’s Alucard. Every time I walk up to him to attack, he lunges at me with his sword. But just by moving away, I can easily dodge this attack. But here’s the thing: he counters every time you move close to him. This is so exploitable that you can break this supposedly tough boss in seconds. It’s ridiculous.
And finally, there’s Dracula. This is the easiest Dracula boss fight in the Game Boy trilogy and one of the easiest I played in the series. In his first form, he only shoots fireballs in certain directions. But you can dodge them easily. You also don’t have to attack his head like in many Castlevania games. So this guy is just target practice for the flame whip.
Then you fight his second form, which is just a matter of memorizing where that skull is going to pop up next. The flame whip makes short work of him. It’s so anti-climactic.
So that’s about it, it seems. But naw. There’s still a bit more to talk about.
Throughout the majority of the stages, you occasionally see multiple passages. Each stage has a Collection Item hidden in a candle, which is basically a memento based on the Castlevania sub-weapons throughout the series. Unfortunately, you can’t use it as such. It serves only one purpose: to unlock a hidden ending.
However, the game does pull a bit of a curveball on you. Stage 5, the final stage, does not have one of these Collection Items. Because there is a secret stage that you can enter by falling into a specific pit in Stage 5.
There was no clue or hint of where to find this secret stage. You would either have to look up a walkthrough or find it by complete accident.
So in the hidden stage, that is where you can find the fifth Collection Item and the fifth Soul Weapon. And once you defeat Dracula with all five Collection Items on hand, you get to see the secret ending after the credits.
All in all, Castlevania Legends is better than Castlevania: The Adventure but still pales in comparison to Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge. It’s a nice rare gem in the Game Boy library and was among the last games released for the system.
It may not be terribly impressive, considering it’s the easiest game in the Game Boy trilogy. Or even CANON for that matter. But for the Castlevania enthusiast, I recommend giving this one a shot.
Castlevania LegendsPrice Varies
- The minor gameplay changes do help in making Legends a different experience from the other Game Boy entries.
- The graphics are okay but show a lack of progression from the previous game, especially with such a big time jump.
- The additional lore is neat, even though it's non-canon.
- The secret ending is pretty neat.
- The soundtrack is disappointingly mediocre, especially compared to its predecessors.
- Some bosses are too easy on the account of having predictable attack patterns or have fatal flaws in their AI.