Developers Shouldn’t Use Cliff Notes.

1 May

Right off the bat, I should say that I’m really enjoying Castlevania: Lords of Shadow so far. I’ve only just started chapter 2, but I’m currently appreciating the slow-burn of both the game play and story. Be that as it may, I’ve already found my first brow-furrowing moment in the game. Ever heard of Shadow of the Colossus?

Well, the dudes at Konami sure have. The first boss fight in the game is, well, a rip-off from SotC. I don’t say “complete rip-off” because the experience of actually fighting it isn’t anywhere near as awesome as every encounter was in the PS2 classic. The fight in Castlevania is a dumbed-down version of the structure SotC used, but with a couple ground attacks thrown your way every now and then. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

First, you have to wait for the titan to slam his fist hard enough into the ground so that it gets stuck. When that happens, you run over to his fist and grab onto it, holding down the “grip” button so as to not fall off. You then proceed along the titan’s body until you get to the round, glowing symbol, so that you can stab the shit out of it. Repeat on a couple more parts of its body, and you’re done.

Yea, it’s basically the Cliff Notes version of fighting a colossus. I could assume that someone on the development team just wanted to pay homage to a great game, and that would be relatively fine with me, I guess. But if you’re going to steal from something, STEAL from it. Don’t do a half-assed job.

A big reason the titan fight feels like a rush job is because your hand is held the entire time. Right when its fist gets stuck in the ground, the part you’re supposed to latch onto starts glowing. Just as you begin holding the “grip” button, the titan’s arm raises up and the next section for you to jump to glows like the last. There’s not really any exploration or figuring out how to get around on its body; it’s a shame, since those moments really stood out in SotC, and probably could have in Castlevania.

I ultimately came away from the fight with a better understanding of why no one has tried imitating SotC before now. It’s hard to do well, and is made even harder by the fact that SotC isn’t concerned with a lot of things other games are concerned with. SotC relies on atmosphere and implication for narrative; Castlevania’s story is told in a similar vein to other action games. SotC’s main game play mechanic involves giant, moving puzzles for the player to solve; Castlevania has multitudes of enemies, levels, combat, and bosses to take into consideration. What it all boils down to is the fact that such a boss design should at least be on par with its source material, or we’re all just wasting our time and effort. I could go kill 15 other, better ones instead of a shitty retread.

I’m still enjoying the game, so I’ll try to talk about some of the stuff I like next time. There’s actually quite a lot.

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