Castlevania is a series with some hits and misses that is none the less a household name. While today entries can be found across many platforms, it planted its roots on a Nintendo console. As the decades passed, there came many imitators with Citadale – The Legends Trilogy now hoping to achieve success with a similar move from the Wii U to the PC.
Stop me if you have heard something like this before, a tale that spans multiple generations of the Dorleac family as they fight back the tides of demons spewing from a Citadel where the dark lord (clearly Dracula, just not by name) resides. Starting with Sonja and then moving on to her son and grandson respectively they fight to protect their village using their trademark weapon, the shadow blade. Even without mentioning it in the intro, you know what this wants to be.
At least the 8-bit graphics are fitting as they are limited in detail but very colorful and make sure to not remove the important stuff. Spiders skitter across the ground, ghosts fade slightly in and out of the background and bosses are larger, more imposing figures that resemble the menaces they are intended to be. In fact, the most enjoyment I got out of the title was the first couple of levels where I was taking in the nostalgia before the deeper concerns started seeping in.
Speaking of the presentation, the soundtrack was the clear highlight of the game. The chiptunes were upbeat when they needed to be, mood appropriate and transitioned well between levels and into boss fights. If judged on sound design this would be a buy.
Going back to borrowing heavily from the Dracula hunting series is the power ups. Anyone with any knowledge of it will understand the first time they pick up the holy water or axe. Others like the ninja star are just a re-skin of the dagger so while different, still the same. None of this would be complete without chicken legs to recover health and little flame icons, whatever they are, in place of the hearts for ammo. It’s not fooling anyone.
I don’t want to dive too heavily into mechanics but the controls are serviceable. Not aspiring for too much and mostly falling into a state of mediocre. There was a slight input delay on certain actions like attacking while crouched but it was easy to get familiar with and ignore. Let’s just say this; the controls will hardly be a talking point when it comes to the games shortcomings.
There are no save files in the game, which I discovered when I exited back to the main menu and had to start over again. So, even though the player has an unlimited number of lives suggesting that the game wants to be beaten, they want it done in one play through. Luckily, or not based on your view, that is more than possible with the combined 3 chapters taking about 2 hours to complete. Though very little of it is fun and the majority of my time felt like a slog to get through for the purpose of this review.
In the process of development, someone should have been paying attention to the difficulty spikes. The majority of the game is laughably easy, even with the instant kill spikes and pits, in that you will breeze through most of the levels and one shot a lot of bosses. Then when you do come to a boss that causes you to see the restart screen it won’t be because you made a mistake, it will be because they are cheap.
Special mention has to be made of a boss that looks like an eye ball. It bounces around the screen with the trajectory and momentum changing based on how it’s attacked or which surface it hits. It would be like stepping into a batting cage and having it shoot a bouncy ball at you that doesn’t lose momentum. You could probably hit it once but imagine if you then had to hit it 20 more times to exit, no amount of preparation or skill will improve your odds, only luck. What’s more is that there are three of these fights, one in each chapter. One of the protagonists even makes mention of it being a pain in the butt proving the developers themselves knew they sucked.
Another big problem that applies to the above boss fights and the rest of the game as a whole is the poor balance of damage taken from different sources. Get hit by a projectile and you will suffer one point of damage, make contact with an enemy avatar and you are dead in 2-3 hits. This is a pain when that enemy is unpredictable like a giant bouncing ball or just plain unavoidable.
I need to expand on the unavoidable part, I can’t count how many times I ran into the side of the screen only to find that I took damage during the transition to the new one because the enemy was one the edge waiting for me out of sight. There was even one time where I thought the screen wouldn’t pan only to find out later that there was a ledge on the next screen that I was walking against and needed to jump for no reason at all to progress.
Confession time, I did not beat the game. I made it all the way to the final boss before I couldn’t take it anymore. Touching back on the difficulty spikes, I could not beat him. He had an attack that was just unavoidable. This isn’t like where he eventually used the attack and I failed, no, this was his normal attack that he would use and then I would be dead because his avatar ran into me twice. It was brutal and not in the ‘it will be satisfying to overcome’ way.
Do not be mistaken, this is not Castlevania, it’s not even Simons Quest. You would have more success buying an Adolescent Alien Samurai Salamander action figure from a dollar store while hoping for a genuine Ninja Turtle than finding a good game here.
The developer should hope that this game is purchased by people who don’t look at reviews. Sales would only be from those who catch a glimpse of screenshots and are motivated by feelings of nostalgia. I cannot recommend this game. With the gameplay issues, mechanical inconsistencies and short runtime there couldn’t even be an argument made for a low price point.