Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness

Game Overview

Often during the development of a video game demo versions of the game will be shown and released. These demos tend to look quite different from the final product, featuring areas, items, and even characters that never make the final cut (the "gold" release) of the game. This can happen for a number of reasons, from changes to the engine to new ideas being added in during the development process. Other times, though, a game has to be released by a certain deadline (a common occurrence in an industry where annual earnings are dependent on the release of select AAA titles) and promised features have to be removed from a game simply to get the title out the door on time.

Such was the case with Castlevania for the Nintendo 64, a game that suffered a prolonged development cycle before finally getting shoved across some kind of finish line before Konami's quarterly statements were due. The game, as demoed, featured two characters that weren't available in the final cut of the Nintendo 64 title: Cornell and Coller. Due to time constraints, and a refocusing of the direction of the title, the characters were removed, as were their relevant boss fights and plot lines.

Castlevania 64 wasn't a huge hit by any means, but a lot of work had been put into the game and Konami really wanted to squeak out as much profit from their first attempt at a 3D Castlevania as they could. Hoping that maybe an improved version of the title, one that restored much of the "missing" content, could bring Nintendo players to the series, the company authorized their KCEK development team (who had made the original Nintendo 64 title_ more time to continue improving the game for a future re-release.

Ostensibly called a "prequel" to Castlevania 64, the first portion of the game follows the story of Cornell, a werewolf drawn into Dracula's web when the follower's of the Dark Prince kidnap the werewolf's adopted sister, Ada. Cornell's quest took in through a castle very similar to the one in Castlevania 64, along the way fighting some new bosses and meeting a few new faces, too.

As a bonus, playing through as Cornell would unlock Henry Oldrey (who took over part of Coller's story), a child Cornell saved years earlier, who now returns to the castle on a quest to save more children from Dracula's clutches. From there, the players can then replay (lightly remixed versions of) of the original quests from the previous Nintendo 64 edition, running Reinhardt Schneider and Carrie Fernandez through their own versions of the game. It made for a very complete, if still familiar, experience.

And that, right there, is the biggest issue between the two games. Because they're both built on the same base, featuring largely the same areas to explore, enemies to fight, and quests to run through, Legacy of Darkness comes across as little more than an expansion pack for it's predecessor -- a "Director's Cut" put out at full price only ten months after the initial game's release. It has a bad reputation not just because the original Castlevania 64 was a bit of a mess, but also because it didn't add that much new to the package while charging full price for the experience.

The game was largely ignored by all but the most hardcore of fans, and Konami only published a slim few copies of the game (reports range around 40,000 or so cartridges total). This didn't mark the end of Konami's 3D Castlevania ambitions, but the next time the company would go in a completely different direction, as if trying to ignore that these games even existed -- which, according to some versions of the chronology of the series, these games don't exist at all.