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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, '17, 11:49 pm 
So, since I've had a nasty cold for the first time in a decade, my mind isn't up to creative interests, so on browsing youtube I came across a boss video for a fangame called Castlevania: The Lecarde Chronicles, and it turned out there were two of them, so I snagged both.

Now, I know we're all waiting for Bloodstained, but I wouldn't be talking about this if I didn't think people wouldn't be interested in some quality extra Castlevania to tide them over.

In case the name didn't give it away, they follow Efrain, a late-18th century ancestor of Eric LeCarde from Castlevania Bloodlines, and who is Pope Pius VI's personal monster-slaying handyman. In the first game his Papal business brings him into conflict with the Von Viltheim family, a clan of undead Austrian nobles who built their castle on sacred ground and profaned the region by swearing allegiance to the forces of darkness.

The game uses a hub and level structure that has more in common with Mega Man, with their being no set level order and the fact that you pick up new tricks form bosses allows you to go back to previous areas and pick up more things to enhance Efrain's capabilities, but in most other ways that count, this game plays like one of the classic Castlevanias, even including lives as a thing you need to be worried about losing. Thankfully, the controls are as sharp as they need to be- I haven't always had the best experience with other Castlevania fangames in that regard. the other production aspects are also pretty strong, because Castlevania needs a strong soundtrack- and both games have a mix of original stuff and remixes of older themes.

The problem with the first game, however, is that it might be a bit too old-school, in a couple of respects. The game is that particular kind of hard that the classic Castlevania games have been basically since the 1980's, and the game does that thing that old games used to do where you can only see the best ending if you beat the game on the hardest difficulty, so I plan to finish up on Normal and watch the best ending on youtube because I'm not 13 anymore and haven't been for some time. If that kind of hard isn't your jam, you can always fairly simply just play the second game.

The second game sees the one-man Dope Pope Monster Squad five years later, when the fictional Duchy of Guillecourt in France has gone dark, and the Pope likes to know what's going on in Christendom, so Efrain is once again on the case.

The game's overall design exists at kinda a meeting in the middle between Castlevania II and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and its numerous descendants. While they're both exploration games, there are differences in how they're handled. On the Castlevania II end of the design, the game has almost the exact same sort of town/wilderness/dungeon dynamic that Castlevania II did, and it goes one deeper by having no experience or levels- character power progression is entirely item- and gear-centric, as health, attack, defense and whatever else are only increased by finding or buying stuff. There's even a day/night cycle, but that doesn't affect the strength of enemies. Sometimes it affects where and what kinds of enemies show up, and also what NPCs are available to talk to in certain areas.

Oh, and that notepad you had for Castlevania II or La-Mulana? You may want to dust that off, because there are actual puzzles, and the hints to solving them can occasionally be a bit distant from where the puzzle is (thankfully, the hints are far more lucid).

The Symphony side comes from the fact that the bosses aren't garbage, there's a friendly map, and exploration is opened up through acquiring a multitude of new mobility tricks. There's also piles of equipment and potions to find and play around with, and some of it, as per the usual are part of the set of likely arcane requirements to get the best possible ending (still likely to be more friendly about getting the best ending than LeCarde Chronicles 1). Also, the game has SotN-tier voice acting, take that as you will, punctuated by the fact that Robert Belgrade returned to voice Alucard once again.

The thing is... The mix actually works. I'm a bit more than halfway in here, and at this point I'd actually rate the game higher than Circle of the Moon, because it's about as hard as CotM, but the game doesn't really make you rely on random drops for key offensive and defensive stuff you need to get anywhere.

What gets me is that Konami didn't shut these down, because apparently Migami went to Konami first before anything else, and went to work after Konami signed off on letting it happen.

So, if you like, give 'em a go.

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