Thursday, May 16, 2024

Castlevania Legends (Game Boy, 1997)


A game that Koji Igarashi once referred to as "an embarrassment". Rumor has it that the entire nation of Japan considered issuing an apology for this game, citing it as "the worst thing our country has ever done". China was outraged so Japan had to walk back that idea. I don't know, I think Koji was being a little unfair on this poor game.

So, is it really that not-good? ........Yes. However it's better than Castlevania Adventure and even though that's a low bar, it's a bar that this game safely hurdles over. Not sure why there was such a step down from Belmont's Revenge to this, though. The main sin of this game is that it tries to completely re-write the Belmont canon to make Alucard the father of the entire line, just because they wanted him and Sonia to be love interests. Which means, by extension, that they're all descended from Dracula. Alrighty then.

There are two modes to choose from here, Standard Mode and Light Mode. There isn't any difference with enemies or levels between the two modes... except that Light Mode lets you have the fully-powered whip at all times while Standard Mode starts you back at the Leather Whip every time you die. A negligible difference, but Light Mode is a lot less annoying so I go with that.

Here's the puny leather whip of Standard Mode, which isn't useful for much more than punishing your lover.

The fireball-flinging L3 whip is a game-changer and allows you to deal with threats well in advance. The fireballs do half the damage of a direct connect with the whip, so you always have a reason to aim for melee damage.

Speaking of punishing lovers, Sonia Belmont. She's the first of the Belmont clan, according to this game. This would be completely retconned/ignored in every other 'Vania game ever, however. It's too bad we didn't get more games with her, as she's a fun protagonist. She's pretty much the sole reason to check this game out at all, as the only thing that makes it stand out. She's also Alucard's lover. All things considered, the idea behind this game is an interesting one, the first Belmont teaming up with her lover to stop his evil father for the first time. However none of that really comes into play at all outside of one dialogue scene. The thing that destroys this game's place in the canon was having Alucard sire Sonia's child. Not a great plan.

We've got a map screen, and immediately I want to know what's up with that basement level that's disconnected from the rest.

This super generic right out of the gate. The stages are linear and the enemies are bland. It also immediately feels like a step down, or even a drop-off, from Belmont's Revenge due to the lack of stage select.

One cool thing is that Sonia can shuffle along the floor while ducking down, which makes her look like The Lord of the Dance. I hope he eventually learned to use his arms.

First boss is this gargoyle, and it seems like a lot of the game's effort went into the boss designs.

Stage 2 has a collapsing bridge, so at least that's kind of intense.

The game over screen is rad, and looks like a shot from Berserk.

Next boss is an actual dragon! I can overlook a lot of issues with a game if it has impressive boss fights.

Finishing levels gets you Soul Weapons, which are basically spells you cast with Up+Attack. Can switch between them on the Select button menu. The "collection items" look like what you'd use as special weapons, but they're actually just hidden objects that give you the best ending if you find one in every level.

As for the spells, I'd give a rundown, but I only ever used one of them more than once. Most of them are pointless attack spells, and the only one you'll ever need is the heal spell. It's the reward for beating the dragon at the end of stage 2, and fully heals you at the cost of 20 hearts. Which is still a bargain, and greatly increases your longevity in these levels. Once someone gits gud at the game, I'm sure the attack spells have all kinds of uses, but I just hoarded hearts and restored my health every so often.

Next up is the clock tower level, which isn't nearly as bad as it usually is in these games.

Speaking of not as bad as usual, Death. This is probably the easiest version of Death ever, and he just jumps from side to side.

This next part is incredibly obnoxious, as this tiny rope is overly difficult to latch onto for some reason.

Next boss is Medusa, who surprisingly attacks with a sword.

Sonia finds Alucard, who is also here hunting Dracula.

He and Sonia, as mentioned, are former lovers. Fun Fact: They've never actually had sex horizontally. I mean, look at them. Someday when they're old, perhaps.

Alucard asks Sonia to take off and let him deal with the rest.

Sonia of course refuses to leave. I don't know, at least Alucard can move faster than 0.1 MPH.

"Crush me between your rock-hard thighs, Sonia!"

Alucard fights with a sword, as is tradition. This game came out the same year as Symphony of the Night, which is kind of crazy to think about.

Sonia retaliates by whipping Alucard right in the neussen!


Now fully spent, Alucard goes to sleep. Wait...was that how they make love?

Alucard wishes Sonia good luck and nods off. I mean, they could have teamed up against Dracula, but yeah. That was the best scene/fight in the game and the one real thing I'll remember from this game in a week.

Time for the final stage.

A Sahagin leaps forth! "Our time has come!" it screeches.

"AIYEEEEE!" ::splat::

Well, the losing streak of the Sahagin continues.

Super-lame miniboss halfway through the final level. This thing jumps all over you and you have very little room to manuever. That spike in the middle damages you if you try to jump on the middle platform from the side platform, too.

Was wondering about the basement level. So that's stage 5, the last stage. But also, midway through it, you can get access to another hidden sub-stage.

The sub-stage is home to this axe-wielding maniac, and gets you the final Collection Item to get the best ending.

I missed a couple and can't go back, but it is what it is.

Dracula himself flirts with Sonia and wants her to be part of his harem.

Oh myyy.

Well, it isn't every day he gets visited by a female vampire hunter. Actually, it almost never happens in his thousand-year history in this series. So you can't blame him for shooting his shot. He won't have another shot until...whenever Portrait of Ruin takes place. Unless Maria Mode of Symphony of the Night is canon.

Sonia is having none of this and resists his Dracula wiles.

...Oh myyyy.

Dracula is his usual annoying teleporting self, warping around throwing fireballs like an asshole.

Speaking of fireballs, mine damage him as well, so I keep a distance and fling away. Also brought just enough hearts to heal 3 times.

Dracula's second form has a couple of lame insta-death pits in the floor, but other than that it's not too bad. Just stay off to the side and fling fireballs.

Well, that's, uh, kind of unbecoming. Pretty easy fight, even if I didn't bring all that healing.

There isn't much dialogue in this game, but what exists is actually very well-translated and the vocabulary is solid for a Game Boy game.

The game ends with Sonia staring down the castle as it falls apart, yet again.

Get the best ending, and Sonia lets her hair down. And also...

...we find out that she is of child, and it's Alucard's. She's the first Belmont, remember. This creates so many weird issues with the series, and I totally see why they pretend this game doesn't exist and never referenced this again. It's pretty much a completely different series if the Belmonts are all related to Dracula.

While we're at it, let's see how Nintendo Power covered this one in Volume 106.

I wasn't reading NP much anymore by ::squints:: March 1997, as it was pretty much all N64 by now and I didn't have one of those yet.

Yeah, NP is all bad-ass and radical now with the late 90's 'tude. I pretty much stick to the first 80 or so issues, even today, for my nostalgia fix.

This month in the Power Charts: Zelda dominating as usual. They're still letting the SNES into the power charts as of early 1997 which is nice of 'em.

I didn't realize Quest 64 was sexy??

My God, what happened to Counselor's Corner? It looks radioactive.

N64 3D really does very little for me. PS1 3D is even worse. It's just so rudimentary compared to how artistic 2D had gotten by this point, but it was taking over regardless. It wasn't until... probably the PS4 generation where 3D finally reached the same level of visual crispness that 2D had reached in the mid to late 90's. Though there are a few standout games for artistic visuals as early as the PS2 gen, like Shadow of the Colossus and Xenoblade.

Oh yeah, this game, the reason we're here. They actually gave this a nice amount of coverage, with maps of the entire game and some 'Vania mood.

You can see how over-long the stages are. On the bright side, it has unlimited continues, which already puts it way over Castlevania Adventure.

Yeah, very very long stages. And the lack of stage select / diverse zones really brings it down. I just finished playing it a few minutes ago and I couldn't tell any of the levels apart if you showed them to me in a lineup, except the Clock Tower of course.

This last stage was interesting at least, considering there's an entire hidden stage in the middle of it that's completely optional.

This game...will tide people over until "Dracula 3D" (AKA Castlevania 64) arrives, huh? Yeah, I don't know about that. The 3D 'Vanias just weren't any good for a long time, and to this day I only consider the 2D games to be "real Castlevania"...though of course your mileage may vary. Mostly it's just funny to see this statement when Symphony of the Night was over on the other system rocking people's pants off.

So final thoughts? This is more polished than Castlevania Adventure and isn't BAD like that game, but it is aggressively boring for the most part and the levels are too long. The lack of a stage select brings it down a few notches, as does the slow movement speed and lack of regular special weapons. As far as this series goes... it's just kind of "there". I don't think it's worth playing. If someone wants a Game Boy classic 'Vania, just go with Belmont's Revenge and ignore the other two.

Here's what I said about this in the 1000 List:

#144 Castlevania Legends (Game Boy) – Spring 2000

At this point in time I decided to run the Game Boy 'Vania games, and for some weird reason started with the third one. This game... really isn't good. They went overboard with the Game Boy 'Vanias playing super-slow and clunky. What's even worse is that Iga eventually erased this from the canon of his series because of a few crazy things the story tries to do (suggesting that Alucard might be the father of the Belmont line). The main notable thing about this game is how hot the main character Sonia is. In the artwork. Not as much so in the game lol.

In any case, this game really is low-tier for the series and there's a reason it hasn't been on any of the recent 'Vania compilation games (yet).

Other Castlevania Posts


  1. Would you believe there was going to be a second Sonia game... about time travel? Castlevania: Resurrection, planned but never released for the Dreamcast. It would've involved Sonia being transported in time and meeting her descendant (and distinct Tim Curry lookalike) Victor, the lazy black sheep of the family, and having to whip him into shape, pun very much intended.