As a Castlevania fan, when a new trailer starts with the opening music from Super Castlevania IV, it becomes clear that the people at Mercury Steam--the developers behind the game--are also longtime fans of the series. Of course, that becomes even more apparent when Dave Cox, a Konami producer on the game, says that not only will that song be in the game, but it (as well as several other classic Castlevania tunes, like "Vampire Killer") will also be performed by a full orchestra. In fact, much of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow functions as what Konami calls, "a love letter" to fans of the series, but at the same time, Mercury Steam has made great efforts to produce a game that newcomers can enjoy just as well.
The trailer starts with a camera panning through several environments, ranging from the snowy and bleak outskirts of a dilapidated castle to the lush and green plants of a junglelike area. It's at this point that we hear that Lords of Shadow won't have any direct connection to any other game in the series. In other words, it doesn't necessarily function as a prequel or sequel to any other game in the series. That being said, there are obviously characters and enemies (like Death) that are nods to previous games in the series, like the name of Lords of Shadow's protagonist, Gabriel Belmont--a member of the Brotherhood of Light sent on a quest to stop the Lords of Shadow. These evil beings have somehow found a way to prevent souls from finding peace in the afterlife, forcing them to roam in some kind of purgatory for eternity.
Armed with the combat cross to defeat his enemies, Gabriel ventures forth, but he later learns of an artifact that can bring the dead back to life. Such an item would be incredibly useful to Gabriel because his wife, Marie, had been murdered. Naturally, the pieces of this artifact are scattered throughout the land, forcing Gabriel to travel to new lands outside the realm of the castle.
As far as combat and general action goes, Lords of Shadow bears some resemblance to the God of War games, which certainly isn't a bad thing. Gabriel's combat cross functions as a whip (a great relief to longtime Castlevania fans) that enables him to produce up to 40 different kinds of combination attacks, which are unlocked as you progress through the game. Within these combinations, there seem to be attacks that are stronger than others. For example, one of Gabriel's ranged attacks is great for dealing with a large number of enemies just outside of his immediate area, but these attacks are weaker because of their added reach. Naturally, Gabriel also has access to the classic secondary weapons of the Castlevania franchise--we got a peek at the holy water, as well as the dagger, but there will be more, and it's worth mentioning that all secondary items can be upgraded in some manner. Gabriel also has access to a light and dark magic system. While we got a brief glimpse of it in action, we don’t quite know how it functions, just yet.
But we do know that platforming will also be a big part of the Lords of Shadow experience. In quite a few scenes, we saw Gabriel taking long leaps across enormous chasms. We also saw him using the combat cross to scale objects and repel down walls. All of this comes in handy when you have opportunities to explore the environments and find hidden areas that may contain useful items you can use later. Some of these items may prove to be quite useful when battling some of the boss characters known as Titans. As you can imagine, the Titans are massive creatures--so massive that Gabriel has to scale them to find their weak points, which he has to smash in order to take these Titans down. If that sounds a little familiar, it should--the sequence Konami showed looked quite similar to the way the Colossi are defeated in Shadow of the Colossus, and it actually looked pretty cool to see that kind of gameplay in such a detailed setting.
Surprisingly, Lords of Shadow also seems to have a fairly strong puzzle-solving element to its gameplay. The puzzles in the game range from fairly straightforward physical puzzles, such as where Gabriel has to use his dash move to light up a series of panels beneath his feet, to some that require a little more brain power--like the puzzle that requires you to line up a series of mirrors to properly reflect a beam of light. It's not clear just how often these puzzles appear, but from all indications, these occur when Gabriel needs a specific item, like a key to a particular room.
Everything we've seen so far from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow looks mighty impressive, and Castlevania fans should have every reason to be excited that this new game is coming from people who have a genuine love for the series. It's also clear that Kojima Productions' involvement with the game, which included significant refinement on Gabriel's design, had a positive impact. At any rate, we're excited to get our hands on the game at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, get a feel for the combat, and see just how massive the game really is--especially if Gabriel needs horses and eagles to traverse the landscape. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is scheduled for release later this year for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.