How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. Similar to Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, this game starts out fairly linear - almost Classicvania-like. but a majority of the game is Metroidvania
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: Castlevania: The Lecarde Chronicles 2 was played on a Windows PC
Buy Castlevania: The Lecarde Chronicles 2 if you like…
- Classicvania Gameplay
- Expanded Castlevania Lore
- No-Handholding Exploration
- High Difficulty Bosses
- Catchy Castlevania Music
▼ Review continues below ▼
When Castlevania Symphony of the Night was released, it not only popularized a new 2D genre and level design style, but it also effectively ushered in the death of the Classicvania formula for the series. Castlevania was no longer about precise inputs using laggy attacks and awkward jumps, but was now about exploration and leveling up – for better or worse. Classicvania still has its fans today, but games in that style are fairly few and far between. When there are fans and a lack of content to appease their appetite, fan games will inevitably follow. Castlevania: The Lecarde Chronicles came along in 2013 and imagined what would happen if some of the Igavania title’s abilities were added to the Classicvania formula. Its sequel turns it the other way, and explores what might happen if Symphony had gameplay more similar to the series’ predecessors. The result in the case of Castlevania: The Lecarde Chronicles 2 is an especially challenging exploration experience, and is surely going to be a joy to fans of both types of Castlevania.
Besides some superficial aesthetic changes, the gameplay in Lecarde Chronicles 2 is basically the same as the first game. What sticks out the most is that even though you still play as Efrain Lecarde, the whip is gone. Instead you have a sword that works very similar to the one Alucard starts with in Symphony of the Night. This is your main attack mode for the entire game, as all new weapons have the same slash range and animation, regardless of whether you’re equipped with an axe, a mace, or a great sword. Other than the range decrease the sword is basically just an upgrade to the whip. You even get a technique that let’s you spin your sword in a circle; just like spinning the whip. Unlike that whip though, the sword can be swung diagonally downward to hit enemies crawling up on your feet, and it swings just a little more rapidly. This resolves most of my complaints about the awkwardness of attacking in that first game. If you’ve played Symphony, you may be glad to discover that the end lag that followed Alucard’s every sword swing isn’t present for Efrain Lecarde. This removes the need to jump cancel your attacks for that double-hit, and you can focus more on positioning in a fight while still being able to layer in your damage.
You still have the four Belmont sub-weapons, but the combat is given depth with a chargeable aura ability. You have two types of aura, one from your own bloodline and one obtained from defeating the final boss in Lecarde Chronicles 1. The Lecarde powers are basically the item crushes from the first game, albeit with less variety since they are not sub-weapon specific. They start out as more powerful attacks, and eventually become screen clearing tools that come with a large price tag. The Von Viltheim powers are buffs or healing spells which can be used in lieu of collecting items that do the same thing. All attacks and spells in this game use hearts now, so you no longer have to manage two resource pools for your abilities. This also makes the sub-weapons and aura powers trade-offs against each other, which does add some depth to the strategy. I mostly used the Von Viltheim powers myself since hearts are relatively easy to come by and money is not, plus the sub-weapons are just much easier to use for attacking. To use an aura power you have to be standing on the ground holding down the button to charge it up, letting go at the right time to use whichever specific ability you’re trying to use. Timing your charge in the heat of combat is riskier than just chucking a boomerang cross into their face instead, but there are some bosses that are especially weak to some of Lecarde’s more powerful abilities.
One of the first things I noticed starting the game, besides Efrain apparently taking up sword lessons, is that you don’t level up in this game at all. Attack and defense is dictated entirely by what equipment you’re wearing, and HP and Heart max determined by collectable upgrades. This is one of the primary differences from the Igavania formula, since the only exploration-based Castlevania that didn’t include RPG style leveling was Lament of Innocence. Lecarde Chronicles 2 is by no means more similar to Metroid however, thanks in part to money still being a major player in acquiring useful gear. You’ll still want to kill every monster for that chance they’ll drop a giant bag with 5 gold in it, even if they don’t give that incremental experience point boost along side it. While exploration can certainly lead to treasure, there isn’t enough gold in the world to buy everything from the shop, especially if you decide to abuse potions to bridge the skill gap. This makes the extra cash from mugging skeletons fairly crucial to your quest, and it keeps a strong focus on engaging enemies in combat rather than avoiding them. Not that they give you much of a choice most of the time.
The first third of the game is pretty linear, and there are a lot of clear homages to Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest. You visit three earldoms, each having a town and a mansion to explore, with each containing important keys you need to access the final and largest area. There is also a day and night cycle that serves to possibly change up your experience as you backtrack, since monster sets will also shift with the dawn and dusk. You’ll find ability upgrades – such as a slide or double jump – as your main reward for completing mansions and other areas, but these do not generally give you access to more than one pathway. Lecarde Chronicles 2 gives the first impression that you’re just playing Lecarde Chronicles 1 with a map screen instead of a level select screen.
For the more linear sections, just like Lecarde Chronicles 1, the level design isn’t always completely fair. The difficulty sticks out the most when you’re trying to move upward through some passageway. You have fairly good coverage beneath Efrain, but by default Efrain doesn’t have any tools to address enemies above him, instead you have to rely on sub-weapons such as the axe. Well, basically only the axe since it’s the only weapon that does shoot upward – later aura powers could address the problem but those are expensive. Climbing up a passageway can be frustrating as you wait for a monster to randomly decide to move out of the way, providing them ample opportunity to come crashing into your face instead. Additionally, while the controls on stairs have been improved, it doesn’t stop them from still being awkward. Using your special weapon requires you to push up, which is the same button you use to mount a staircase, which can result in accidental weapon usage and mistimed sword slashes. Stairs are less common than ropes in this game though, where your attack options are even more limited. Thanks to ropes being incredibly “sticky” – as Efrain just loves to grab on to them – they can be just as awkward as stairs. Even outside of shaft ways there are plenty of situations where you can be trapped with no other choice but to take damage. The further you explore, the more dire the situation becomes, because when you die, just like in all of the Igavania games, you lose all of your items and map progress since the last time you saved.
It’s also worth mentioning that the day and night cycle proves to be more of a nuisance than it is an interesting mechanic, which I suppose makes it a true enough homage. In two of the three towns the most important locations are always open, so if you arrive at night you can still go to the shop and get the gear you need. One town in particular though is closed completely at night, and I arrived there the first time at midnight not knowing whether it was an abandoned village or if there was something else I could do there. This led to being lost for the wrong reasons, especially since I needed a new weapon in order to make progress into the area I was supposed to go. The day/night cycle isn’t really used for much else other than being a horrible curse in this one town, and being used in a single puzzle for an optional item that could easily have been accessible at any time. I like the idea of monster variety being affected by it though; it’s actually a concept that could be applied to many Metroidvania games to keep backtracking interesting. But it’s also an idea that’s basically dropped in this game once you complete what content there is to be done in the earldoms.
I found myself falling out of love with Lecarde Chronicles 2 at just about the end of the earldom content. Up to that point, the game is mostly fine, but the frustrations associated with its rougher edges were wearing on me. However, getting the last key from the earldoms is also the point of the game where it really steps on the gas. Suddenly Lecarde Chronicles 2 cuts loose of its linear level design, and it gave me that Metroidvania puzzlebox that I was craving when I started it. What triggers this level design direction shouldn’t come as any surprise to fans of the Castlevania series, but it’s worth spoiling some of the details just to drive home what makes this game compelling even after playing more than seven Metroidvania style games in the series. Castlevania has always been ostensibly about horror. It involves Draculas and Frankenstein’s monsters, with ghouls and werewolves to round it out. but Castlevania has also always been somewhat campy. In the first Igavania you play as a vampire, and by Portrait of Ruin the series has gone full anime, complete with cartoonish facial expressions and bad puns. Lecarde Chronicles has a much more realistic presentation, where it even lifts real life sculptures to use in its backgrounds. There’s subtlety in the presentation that at first feels somewhat out of place for a Castlevania – like it’s a bootleg PC port or something – but when you step into the final manor, that presentation shines. Normally Castlevania is just spooky, but this Castlevania actually sent a chill down my spine. The music, the graphics, and the implications of that final manor made me dread the evils within.
While the combat in Lecarde Chronicles 2 is actually very good, in spite of my complaints, this game finds its best identity when it finally becomes a true Metroidvania. The final manor will occupy more than two-thirds of your playtime, and during that time you’ll be scouring your map for places you haven’t been, observing architecture for ways you can apply new powers, and solving puzzles for optional collectables and main objectives. It has one or two misteps in terms of intuitive design that will likely make many players lost, but in terms of depth the amount of variety is basically perfect. As far as rewards are concerned, the exploration may be even better than any Igavania title, because your power is entirely reliant on finding gear and those precious max health upgrades. Lecarde Chronicles 2 even solves the problem of irrelevancy when it comes to finding equipment, with the exception of maybe your weapon. Until the final manor, armor upgrades are basically linear stat upgrades, but later specific armors start to have special abilities that make them desirable in unique situations. Rings and necklaces also have targeted benefits, so it’s rare to find new gear that is completely useless to you. Peeling away at the castle is rewarding, and also incredibly fun.
Classicvania combat and, later on, satisfying exploration are Castlevania: The Lecarde Chronicles 2‘s main strengths, but I also had to ask why this game needed to be a Castlevania instead of a commercial title using a different IP. Well, I think that a lot of the game’s lore is more interesting when taken within the Castlevania universe, even if very little of it is actually relevant to the stories that take place in those games. Lecarde Chronicles is more of a “what if more happened” sort of story rather than an attempt to fill in major gaps or expand on specific characters. You will see a familiar face in this game, but he doesn’t play much of an important role other than to explain a very minor detail present in Castlevania Bloodlines. With a few tweaks Efrain Lecarde could have had a different last name and this could have been something you could purchase on Steam. However, there’s enough here that Castlevania fans will still have something fun to chew on as a fan fiction. Story aside though, making this a Castlevania might have been worth it for the music alone.
Castlevania: The Lecarde Chronicles 2 is absolutely a great game. Not everyone likes Classicvania, but not everyone likes the direction the series took after Symphony of the Night either. Lecarde Chronicles 2 is a delightful marriage between the two. Whether or not its story fits well into the Castlevania canon, its gameplay is a brilliant homage to everything Castlevania can be remembered for. Playing the original Lecarde Chronicles isn’t a requirement to enjoy this game, and it’s absolutely free from Migami Games’ website. Regardless of where you think you fit in the Classicvania vs Metroidvania spectrum, you have nothing to lose from trying it out.
There are some pretty unfair situations that can happen randomly, but overall the encounters are meticulously thought-out and entertainingly challenging
Not a huge focus, but controls are mostly tight and where they're not there's equipment that can help with the situation
There's no leveling system, instead all of the very important upgrades are discovered or purchased, making every found piece of equipment meaningful
There are few puzzles required to complete the game, and the optional puzzles range from extraordinarily cryptic to simple find-the-password puzzles.
Typical for Castlevania - there are some monsters trying to sweep the land with darkness and destruction, and your protagonist is the key to stopping them
The mix of talented pixel art and scanned artwork meshes really well, giving this a slightly more realistic look, but still fitting for Castlevania
Castlevania has a reputation for good music, and Lecarde Chronicles 2 includes a lot of great remixes and original tracks
There is at least one extra mode after beating the game, though there aren't a lot of character build options to make the core game different on a second playthrough