by Joseph "Skull Vault" Walter
A wonky camera, odd level design, frustrating puzzles and clunky controls are just a few of the issues that plague this game and cement it as yet another ill-advised (and sloppy) jump to 3D for a 2D franchise.
Still, for those who can look past its technical flaws, there's something special to be found: the stellar music, haunting atmosphere (which actually scared me) and, perhaps most intriguingly, the story and characters.
Spanning multiple decades and following four separate characters, Legacy of Darkness tells a surprisingly well-developed story, but there are two moments in particular that cross the line between "good storytelling" and "holy shit, this is awesome," and that's what we'll be talking about today, in this Halloween edition of Shatterpoint!
Charlie Vincent, The Old, Ignorant(?) "Vampire Hunter"
When playing as either Reinhardt Schneider (who's basically a Belmont in everything but name) or Carrie Fernandez (a member of the magical, Belnades bloodline), you'll run into Charlie while investigating the eerie, vampire-infested Villa.
You're just minding your own business when this guy suddenly (and shockingly) bursts into the room, cross drawn, believing you to be a creature of the night.
Proven wrong, he recommends that an "amateur" such as yourself should leave all the hard work to him. Your character warns Mr. Vincent that Dracula is no ordinary fiend, but Charlie doesn't back down, and decries you for being an "obstinate youth" before warning you one more time to retreat and let him handle the situation.
While this boastful bastard seems imposing enough (armed with holy water, crosses and more) it all seems kind of laughable considering that you're playing as a descendent of the Belmonts.
Who does this guy think he is? Hell, he even takes a nap after the initial meeting, like some lazy bum.
"Lol," you think to yourself, "what an idiot."
So the game then continues, and you meet your fair share of other characters, including an odd little boy named Malus. He claims to have been kidnapped from a local village... but there's something rather off about him.
As the story goes on, it's revealed that Malus is actually the reincarnation of Dracula, and upon reaching his full power, he turns into an adult and you are forced to do battle with him.
After his defeat, he transforms back into a little boy.
Confused, shaken and scared, Malus reaches out and your character goes to help him... only for the boy to be consumed in the flames of holy water as a voice calls out "YOU CANNOT DECEIVE ME!"
Heralded by dominant, pounding timpani, the camera reveals Charlie Vincent (channeling Peter Cushing's bad-assery from The Horror of Dracula) who is hellbent on ending this once and for all.
"Do you still not understand?" he asks your supposedly-educated and skilled character, "this child is really Dracula!"
He turns back to the writhing child, laughing: "Try and stop me, would you?"
And although Charlie's character model doesn't actually smirk here, you can 100% feel it.
This is such an epic moment, and you're forced to admit that you're cocksure idiot for initially disregarding Charlie Vincent. Holy whips and magic spells mean nothing if you lack the basic knowledge and experience to see through the facade of a devil, and neither a Belmont or Belnades could. The world came this close to Dracula killing our heroes and taking over... and we have an old, cranky bastard to thank for stopping him. Thank God he took his nap.
(You can view Charlie Vincent's epic appearance here, starting at 1:19:30)
That said, there's another element about Charlie Vincent that's "Shatterpoint!" material, and it's what happens if certain conditions are met (or not, depending on how you look at it.)
I won't reveal them here (because it's more fun that way), but if you meet certain conditions, Charlie doesn't make a surprise appearance to save you from Malus.
Instead, he will have become the very thing he hunts, and it's up to you to put him out of his misery.
He's quite right, too, particularly on "Hard:" weapons that were formerly used to hunt the night, such as Holy Water, now have decidedly deadly and poisonous properties against the living.
When defeated, Charlie will deliver his own finishing blow, dousing himself in holy water.
This sad-yet-poetic conclusion shows just how dedicated Charlie Vincent was to the destroying the scourge of the vampire... even if it meant destroying himself.
(The entire "Vampire Vincent" sequence can be seen here.)
Renon, The Merchant from Hell
Most of these characters are generic salespeople, like the staff at the Celadon Dept. Store or any of the shopkeepers in Dragon Quest. Others have a little more character, such as the delightfully friendly (yet incredibly suspicious) Merchant from Resident Evil 4, or Soulcaster II's surprisingly powerful Merchant who isn't afraid to support his best customer in battle.
The Castlevania series, in particular, has a collection of odd venders, like Librarians or members of the US Military... but none match up to Renon.
I genuinely believe that Renon is one of the best "merchant" characters in all of gaming (if not the best) and although he may not be as quotable as a certain purple-clad, glowing-eyed broker with good manners who lovingly says "stranger" like it's a term of endearment, Renon has much more going on.
Players are introduced to this peculiar salesman upon picking up a mysterious contract on the floor of the Villa.
Clad in a drab suit with a tie around his neck, a bowler hat on his head and a briefcase in his hand, Renon seems like an ordinary salesman... well, except for his devilish tail.
Renon is a demon... but he's quick to make it clear that he's not an enemy. In fact, he's here to help. Considering how many folks make their way to Dracula's castle, he decided it would be in his best interests to supply them with items for some coin. Of course, if that wasn't enough to put you at ease, maybe his smooth-as-hell bow and hat-tip will.
Regardless, the arrangement is simple: pick up one of his contracts and poof! he'll appear with his item-filled briefcase, ready to deal.
His level of class (theme song and aforementioned bow included) is enough to set Renon apart from other digital merchants, but its his mannerisms and subtle characterizations that make him even more a treat. For example, he heavily implies that life in Hell is getting rough, and despite the fact that it's "shameful for a demon to be working," he had to develop his business because "one needs gold even in hell these days."
Renon becomes a welcome sight throughout the game, especially when playing on "Hard," where resources are exceedingly scarce.
Hell, by the time you reach the end of the game, there's almost something friendly between the two of you:
During your final meeting, Renon explains that news of an "impending global war" has reached his ears, and, considering that the "death of millions is a wonderful business opportunity," he'll be closing up shop at the Castle. With a glance at his shimmering pocket watch, he simply states "I must be gone. We shall not meet again.... not during your lifetime, anyway." It's a bittersweet departure between partners... nay... friends, and that last drop of pitch-black humor conjures up a wee tear in my eye.
But, then again, there's something about this final meeting that's a bit odd... even threatening.
And if you're unlucky enough, you might just find out why...
What should have been a satisfying farewell suddenly becomes an uncomfortable situation. Shouldn't Renon just take his leave? What's this business about having to deal with one last thing?
If you've played your cards wrong, Renon reveals that the scroll (which, admittedly, we did not read) is written in a demonic script... and it says we have made an agreement with Satan.
According to Renon, using more than a certain amount of gold means your soul is forfeit... and, as the camera lowers itself and pulls closer to his face, he reveals that we've used "far more than that amount."
The entrancing theme music stops, lightning begins to surge around Renon, and our once-classy salesman pal becomes his true demonic self, promising to enforce the contract we unwittingly signed.
This is a fantastic and genuinely unexpected twist, and the ensuing fight for you soul is one of the most difficult and emotionally satisfying in the game... all of which makes me love Renon even more.
While neither Charlie Vincent's arc nor the true purpose of Renon's contract really measure up to the level of Ganon's "shatterpoint" moment in Ocarina of Time, I think it's definitely safe to say that they're still worthy of being included in the same circle.