When playing Vampire Hunter D, there are two things that drew positive reactions. One, is D's unbelievably quirky "partner," Left Hand. Any game that tries to pass off a talking hand character so dryly named Left Hand deserves credit for having the balls to do so if nothing else. As a writer, I can also appreciate the endless amount masturbation jokes that are made possible—something that obviously Ben picked up on as well.
The other thing that impressed me was D's player-controlled abilities. Unlike most survival-horror games that seem to reduce the amount of functions as if conceding to the limited interface, Vampire Hunter D packs in all kind of actions and manages to pull it off for the most part. D can surprisingly make jumps, evasive dashes, and lock-on to enemies. He yields a sword as his most fundamental attack and also can execute a couple of special maneuvers like recover health and inhale weakened enemies courtesy of his Left Hand. There are also other kind of items and a surprisingly effective variety of weapons, like grenades, that had me wondering why someone hadn't thought of it before.
The main problem I had with Vampire Hunter D is that outside of those two things, just about everything else failed to grab my attention. In Ben's review, he indicates how the source material is put to good use and how theres a "a genuine affection for the story and the characters shines through." I disagree.
While I don't doubt that theres a respectable level of quality that should be associated with the game (the opening CG movie and D's character model and animation are impressive), there's still an overwhelming feeling that the capable developers were indifferent to the material and put the title together on auto-pilot. The monster designs don't standout, the prerendered backgrounds and stage layouts are boring, and worst of all, the puzzles lack pizzazz and ingenuity. There's no sense of vitality to the game. Aside from the combat portion of the game, everything seems overly by the numbers.
It's a shame because Vampire Hunter D—a early pioneer for anime in the United States—has content that is near perfect for a videogame, but it isn't properly exploited in this effort. The source material is essentially wasted in another me-too mediocre clone that has a couple of sparks, but not enough to sets our hearts aflame.