Joachim Armster

           Castlevania: Lament of Innocence is a very interesting addition to the Castlevania series, a prequel that shows just where Dracula and the Belmont clan started. However, what I find exceptionally interesting about it is neither Leon Belmont nor Dracula, but Walter, the main villain of the game, and more to the point his unwilling servant, Joachim Armster.
        While Dracula is always trying to cause destruction and chaos throughout the world, Walter had a much less lofty goal: He simply wanted to cure his boredom. To that end, he kidnaps people with the express intention of forcing their loved ones to charge into his castle, futilely hoping to defeat him. As it would be boring just to destroy them as they enter his throne room, Walter created a seal on the door leading up to his throne, a seal which could only be broken if one first destroyed his five servants: Golem, Undead Parasite, Medusa, Succubus, and Joachim.
        The first two seem to be mindless creatures, and the women seem perfectly happy with their roles, but the vampire Joachim absolutely loathes his position. Notably, the only reason you face him at all is because he’s actually trapped in the boss room. This is because he challenged Walter, lost, and instead of killing him, Walter simply trapped him in The Dark Palace of Waterfalls, also known as the castle’s sewage system.
        It’s worth noting that while all the other boss rooms can be entered at any time, Joachim’s is blocked off by a waterfall, forcing Leon to turn it off so he can get in. This may seem like just another bit of difficulty for the player, but vampires have many weaknesses, one of which seems to be that they cannot cross running water. Therefore, the waterfall is used both to keep Leon out and keep Joachim from escaping.
        This certainly is a little different from the run of the mill Castlevania boss, but it does leave a few questions as to how Joachim was defeated by Walter. Luckily, which Leon meets the vampire, Joachim lets out a few details, namely that he “would have won, if not for that Ebony Stone”. He refuses to elaborate on this, however, and says that after he kills Leon, he will face Walter again.
        Of course, this does not come to be and Leon defeats him. Joachim thus explains that the Ebony Stone is an object made from alchemy, which creates the darkness around Walter’s castle and forest. This naturally gives Walter an advantage in battle, but that can’t be why Joachim lost, as Leon points out, because he too is a vampire, so they’d still be on equal footing. Joachim doesn’t specify, merely saying that “the stone chooses its master” and “my powers pale beside his”.
        However, Leon learns what the Stone does firsthand when the seal is destroyed and he meets Walter. Namely, the Stone seems to produce some kind of barrier that stops any attacks from reaching Walter, because he doesn’t even react to being struck. This would explain why Joachim could not defeat him.
        However, let’s step back a bit and look at Joachim’s boss fight. Joachim has five swords levitating about him to use in various attacks revolving around telekinesis. In addition, he uses a spell that makes him impervious to all attacks, a clear imitation of Walter‘s Ebony Stone, but with a regrettable weakness: this barrier only works as long as the three glowing seals in the room are still active.
        Said seals defend themselves by spewing out fire, but it is little threat and they go down in one hit each. As soon as they are destroyed, not only does he lose his protection, but the first hit from Leon will destroy his swords as well, leaving him nearly defenseless. At that point the battle is a chase around the room, Leon trying to do as much damage as possible before the spell is recast, and Joachim trying to keep away, summoning magical blades out of the ground as barricades to keep Leon away.
        His weak point aside, his method of attack, in fact, seems entirely based around defense. All of his attacks seem focused on hitting Leon from a distance, like throwing his blades at him, shooting them at him via portals from below or the sides, summoning the magic blades I mentioned before to cut off Leon’s escape routes or, in what appears to be his only close range attack(and strongest, as indicated by the purple glow around it), the swords will spin around him rapidly and he will bounce around the arena like a top, trying to cut Leon in half. In short, he tries to defeat his enemies without actually taking any damage himself, and if his defenses are broken, he loses most of his attacks, unlike the other bosses who simply fight in a more normal manner.
        This seems to stem from something of a inferiority complex; he despises that Walter defeated and imprisoned him, and wants to be just as powerful as Walter is. So he tries to emulate his invulnerability, to prove he is just as powerful. This also shows in that, again, most of his attacks are distance based, either flinging a blade at Leon or having his blades appear to strike at Leon remotely.
        He never actually uses his swords as, well, swords. It can be inferred from his calling Leon a ‘lowly human’ and these attacks that he feels actually using his swords like a human would and getting close to his enemy is beneath him. With his telekinesis and seemingly unbreakable defenses, he fights his enemies in an almost leisurely manner, though he naturally fights harder as the battle wears on.
        So that’s that for the boss battle, but not the end of Joachim. Unlike most other Castlevania villains, Joachim is actually playable. Though the events of his playthrough are not canon, and thus has no bearing on the overall storyline, it still raises many questions. For instance, how exactly does he escape his imprisonment? Does this take place before he is imprisoned?
        We can say no to the latter question, because he has to face two Leon Doppelgangers later on, proving Leon must have made an appearance. The most likely answer is that Leon fought Joachim first, Joachim defeated him, drained his blood to regain his strength, and fled to the castle’s entrance.
        But why the entrance? Was he trying to leave? If so, Walter must not have allowed it; he demonstrates at the start of the game that once someone enters his dominion, they cannot leave without his permission. So, regardless of whether or not he was trying to leave, Joachim has no choice but to play Walter’s game and take the five orbs.
        Though, one might think he is lucky in that regard, since he has his own orb, after all. Except… he doesn’t. He has to go back to his own boss room and battle a copy of himself to take the Green Orb. Gameplay-wise, this makes sense, and allows for a interesting mirror match. However, story-wise it may seem confusing, until you recall that when the bosses are defeated, the orbs appears in midair, meaning the bosses were not themselves holding onto them. Rather, their defeat triggers the orbs appearance.
        Another interesting fact is that Joachim’s fighting style changes completely as a playable character. The invincibility spell is gone, as are all of the attacks he demonstrated in the boss fight, but in exchange he doesn’t lose his swords when hit. Replacing his old abilities are two forms of attack, based on what formation his swords are in.
        The first has them circling him, like in his boss fight, and they slice downward on his enemies. The other formation has the swords floating behind him, and they are shot into enemies like bullets, knocking them back. A weak attack and strong one, in other words. You might notice when playing that his swords glow, but this glow vanishes when he uses them in an attack. They then return to Joachim and glow again.
        The weak attack ‘reloads’ his sword faster, allowing him to strike very quickly and not have to stop for his swords to regain use. His strong attack, however, launches his blade away, so it takes a little longer for them to return. So it’s a trade between power and speed. In addition, he can charge his attack, making the sword in question physically grow larger as he does. Of course, this takes time to manage as well.
        In addition, he has two magical attacks, depending on the formation: For the weak attack formation, he makes all his blades grow and circle him rapidly, knocking smaller enemies back and harming everything around him. For the strong formation, he fires a giant laser, most likely destroying everything in front of him.
        Again, there is both a gameplay and story reason for the change; if the player had access to any sort of invincibility, the challenge is gone, and if the spell leaves him defenseless when it is disabled, Joachim wouldn’t be stupid enough to use it when facing a near endless slew of Walter’s minions, on the chance however small that they could break it. Not to mention, the seals do not seem to move, so he’d have to recast the spell wherever he went.
        As for his other attacks, the majority of them would only be useful with the spell, as he can’t afford to use long range attacks at the expense of fighting what is right in front of him. In addition, while his arena is very large, most of the castle is narrow corridors, meaning his enemies will very quickly close in on him, even if they don’t simply spawn right in front of him to begin with.
        It also carries a symbolic meaning, in that he’s stopped mimicking Walter, and uses his own fighting style, as exemplified in the battle with his doppelganger for the Green Orb, uses his old fighting style. He’s stepped out of Walter’s shadow, and become stronger than he was before, as his stats show as well!
        This also bring up another point; Walter, in Leon’s storyline, is invincible due to the Ebony Stone, but Leon’s new whip, Vampire Killer, is powerful enough to destroy the Ebony Stone and render him vulnerable. But then Joachim fights Walter, and is actually capable of hurting him. The only reasoning I can find for this is that, by traversing the castle and defeating Walter’s forces, Joachim had become stronger, so much stronger that the Ebony Stone cannot stop him, and that when he faces Walter only the vampire who is truly the strongest would win.
        The reason he still faces Death as the final boss would work for similar reasoning to Leon: Both of them wouldn’t want to work with Dracula, though they would have very different reasons for not doing so. No doubt rejoicing in his victory over Walter, Joachim wouldn’t want to work with another vampire, especially one that isn’t necessarily stronger than him (being powered by Walter’s soul) and would not take kindly to having been manipulated to kill Walter and fulfill Dracula’s goals.
        So he would instead opt to fight Dracula, who flees and orders Death to kill Joachim. However, Death loses, as he does against Leon, leaving Joachim finally in possession of Walter’s castle. And that is where the game ends, with a scene of Joachim sitting on his new throne. So much for just another boss fight, right?

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