† According to the current official chronology, Leon is the first Belmont to fight a vampire.
† Leon means ’lion’. The name’s origin is in Latin and appears as such in at least English-, German-, and French speaking countries. In Finnish, for example, it is ’Leo’. The name Belmont is of old French origin (meaning ”beautiful mountain”). Nowadays it is a common place name in North America, for example. The names make Leon’s nationality hard to determine, possibly on purpose.
† Leon appears in the “Warriors revive!” spell in Portrait of Ruin as a 2-D sprite.
Lament of Innocence
Role of the first one
Five years after the unprofitable Nintendo 64 Castlevanias Konami decided to go back not only to 3-D, but also to the beginnings of Castlevania’s story. Players were introduced to baron Leon Belmont, a knight of the clergy, who sealed the Belmont family’s fate of battling the forces of darkness.
Leon’s job wasn’t therefore just to be the chronologically first Castlevania protagonist, but also to star in the first three-dimensional CV in years, whose success would largely determine whether or not three-dimensional Castlevanias should continue at all.
Leon is a 22 years old nobleman and soldier who lost his family at a very early stage of his life for an unknown reason. He was knighted when he was merely 16 and is known throughout the kingdom as a warrior without equal. Sara Trantoul is his betrothed and the light of his life.
Though Leon is supreme on the battlefield, his best friend Mathias was his tactical adviser for a long time.
Lament of Innocence (2003) – 1094
At the beginning of the 11th century, crusades were raging and the church battled heathens across the world. One army of knights was believed to be unstoppable because of two men; Mathias Cronqvist, an ingenious tactician, whose learning was rare in a mostly illiterate society. And Leon Belmont, a fearless nobleman who was both admired and feared for his combat abilities. They were old friends leading their troops from one victory to another for God.
After another victorious series of battles Mathias faced a great sorrow which bound him to his bed for a year: his beloved wife Elizabetha had died. This would prove to be decisive also for the fates of Leon and the whole Belmont clan.
The army formerly led by two continued on victoriously thanks to Leon, who was now leading alone. Approximately after a year Mathias delivered Leon news similar to what he himself had received earlier. A horde of monsters commanded by the vampire lord Walter Bernhard had stormed Leon’s home, snatching away his betrothed, Sara Trantoul and taking her to Bernhard’s castle. Leon wants to attack the castle with his troops to rescue his future wife, but the church is uninterested in fighting monsters instead of heathens. Though intent on saving Sara on his own, he didn’t want to act against the church, leaving his only option to give up his title and the safety it provided. His sword belonged to the clergy, so he left it behind too. Armed only with a dagger, Leon rushes towards the castle to save Sara.
After running to the castle’s immediate surroundings, Leon passes an energy field of some sort and meets Rinaldo Gandolfi, an alchemist who tells Leon he lives near the castle because he owes Walter. Admiring Leon’s courageous attack on the castle with nothing but a dagger, he understands finally meeting the man worthy of receiving his most powerful weapon – a whip made with alchemy. As Leon ponders how a whip could be more powerful than a sword, Rinaldo explains the meaning of alchemy and who is very adept at it; Mathias. After hearing that his friend and companion knows Rinaldo, he is sure that he can trust the old man. Leon accepts the whip and promises to use it with gratitude.
Rinaldo also employs alchemy for Leon’s use by enchanting his gauntlet into a magic absorber. With it, Leon can use magical relics against Walter and his minions. Leon is still unsure what to do, but wastes no time to save Sara. He walks to the castle gate, which, as if expecting Leon, descends and allows him to enter.
Before Leon could enter the area leading to the tower where Walter was keeping Sara a prisoner, he had to attain five power orbs, which would open the sealed door blocking access. The orbs were guarded by five creatues, whom Leon needed to defeat, in which he succeeded. He opened the main door and met Walter.
The pompous Walter welcomed Leon to his castle. Leon tried talking to absent-looking Sara, but she didn’t respond. Leon demanded to know why, but Walter disregarded the question, instead trying to infuriate Leon even further. The enraged Leon attacked the vampire, but not even Rinaldo’s whip had any effect on him. Walter mocked Leon for this attack, but gave Sara back to him. However, he said he would wait for Leon at the highest tower of the castle for a duel. Leon wasn’t listening, since he was focused on Sarah, whom he was going to get back home after visiting Rinaldo.
After leaving the castle, Sara collapsed to the ground. Rinaldo suspected he knew why and further investigations confirmed his suspicions. Walter had infected Sara, so she was turning into a vampire. The news shocked Leon to the core and he was even more troubled to hear the only way to stop the transformation was to kill Walter. Leon told Rinaldo the whip didn’t work on Walter. Rinaldo explained why.
The whip wasn’t complete. It was a powerful weapon against demons, legendary monsters and the undead, but not powerful enough against Walter. To be used against him, the whip would have to be complete, and for that a human soul tainted by a vampire would need to be sacrificed. Leon could not believe it. He would have to kill his beloved. Rinaldo felt sorry, but if Leon wanted revenge, Sara would have to die by his hand.
Sara had been eavesdropping. She treatened to kill herself, as the fate of turning into a vampire was too unbearable for her. Sara asked Leon to do as Rinaldo had instructed so that she would not die in vain but instead could help others from suffering the same. Leon had doubts, but there was nothing he could do to avoid the situation.
Rinaldo began a ceremony which bound Leon’s vengeful, hate-filled and tormented blood with Sara’s gentle soul and channeled it into the whip. With a heavy heart, Leon promised Sara no other would suffer like she did before striking her down with a single hit, Sara fell down and told Leon she loved him.
As Leon kneeled over Sara’s grave, Rinaldo told the whip was now ready; no longer only a Whip of Alchemy, but Vampire Killer. It had become the bane of nocturnal monstrosities and most of all, a weapon capable of destroying Walter. Leon pulled himself together and entered the castle again to fulfill his promise to Sara.
Finally Leon was able to make his way to the highest floor of the castle, where Walter sat on a throne, ready for battle and sure of his impending victory. But the vampire faced an unpleasant surprise when the shield around him collapsed from from the whip’s power. Walter wasn’t still going to give up. The duel continued, eventually ending in Leon’s favor. Leon told Walter he had avenged not just Sara, but also Rinaldo, who had lost everything because of Walter.
The dying Walter still refused to accept defeat, but instead vowed to return to life and obtain the Crimson Stone, thus becoming the world’s greatest vampire. The proclamation was apparently short-lived, however. Death entered the scene. Walter realized he had been betrayed. His life force began to diminish and his earthly form was transformed into pure energy, accompanied by screams of agony. Death had taken Walter’s soul and told he would offer it to his master, “the king who wields the Crimson Stone”. Power began to force tear the room’s air, after which someone teleported in. To his astonishment, Leon recognized this person. It was Mathias.
Leon demanded to know what was going on and Mathias explained. Apparently everything was arranged so that Mathias could attain the powerful vampire Walter’s soul. The kidnapping of Sara was to make Leon kill Walter. The betrayed Leon felt the Vampire Killer radiate hate. Because of Elizabetha’s death Mathias hated God, who, despite Mathias risking his life to fight for him, took his loved one from him. He turned himself into a vampire to oppose God’s rules of limited life and to curse Him forevermore.
Leon felt anger and pity towards his friend whom he no longer recognized as his former self. Mathias asked Leon, perhaps to justify his actions, if he was wrong? Was it wrong to hate, just as Leon had hated Walter? Leon admitted to killing Walter with hatred in his heart and had also began to question his belief in God. Mathias therefore made a request for his friend; to continue at his side. To join his eternal vengeance.
But Leon responded by asking how Mathias could have lost himself so profoundly. Leon asked did Mathias truly believe Elizabetha would have wanted this. And if that were so, the Mathias Leon knew wouldn’t have loved such a woman. Leon did not want an eternity without Sara and the revenge he exacted was personal, but for Sara.
Mathias had hoped that Leon would have continued to battle with him, but realized now that it was impossible. Bidding farewell to his former friend and to escape the dawn, Mathias left Leon at the mercy of Death and fled the scene.
Leon faced a nightmarish duel against Death, who had brought him to his own dimension. But the power of the Vampire Killer was able to destroy anything related to the vampires, so Leon was able to destroy the creature of divine origin. The baffled Death could not believe he had lost to a human, but said he would return as long as his master existed. Leon told him to deliver Mathias a message.
The old friendship was no more. Now there was likely the strongest vampire of them all and a man who had vowed to wipe out all members of the cursed species. Even if Leon weren’t able to destroy the darkness of the vampires during his lifetime, his family would continue his work after him. From here on, the Belmont clan would battle evil.
Death disintegrated and the force of his banishment made Walter’s castle crumble to the core. Leon made it out just in time before total collapse. From his cabin, Rinaldo saw sunlight, thus realizing Leon had succeeded. Walter was destroyed and thus Rinaldo finally had his revenge too.
Arsenal and abilities
Used by Leon, the whip can be used to employ forces of nature, which are acquired by defeating the elements hidden in the castle. These forces ice, fire and lightning. The collected energy orbs can also be used in a manner similar to the elemental books used by Juste in Harmony of Dissonance. By putting them in use, a different attack can be performed with subweapons. In Leon’s case, this are the familiar dagger, holy water, axe, cross, but also the somewhat rarely used crystal.
Leon’s moves are fairly extensive. In addition his versatile attacks, he can use different kind of evasive maneuvers suitable for the PS2 control pad. The moves also support the combat oriented gameplay of LoI, where different attack combos are possible and bring some variety into fighting. Leon can perform a double jump, side-jump quickly and strike while or by jumping.
Leon also has a selection of different magical relics, which use mana gathered, for example, from enemies by blocking their attacks. The subweapons use the traditional hearts. Some enemies can only be destroyed with the magical relics, but otherwise using them is not enforced.
Appearance and an example of a player’s perspective
Leon continues the motif initiated by SotN according to which the protagonist is pale and blond. From the Belmonts, he mostly resembles Juste, not just appearance-wise, but also because of his abilities. Both have a red-white coat and a weapons “fusion system”, where the subweapon’s attack is dependant on the utilized extra item. In Leon’s case this is the orb, with Juste it’s the book.
It can be said that according to some Leon is not very popular. Some CV purists didn’t appreaciate “replacing” Sonia as the first vampire-hunting Belmont. Some also disliked the characteristics taken from or inspired by Capcom’s Devil May Cry series, which LoI used, including appearance. As the protagonist’s name was revealed before LoI came out, some did not – for some reason – think of the name “Leon” as a very fitting name.
This does not necessarily represent the majority’s opinion. All in all, Leon’s personal history can be considered one of the most interesting among the Belmonts. He is also powerful, kind of like a mixture of a skilled magician like Juste and a strong warrior like Simon. His mission was also one of the most demanding and heavier among all the playable CV characters so far.
The storyline of LoI may not have answered by far all the questions Castlevania gamers had, but Leon was a suitable choice to begin the story which may give more answers.