Review by xcamel24
"Well its not a RUIN, but its not perfect either"
Ah yes, another Castlevania game in short time. Konami has been popping these out as fast as Capcom can throw out Megaman games, and so far Castlevania games have not dropped in quality like the Megaman series. Unfortunately, this title does bring a little loss of quality- but it is still an ideal game for action/platforming fans, and carries a good bit of nostalgia.
Game Play: 8/10
There is a twist! With Souls removed from the game, Konami needed something new and original to put in this Castlevania game. And they chose to make 2 vampire hunters playable- at the same time. While most other Castlevania games have multiple characters unlockable, this game has 2 to start with. This creates some unique puzzles to use both characters to complete, but mostly it isn't used to its full potential. With that said, the same "traditional" (if you can call it that now) gameplay is used, with the explore the castle theory and the equipment/level up system to support that. This system, which is now 9 years old approximately, is just now starting to feel dated. Some may complain that they need a change of pace- but realistically this is as good as most game play gets. Level ups, platforming, and exploration all put into the same theory works quite well. Now here comes a problem with Portrait of Ruin- the exploration part got nerfed. Yeah, sure you can explore the castle, but everything is mostly linear, and you'll be able to figure out how to get to certain areas quite easily, and nothing really gets in your way. Also, there are now Portraits, as opposed to a humongous castle, which really makes exploration feel non-existent. The Portraits for the most part are linear areas with a few break off points. This doesn't add/hurt the core of the game, but it does hurt the exploration feel.
The graphics are nice for the 2-D approach, with some monsters being 3D models, (much like SOTN) and it brings a nice feel to the game. All the areas feel new and crisp, as Castlevania usually doesn't visit a town, desert, carnival type areas, so this is something different. Everything is colored well and pre-rendered to perfection. However, they don't seem to improve anything over Dawn of Sorrow, which is a little disappointing, but hey these are graphics we're dealing with, not the core game play, and thats what we came for. Now there are a lot of reports of glitches, lock ups, and other such things in this one, none of which I personally have experienced, but it would make sense seeing as this game may have been rushed a bit.
Well the opening theme totally beats the crap out of any original track to come out of a Castlevania game in the past 5 years, but the rest of the music is not as good. A lot of the music sounds very similar and hurts the overall feel of the area. Boss battle musics aren't very impressive either, but usually aren't in Castlevania. The score isn't anything horrendous either, the tunes usually fit in place, but the similar sounding music disrupts that feel. Don't expect a new hit opera score from this one.
Yeah, there's a story. This game takes place after Castlevania: Bloodlines. This game features the son of Bloodlines hero "John Morris", and his son is aptly named "Johnathan Morris". The Vampire Killer has been in their family, but the Morris family does not have the full ability to use the whip to its full potential. There is another main character, Charlotte Aulin, who is a spell caster and wise for her age. Both of these characters are Vampire Hunters, and at the arrival of Dracula's Castle, they show up to shut it down. You'll find a nice storyline inside, much akin to the quality of the Aria/Dawn of Sorrow games, which is quite nice. Castlevania has enough quality game play to make the story not is necessary as games like the Final Fantasy series, so a story this good gets a perfect score, because they did exactly what they needed to do here, and delivered.
There are some cool features with Portrait of Ruin that really shape up the life of the game. First of all, your standard 2 endings are present yet again, and if you get the good ending there is a whole extra dungeon waiting to be unlocked. If you can complete that, and some other quests, you'll have some new special character modes, which make the game more interesting. Your New Game + and Hard Mode features come along as always. Now the new stuff. There is Shop trading. Yes, you can sell and trade items via LAN with other Portrait of Ruin gamers, or you can go online via WIFI and sell and buy items with other players that way. There is also a co-op battle mode, which can be done the same way- Local or WIFI. All in all the wifi is amusing, but not the ideal online game. There is also Boss Rush and Sound Test modes to please gamers as well.
In terms of controls- this game is great. You can customize the 6 face buttons just like Dawn of Sorrow to fit your fancy. The difficulty and learning curve however is a bit strange. The exploration got VERY easy, its not hard to find where you need to go to. What isn't easy though is some of the boss battles. Some you'll find incredibly challenging and running back to the item store for more potions, while some are so pathetic that you won't even need to enter the menu for. This bizarre curve shifts throughout the game, but thankfully the final boss battle and secret boss battles are rewarding and fulfilling.
While it had a lot to live up to, don't count it out because it isn't as great as the other Castlevania titles. It is still a great game in my book, and if it would have been the first DS Castlevania it probably would have been a bit more stunning. If you're into 2D games, Platforming, or Castlevania, this is definitely one you should pick up before you can't find it anymore.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/22/07
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