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Old 01-06-2009, 10:38 PM   #122
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Troy, MI
Posts: 11,005

Nintendo DS
1 Players
Developer - Konami
Publisher - Konami

My Bias
-I like Metroidvania games
-I’ve beaten every Metroidvania game since SotN. (SotN, CotM, HoD, AoS, DoS)

My Completion
-Finished main game only

This is another one of those Castlevania games where you don’t play as a Belmont. The game takes place after Castlevania Bloodlines, but I only found out about that by reading it on the internet. It’s almost like Konami has done away with formalities and just said “look, were not beating around the bush, you’re the hero now go kill Dracula……again”. Almost no back story or insight was given to why Dracula was back or who the two main characters were.

Speaking of the two main characters, yes there are two this time. Both of them have some pretty shallow personalities and act like they come from a Saturday morning Anime. The Guy, Jonathan, is the usual brawn character. Never thinking, believing his pure strength can beat anything, always replying to long winded explanations with “I don’t care about that! I’ll just hit it with my trusty whip!” The girl, Charlotte, acts like Jonathan’s protective big sister and is the typical brains character. I’m surprised the two don’t fall in love in the end to complete their generic destinies.

Looks like it's straight out of Beyblades

Overall this is one of the dumber plots of the Castlevania series. The premise is that some vampire other than Dracula has taken over the castle and you must stop him by jumping into his magical paintings and breaking their seals. While this allows some really cool gameplay environments, it makes for a bland story. The good news is that like most Castlevania games, the story is not a crucial part of the enjoyment. Along those lines the one thing I really don’t like about this game is its overall presentation. The art style, the plot, the characters, the storytelling. It all makes this feel like a “kiddie” Castlevania game, and loses the dark gothic feel of previous titles.

The backgrounds and environments in PoR are simply gorgeous. There are certain parts of the game I would stop for a second and just look at the background because it was so impressive. Tons of color gradients, and a lot of attention to detail.

I thought some of the outdoor areas looked fantastic

The sprites for the main characters look really good. Jonathan and Charlotte have a lot of frames in their movement, especially their walking animation. I really appreciate well done sprites in this day and age. Bosses are also good looking, albeit a little funny looking when they use rotation. Although they did a great job on these sprites, the general enemy sprites aren’t nearly as impressive. A lot of them are just recycled from DoS, and on top of that they don’t have much animation at all.

Like DoS did before this, PoR uses an Anime art style. I enjoy Anime, I’m not one of the new “hate it cause it’s cool” kids who now hate the style because it’s become popular or “overused”. But even so, I do not like the art style for this game. It reminds me a lot of low budget Saturday morning cartoons.

This is the first Castlevania game I am disappointed with musically. Each one I have played has at the very least had one good “theme” that sticks in my head. This game doesn’t have that, and I come away not remembering anything.

That’s not to say the music in PoR is bad, it’s just not memorable. Most of the music fits with the area you’re in and suits the game pretty well.

Out of all the Castlevanias I’ve played, this is the most fluid refined one yet. The controls are very responsive and whip slinging has never been easier. In other words it means that the core gameplay of exploring and battling monsters is really fun.

The classic Metroidvania gameplay is still intact. Double jumping, attacking, backsliding and the rest of the moves that have become the Metroidvania standard are all here. I love that this game is on the DS because using the extra screen to display your Map is such a Godsend for these games.

The new feature of this game is that you now can control two characters at once. At any time during the game you can summon your partner and control them with the stylus. This is really hard to do and kind of cumbersome to pull off. If you don’t want to control both of them at once the computer will take over the other player for you. I found myself never using this later in the game because the AI controlling your partner is pretty stupid and gets beat up too much. Because of this I almost never used Charlotte and played solo with Jonathan. The dual character concept is awesome but I wish they would have explored it further. Some unique puzzles or bosses that required two people would have been great.

An element that plagued DoS was Konami went out of their way to add touch screen functionality just for the sake of using it. Thankfully this game doesn’t have any forced touch screen elements. This is about as traditional as Castlevania games get.

Magic is now a big part of the gameplay. For starters when your partner is on screen they use your MP bar for their health, making management of your MP even more important. Playing as Charlotte requires heavy magic use and she has a wide range of spells. Weapons and equipment is as important as ever and the game is full of a variety of them, especially now that you are collecting equipment sets for two different characters. Whips make a triumphant return which makes me very happy. I found the weapon balance to be off for Jonathan because although I found a good 30 weapons in the game, I only used maybe 6 of them. Most of the weapons by the time you find them are outdated and weaker than what you are currently using.

As I stated earlier, entering the Portraits is a pretty lame story aspect, but makes for a fantastic gameplay element. Dracula’s castle has always been full of varied environments but this new system allows for some REALLY unique levels. Sandy Pyramids, Quaint Towns and a lot of outside areas. This Castlevania has the most diverse levels I have ever played.

This games difficulty is hard. During my play through I died at least 15 times. The bosses generally beat me to a pulp before I could defeat them, sometimes pushing me one hit away from death. It’s not just the bosses that are hard either, as you explore the castle you get beat up as well. Because of the way Metroidvania games work, at least when I play them, it’s very easy to explore a new area and miss save points along the way. Save points are the only practical way to restore your health outside of limited potions and a healing spell you get way later in the game. So if you miss these save points, it gets harder and harder as enemies chip away at your health. It’s quite frustrating when you spend a ton of time progressing in the game only to die and have to do it all over again.

This guy's cousins are tough, but hes a pushover

Throughout the game you are able to sign up for and take on side missions, which unlock various upgrades and weapons. I think this is a great idea for the series, but unfortunately they way it is executed here gets very frustrating. The descriptions on what you have to do for the missions is so incredibly vague I don’t know how anyone is able to figure it out. For example one of the very first missions says “Go to the butcher in town and mince some meat to get Ground Meat”. Now I was able to figure out what they were talking about and even managed to get to the room in question. I saw some meat hanging there that I was able to wack at with my weapons so I figured that’s what they were talking about. But try as I might I couldn’t get any Ground Meat to drop. I had to go out to Gamefaqs to figure out you need to unequip your weapon and use a normal punch on the meat. And that’s one of the less vague ones.

Could this be any more vauge?

Along those lines, there is one element that I felt was really poorly done. In order to fight the real last boss and get the real ending you need to find this hidden magic spell. After getting the poor ending and figuring that couldn’t be the end, I had to look this up on Gamefaqs. The game didn’t make it clear at all that’s what I was supposed to do let alone where I could find this spell. I would think such a crucial part of the story would be more spelled out for you

After playing the last 4 previous Castlevania games, this formula is starting to feel old. PoR is one of the best classic Castlevania games to date and yet as a seasoned fan the formula is starting to feel old. Not enough changes are made between games and PoR feels almost like DoS with some new characters and areas.

Once you beat the game it opens up a bunch of different modes. Most recent Castlevania games do this, but PoR is the biggest so far. You can unlock a mode where you play as Richter Belmont and Maria Renard from Dracula X, a mode where you can play as the two evil Sisters from the game, and a mode where you can play as one of the old Axe Armor enemies (which looks pretty funny). Each of these modes are surprisingly fun, and once I have more time I will probably go back and play these different modes through to the end.

How friggan sweet is this?

Lasting Appeal
It took me 8 and a half hours to finish the main game. I only did about 10 or so side missions, so if you enjoy completing those the game could last even longer. That timeframe is also not taking into account how many times I died and had to restart from where I last saved, so realistically I probably spent 10 hours beating it.

I also did not play completely through the extra modes once I beat the game. They do however add a lot more bang for your buck, playing through the game with these characters is really fun and felt fresh. If you’re looking for a game that is going to give a ton of replay ability I recommend this.

Final Thoughts
Despite the fact that this is not the 6th entry in the Metroidvania vein of Castlevania games, it is still a fun game. I enjoyed it and I can’t wait to see what the series brings next.

Portrait of Ruin should be part of any Castlevania fans collection. It’s a very fun game.

Last edited by Seraph; 08-04-2009 at 02:12 PM.
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