Monday, February 25, 2008

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

GENRE: Action, Side-scrolling, Platform
CREDITS: 2006 Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc., Screenshots courtesy of


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Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin brings back the award winning action exploration gameplay that has held fans captive for 2 decades! Take control of two heroes, Jonathan Morris, a vampire killer and his close friend Charlotte Orlean, a girl with tremendous magical ability. Amidst the chaos of World War II, two mysterious sisters emerge working to resurrect Dracula and David and Charlotte are all that stand in their way.

My second Castlevania game. >>> by skysenshi (02.24.2008)
I think I mentioned before that the only other Castlevania I've ever played was the first one, with Simon Belmont as its protagonist. This was 2 decades ago -- if I'm counting correctly -- and I was a kid back then. Looking at that game now, I wonder how I survived the torturous clunkiness of old school side-scrollers. I remember that there were no save points in Simon Belmont's adventures...

Years and several consoles later, I had enjoyed watching my siblings play other Castlevania installments like Symphony of the Night and all of the 3D PS2 titles. I just couldn't get myself to touch any of them because they seemed more complicated. On top of that, I have had a traumatic experience with horror-themed games. I had nightmares about Medusa soon after I finished the first Castlevania!

So I keep away.

Until Portrait of Ruin. Of course, as I grew older, I realized that my hands aren't as dexterous as they used to be. They start to hurt after some time. Nevertheless, seeing two people cooperate while hunting Dracula's minions made it seem less...scary. Or maybe "lonely" was the word I was looking for. I mean, hello, if I were to go and hunt beasties and zombies, I'm going to bring a companion with me!

Story-wise, Portrait of Ruin deviates from the usual Belmont saga. Jonathan Morris, grandson of Quincy Morris (if you've read Bram Stoker's Dracula, you'd know him), inherits the renowned Belmont whip -- the Vampire Killer. He is, however, unable to wield it effectively at first. He is accompanied by a magic-user named Charlotte Aulin and together they discover the secrets of both the Vampire Killer and Dracula's Castle.

The battle system is quite similar to what I've seen Alucard do in Symphony of the Night. You can use familiars and skills. The only difference is that you can do team play with Jonathan and Charlotte. You can switch between Jonathan and Charlotte, with one supporting the other, depending on your style. You can also use both at the same time. Jonathan is the brawn that dishes out physical attacks, while Charlotte is the brain that handles magical properties. These two even share conversations that show how smart Charlotte is and how much of a jock Jonathan can be.

I have to admit, though, that when it comes to two-man puzzles, I let my friend Nicco accomplish them. The rest of the gameplay can get pretty addictive, with sub quests that will keep you occupied for hours on end. I must warn you that you may feel exhausted after a while, especially if you're one of those who want a perfect game. Despite that, I have to say that it's worth it.

The music is lovely. Yes, it's midi, but it's very similar to Symphony of the Night when it comes to memorability. I played Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow right after this but the sounds just didn't compare. I found myself humming Portrait of Ruin's background music weeks after I've defeated it.

As for the audiovisuals, I'm not complaining. The 2D sprites aren't half bad. The artwork for the portraits and the intro are beautiful.

My only gripe would have to be the fact that Jonathan and Charlotte have not transcended stereotypes. I really do want to use Charlotte, but she's just too weak for quick killings. You can't rely on her magic either as that consumes MP and would take a bit of time to cast. She really is just there for support.

Still, this didn't really affect my enjoyment. Most of the characters inside this game can be comical, which is far from what I've witnessed in most Castlevania scenarios. There's always some heavy drama and angst in Castlevania, but this is probably one of the few (counting Dawn of Sorrow) that inject light-hearted lines in many character dialogues.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate - Difficult
COMPLETION TIME: 15-30 hours
RATINGS: Gameplay 10; Battle 10; Story 9; Visuals 8; Characters 9; Sounds 8; Replay Value 9

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