Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

The Castlevania franchise has been around quite some time now, one of those few franchises (Zelda and Mario, of course, are others) that has managed to withstand the wrath of time. One of the main reasons for its long-lasting success is the reinvigoration the series went through with the now legendary Symphony of the Night. By borrowing elements from the Metroid franchise and shifting the focus to exploration-based gameplay, and adding castle that slowly opens up as you gain new abilities, the game became a smash hit and the series was saved from staleness.

This new shift in formula has been implemented in all the 2D entries of the series to this day, and will once again be one of Portrait of Ruin,s main drawing points. Some people are claiming the innovation has long worn off, and that everything after Symphony of the Night has been an uninspired clone, but as long as Konami manages to build a solid experience around the staple gameplay, the franchise probably still has a lot of longevity left in it.

Portrait of Ruin is set during World War II, and (sort of) continues the story seen in Castlevania: Bloodlines. The main characters this time are vampire hunter Jonathan Morris and sorceress/shape-shifter Charlotte Aulin. Both have ties with older Castlevania characters. Jonathan,s the son of John Morris, Bloodlines, main character, whereas the female character is a descendant of the Fernandez/Belnades clan. But as we all know: there,s no party without Dracula! Unfortunately, the old Count couldn,t quite make the party, seeing as he once again met his untimely demise in Bloodlines. Luckily that,s not that much of a problem,  since every time he dies, there are at least two avid followers jumping at the prospect of resurrecting the old bat.

Portrait of Ruin,s main villain is Brauner, a vampire with a knack for painting who shares those ambitions. Brauner,s twin daughters Stella and Loretta will also play a crucial role. They want nothing more but to aid daddy dear, but being the overprotective father that he is, he doesn,t want his daughters to get involved, lest they get hurt. To slow down their and the player,s progress, Brauner has riddled the castle with paintings that teleport you to various locations–Egyptian ruins and misty towns, all of which are looking really classy. Graphically speaking, the game looks very similar to its predecessor, Dawn of Sorrow. The visuals are crisp, everything,s animated fluidtly and the environments they have shown so far look inspired. The magic attacks and pseudo-3D backgrounds in particular are quite impressive. Quite a few people have complained about the new art direction, saying it now looks like generic anime, but, regardless of your opinion on the matter, it has no bearing on the actual gameplay, which is far more important.

Gameplay-wise, the Soul system established in the last two instalments, which had you absorbing enemy abilities, will no longer be the game’s main focus, and has been replaced by something we will discuss later. Instead the game will be all about co-operation. As mentioned before, the game has two main characters. Each has unique capabilities and the player will be able to swap between them at any given time. The AI will control the character you’re not using, but you will still have limited control over that character by mapping one of that character’s special attacks to the R button.

Jonathan wields a whip as his primary weapon, and will gain access to a lot of sub-weapons, like boomerangs, grenades, claymores, and even rocks. Charlotte has some weapons of her own too, but focuses on devastating magic attacks, and can also transform into certain animals. Because of the slow nature of the magic attacks, she,s often extremely vulnerable, and will have to be carefully protected by Jonathan. The green magic bar at the top of the screen seems to function as your partner,s lifebar. Strategically switching between the two will be very important, and will also be used to solve a lot of the game,s puzzles.

The player will gain new abilities, spells, and weapons in a slightly more morbid way than before. Some of the above will occasionally be dropped by one of the 100+ enemies, while others will be acquired by collecting enemy body parts. Say you get your hands on 9 zombie arms, you may be able to trade that for a better sword. This is just a speculative example, but that is basically what the system boils down to.

With all the focus on co-op, you,d think a Wi-fi or local multiplayer would be perfect for this title. Koji Igarashi, the series, spiritual father, has so far commented that he,s planning to implement this in one way or another, but can,t give any concrete details yet, except for the fact that he may limit it to a single unlockable co-op stage. Alternatively, he may input a versus mode. At this point the entire multiplayer is still up in the air.

Use of the touch screen will be restricted to menu navigation. The map on the top screen will also stay. Igarashi stated that it interrupted the flow of the action in Dawn of Sorrow. Before fully finishing off a boss, you had to whip out the stylus to draw a seal. This irritated a lot of gamers, who felt it was unneeded.

Portrait of Ruin will be released on November 16 in Japan, and is definitely a title to look forward to. The US release date is currently unknown, but will likely be on or near the Japanese date. If Konami manages to take full advantage of the potential the new co-op based gameplay has and throws in an extensive multiplayer mode, we could be looking at a future classic here. If not, we,re probably still looking at an extremely solid title that probably deserves a place in your collection.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.