Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin Review (DS)


1944, the world is filled with pain and lost souls caused by war. The agony created by this brings forth Dracula's demonic castle, which the vampire Brauner tries to utilise to destroy the human race. Step forward Jonathan Morris, who now carries the Belmont family's legendary whip and Charlotte Aulin, a tremendously powerful magician to destroy the evil menace.

What we have here is a streamlined amalgamation of all the best parts of previous Castlevania games, as well as a few highly effective new ideas. The most important of which is the ability to use two characters at the same time. Upon the press of a button, the second character can be called to aid you. Along with moving blocks and other minor tasks the duality can be used to produce one of a number of powerful combined attacks

Portrait of Ruin features an excellent compromise for fans looking for a more linear Castlevania. Dracula's castle is still there for exploration in the classic Symphony of the Night style. However the main location is somewhat smaller than before, as it contains a number of cursed portraits. Each portrait acts as an entrance to a new world, which houses the more linear elements of titles gone by.

Level design via the portraits is of an excellent standard with each of the four initial worlds following a different style. A highlight is a world set in a town turned upside down. The only small downside to the design is that you will come across four paintings near the end of the game that share the same basic structure as before, only with much tougher enemies and a slightly different graphical touch.

Boss encounters are yet another highlight in this Castlevania tour de force. They contain enough of a challenge to be approached cautiously, but none are overly harsh.  Each of the creatures are wonderfully satisfying to defeat, and require some real thought and lateral thinking in terms of magic and weapons (taking out the two evil sisters with one hit is a touch of genus, all be it a difficult one).

Main adventure aside there are a number of side quests that can be taken on which when completed give up new skills and weapons to the player. While not essential it is advisable, as certain skills such as being able to flail the whip (as seen in Castlevania IV) and the ability to attack diagonally down come in extremely handy. Everything about the game seems to have been set just right. The difficulty level is at a perfect level somewhere between Circle of the Moon and Aria of Sorrow, which means it is challenging but fair due to the support from the second character and there is a far fairer way of dealing out skills and weapons.

Overall, it is clear that only the most rose tinted gamer would fail to agree that Portrait of Ruin is the best Castlevania game in the series for a long time. The best bits of the best games have been stuck together in one wonderful Castlevania cake. It is highly recommended to anyone who likes adventure games, and absolutely essential to Castlevania fans.

9/10

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