Castlevania: Potrait of Ruin
Update: First screenshots and E3 hands-on impressions.
Preview by (Email)
May 17th 2006
Konami has a real knack for knowing how to change just enough to keep me interested in this series every year. While I grow weary of Megamans two sequels into each series, somehow each Castlevania seems to offer something just fresh enough to get me giddy again, despite not straying far from its Symphony of the Night roots. Portrait of Ruin was the first game I played at this year's E3, and the brief demo has me excited yet again.
Clearly this game is using a continuation of Dawn of Sorrow's engine, but it seems the 3D capabilities have been beefed up a bit. This might not be a good thing, since the designers seem more tempted to exploit these abilities at the loss of those lovely 2D bitmaps we've grown to love. All the same, the game is looking sharp, with large characters that animate as fluidly as their predecessor's. It feels good to get out of the castle for a bit as well; the demo had us traversing a 1940s era European city, and the game promises to take the vampire hunters all over the globe.
Gameplay was tried and true, but the dual playable characters was definitely something new. A bit more developed than the character switching in Dawn of Sorrow's "Julius Mode," Portrait allows you to not only switch characters, but summon the inactive character as backup to help out. The two characters feel different, as well. Charlotte was a magic user with some unique attack patterns, and John Morris seemed to be an amalgam of the two popular hero types of the series. That's right kids: Finally a character that will be able to wield the classic Belmont-style whips (complete with CV4-style twirl) as well as the swords and daggers of Soma and Alucard. Everybody wins! I'm a little worried that using the castle as a hub to completely separate levels could hurt some of the exploration elements of the recent Castlevanias, but from the demo I've played, Portrait delivers the same great gameplay we've grown used to, with enough of a unique spin to stave off yawns for another year.