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Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin DS Review

Castlevania is an epic video game franchise and each new iteration is a solid entry into the series (minus the 3D ones). Almost every Castlevania fan points to Symphony of the Night as the pinnacle of the series, though Aria of Sorrow or even Dawn of Sorrow both approached excellence. For me the two best Castlevania games were Symphony of the Night for Sega Saturn (yes I had that obscure system) aka Nocturne in the Moonlight and Circle of the Moon for GBA. Circle of the Moon is by no means the best GBA Castlevania, but it did surprise me, impress me, entice me…and ultimately sold me on the Gameboy Advance as a system. Well, I should probably add Portrait of Ruin to that list because although it doesn’t feel as new and great as the 2 Castlevania’s that really won me over to the series, it really offers way more as far as game length, characters, modes, etc. So to end the ranting and really get to the summary of the review: Castlevania Portrait of Ruin doesn’t surprise, offers some new features, and is another great addition to the Castlevania franchise. It is better than last year’s Dawn of Sorrow, and although a Co-op adventure mode is truly a huge missed opportunity, the new partner mechanics are pretty cool and the painting mechanic is freaking awesome.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Pros: This is how games are meant to play…classic side scrolling action adventure. Controls are immediately familiar to castlevania fans though there are several new partner features such as calling them in, dual attacks, switching etc. that are fun to learn and work really well. Game is challenging and intense as always. The new portrait system will hopefully be used in future titles.
Cons: Touch features from Dawn of Sorrow were almost completely dropped…there’s no sealing of bosses or touch screen doors to unlock. I think the dual screen could be used for more than just a map. Finally, the dual character mechanic could have been utilized a lot more for puzzles and goddamn a co-op mode would’ve been sweet!

Graphics: 8.5/10
Pros: Good ole pixel art! As always, Castlevania sports excellent sprites, animations, and even some sweet 3D backgrounds. It’s built on the same engine as Dawn of Sorrow and the new iteration looks just as good if not better.
Cons: Some enemies have been rehashed from the previous games and I would have liked to see more 3D, sprite effects, etc.

Sound/Music: 8/10
Pros: All the old familiar sounds sound as good as ever. There is some good voice work even though it is minimal and the score is perfectly creepy and atmospheric.
Cons: The story is still told in text boxes, and the music isn’t as memorable as previous installments.

Lasting Appeal: 8.5/10
Pros: The game offers a lot when it comes to castle real estate and terrain to explore. The paintings are very large worlds and allow you to visit very different locales. As with any other Castlevania game, the decent story and great gameplay will keep you adventuring to the end. There are some other modes and characters, which offer some replay value, but ultimately the modes are a novelty, and you may not want to play through the adventure all over again.

Average: 83.75%
Tilt: +0.25%

Castlevania Portrait of Ruin is a must for anyone who has enjoyed any previous Castlevania game. It is one of the better sequels to come along in awhile and is a great platform action/adventure. If you’ve never been into Castlevania, I’m not sure this game changes it up enough to warrant a go, but if you’ve never heard or played one, this is an excellent place to start.

Verdict: 84%


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