Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin - NDS - Preview
E3 2006 Hands On Preview
Few action games on the E3 show floor deserve as much praise as Castlevania: Portrait of Ruins. The follow-up to last year’s DS hit, Portrait of Ruins isn’t hard to describe. If you’ve played any of the recent Castlevania titles – even the PSone classic Symphony of the Night – Ruins will turn you into an extreme addict.
New to the series are two playable characters: Jonathan Morris, a fearsome vampire hunter, and Charlotte Orlean, a skilled spell-caster. Interestingly, both characters were at my disposal throughout the course of the demo. The advantage of using both characters to complete the game is not quite clear. It was beneficial to switch characters during a battle because of their individual strengths and unique attack options. Knowing Konami there is likely to be some sort of puzzle involved with the two characters, but my impressions with the E3 demo did not confirm anything regarding that.
Additionally, there’s a call partner feature where both characters appear on screen. You’ll stay in control of whichever character you were controlling at the time of the call. The other will…you know, at this point I’m not 100% sure. Partners seemed to help out in battle, other times they just sat there and did nothing. This might have been my fault, both the negative and positive effects, as I may have been doing something to make the partner act (or not act) without even realizing it.
The demo ended when I died, prompting the “Coming Fall 2006” screen to appear, but that gave me an excuse to play through it all over again. I couldn’t wait to get back to the boss and finish him off.
Ruins’s controls are just about perfect. The game is still in development, but I really can’t see where there’d be room to improve the smoothness, seamlessness, and precision that the game has. Every action is a natural one. While navigating, it’s fun to double jump just for the heck of it. How many games (other than Mario) can you say that about? More importantly, how many dark games can you say that about? Ruins might not be as bloody as the latest PS2 Castlevania, but it has a solid amount of death and devastation. Boss battles are big and threatening. In large groups, the weakest of enemies don’t seem quite as insignificant.
I don’t play Castlevania titles for their visual delight, but one of the most surprising elements to make it into the new game is 3D backgrounds. These backgrounds stand still and blend in with the scenery while you’re stationary. When you move, the environment moves to show the depth of the building in the back of the screen, or for whatever 3D structure is in the area. It’s an awesome sight that complements the impeccable gameplay.
The look and feel of this game is just plain awesome. Ruins is the fifth 2D Castlevania to come from Konami in the past six years (three on the GBA, two on the DS), and the series is as strong as ever. The larger size and spectrum of the game makes it even more enjoyable, as do the brighter colors, more detailed characters and 3D backgrounds.
Musically, Ruins is going to be fantastic. As I’m sure you know, E3 is an extremely loud place. Even with headphones games can be hard to hear. I unfortunately could not hear much of Ruins’s soundtrack, but what did come through was very satisfying. Konami had some interesting music playing during the trailer for this title at their press event on Tuesday, though not all of those music tracks were specific to one game. It’s possible that that music won’t actually be a part of Ruins. Even if that’s the case, I’m dying to hear more of what Konami plans to include.