Final Glimpse: When a Vampire Comes Along, You Must Whip It!
The Castlevania series, with the exception of a few 3-D incarnations, consistently exemplifies quality with every installment. For twenty years players have been whipping the undead and re-killing that bad penny, Count Dracula. It seems that just like his immortal unholiness, the Castlevania games never get old. Last year Konami brought Castlevania to the Nintendo DS with the acclaimed Dawn of Sorrow. Following that game's success, the same team plans to bring us back to the castle with this winter's DS release, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.
Portrait of Ruin's storyline take place in 1944, amidst World War II. Brauner, a vampiric artist, hopes to use his demonic portraits as a means of summoning Dracula. It's a sort of roundabout way of doing it, but hey at least he's original. His daughters, Mary-Kate and Ashley?err?Stella and Loretta aid him in this task. They wish to use the souls of those who perished during the war to resurrect Count Dracula. Supernatural ass-kicker Jonathan Morris and sorceress Charlotte Aulin team up to thwart their plans. Pity the living dead and flea-men that stand in their way.
Like other recent Castlevania installments, Portrait of Ruin will retain the RPG elements and exploration-based level design that started with Symphony of the Night. Fortunately, a number of innovative additions will make this entry feel fresh. Most notably, Portrait of Ruin is the first Castlevania where the player must use two different characters cooperatively. Each character possesses unique abilities. Morris is the typical whip-toting warrior who is stronger and more proficient with weapons. Charlotte uses magic to fight and cast helpful enchantments.
The player will freely switch between Morris and Charlotte, or delegate control of one to the computer. In the latter case the second character will follow the player and attack enemies. If this computer-controlled character takes damage, the pair's combined MP decreases. Once the MP are depleted the helping character will disappear. The stylus pen will allow you to command the second character while in ?tag-along? mode. Tapping a certain point on the screen will cause the second character to run there and stay. This will become a key feature when it comes to puzzle solving. One simple example requires both characters to stand on two separate switches to open a locked door.
This time around the action is not restricted to Dracula's Castle. While Drac's homestead is prominent, it also serves as a central hub to other diverse worlds. Each of Brauner's portraits are gateways to other times and places. These settings range from dilapidated European villages to ancient Egypt. Let's just hope that Afghanistan doesn't make an appearance.
There are also a number of mandatory and optional side quests to complete. A spirit named Wind (the equivalent of ?Bob? in the spirit world) will be your gateway to these challenges. Often these mini-quests will require the player to find a particular item elsewhere in the game. Once completed, Wind will grant the player new items and abilities, some of which are necessary to complete the game.
Early screenshots show that Portrait of Ruin will contain perhaps the best graphics in a 2-D Castlevania game. The character sprites are colorful and well detailed, including huge bosses that take up the DS screen. The game is not entirely 2-D for some of the backgrounds and enemies are 3-D rendered.
Portrait of Ruin will support both WiFi Online and wireless game play through two modes. The first is a co-op mode that allows players to fight the hordes of darkness together. The second is named ?shop mode.? In this mode players are able to sell items to one another for use in the main game. Think of it as a gothic stock exchange.