Monday, 23 March 2015

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

This is a game that has been part of my collection for a very long time and beaten on multiple occasions but very recently I just went and beat it again so I thought I'd talk about it a little bit.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is a DS game that, like most Castlevania games post Symphony of the Night uses the Metroid style rather than original Castlevania style.  I'm not saying that as a bad thing, I like metroidvania a lot but it just is what it is.

Portrait of Ruin being on the DS had to have some kind of gimmick that set it apart from other titles in the franchise.  For example Dawn of Sorrow had you drawing seals on the screen to finish bosses and other things but the gimmick here doesn't involve the touch screen of the system at all.  Portrait of Ruins thing was that you had two characters that you could freely switch between.  These two characters where Johnathon and Charlotte and they both have their own strengths and weaknesses that you must use in order to overcome Dracula's castle.

Except the vast majority of the game isn't spent dealing with Dracula at all, oh no.  At some point some tosser called Brauner came along and sealed Dracula away using magic evil paintings.  Actually, I'm not actually sure he was trying to seal him away, I beat it last month and I didn't really give a crap about the story but it's something to that effect.  What this means in terms of game play is that you not only have to deal with Dracula's castle but with the insides of Brauner's paintings.  Of course, once you deal with him Dracula comes along to try and ruin your day but that's only at the very end of the game when you're on course for the best ending.

The rest is standard metroidvania fair of finding weapons, levelling up, exploring the castle and gaining abilities that help you get through all the walled off bits.  There is also a ghost sitting in a room near the castle entrance who will give you quests and completing these quests will yield various rewards.  There are also a few online features I never used and extra characters you can use once you beat the game so there is quite a lot of content here.

That said, this one is far from perfect and for some reason the little niggles in this one get to me a lot more than any other Castlevania game.  For example, Johnathon spends the whole game carrying around the Vampire Killer, the legendary whip that's been used since the series began.  However, because he's not a Belmont they make a big deal about how he can't use it without special help and if he does use it it'll consume his soul or some shit.  However, once you do unlock the vampire killer's power it has absolutely no adverse effects and is probably the best weapon in the game.  It's such a major plot point but the games lets you swing that shit around like any other weapon with no repercussions, it seems a little silly.

The double character thing also seems like a bit of a waste since my last through consisted of using Johnathon and nothing but unless I needed magic for something specific or she had to help me push something.  Charlotte is pretty much weaker in every way and while I'm sure there's some hardcore player out there who could argue the benefits of Charlotte, for a guy like me she's fairly useless.

The worst thing about this game though is that it goes and pulls a Silent Hill 4 but repeating the same 4 or 5 levels twice just with slightly stronger enemies the second time round.  It's fine because unlike SH4 the core game play is really fun but I do wish that they had a bunch unique portraits to go through rather than just 4 or 5 repeated.

While I personally think Portrait of Ruin is a really good game I'd find it hard to recommend it to someone who wasn't a Castlevania fan.  If you were looking to get into the whole metroidvania thing or you came off Symphony and wanted to try something else, go play Aria of Sorrow or Order of Ecclesia, it's like this one but way better.  Not that this is bad, just go enjoy the REALLY good ones first.

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