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dbarry_22's Video Game Reviews (213)

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Blaster Master Zero II 3.5/5
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Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin   Nintendo DS / DSi 

Another Successful Entry In The Series    4/5 stars

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin continues to use the same successful "metroid-vania" formula and provides yet another fun experience in the Castlevania series.

This game uses the same formula that was revolutionized by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PS1. It's a 2D platformer style where there's a map with save points as you traverse the castle and you gain experience and level up your character as you go. There were 3 GBA titles that followed Symphony of the Night and this game is the second of a trilogy released on Nintendo DS.

Portrait of ruin continues what Dawn of Sorrow did by taking advantage of the second screen. This allows for one of the screens as a dedicated map for referencing and it works perfectly. You can also hit select and the profiles of the characters can be put on the top screen as well. The ability to avoid pausing to look at where you've been or where you're going is so convenient and I'm glad it's set up this way.

The big difference in this game is that you control two main characters, not one. These characters are named Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin. Jonathan is the one with the power to wield the vampire whip and Charlotte is the magic caster. Very early in the game you learn several abilities that allow you to switch between the two characters and cast magic from one without switching to them. Also there are other skills like jumping off one or making another person stay and one helping the other push things. You can either have just one character on the screen or you can bring the other into action and they will help you as a computer assist. When your companion gets hit you lose MP and if it goes to zero the character leaves the screen. For the most part I found the extra character as a hindrance and only called upon them to cast spells as to avoid any unnecessary damage.

The story is somewhat convoluted and I'm not going to go into extreme detail. Early in the game Jonathan and Charlotte meet a spirit named Wind. He proceeds to help you by giving you hints and backstory to the castle. You learn that in order to take out the evil you need to weaken it by taking out bosses in paintings. This is a way of the game sending you out of the castle to other "levels". I thought it was a neat idea but it wasn't taken advantage of well enough. This concept would allow Castlevania to broaden it's scope by you not just going through another castle. One of the paintings takes you to a sandy pyramid type level which was a nice change of pace. But most are really just parts of the castle like the clock tower and such. I thought there could have been more there.

The graphics and music are still done quite well and follow the Castlevania theme. In fact there are a few character animations and other things that are a slight upgrade to the graphics in the first DS game, Dawn of Sorrow. A few of the bosses can be quite challenging but not overly annoying. You still get very similar weapons and abilities. There's still knife and axe throwing. You aren't handicapped to just using a whip. I found myself using a sword or spear for most of the game but at the end a whip was totally the way to go.

Another nice addition was the inclusion of quests. Wind gives you things to do and you get rewards by accomplishing them. Sometimes it's finding a certain item or killing a certain enemy. Sometimes it's just teaching you a new skill to use in battle. I did not do them all but it definitely adds to the playtime and I hear there's a pretty sweet reward if you do them all.

One of the things I didn't like is that in order to get the "good" ending in this game you need to obtain a certain skill. If you don't, you'll end up withe the "bad" ending and the game will be over for you in 4-5 hours. So, backtracking is necessary to get this skill and then you need to use in the right spot. By doing this you open up another large section of the game that gives you at least a few hours of additional content. I'm all for different endings, but this seemed unnecessary, especially since there's no obvious place where this skill is so you have to wonder for a while.

I really enjoyed Portrait of Ruin, but not quite as much as Dawn of Sorrow. The use of two characters didn't work as well as obtaining souls. I did really enjoy a few of the boss fights but I thought the level design was a bit lazy by separating things out by using paintings. I spent around 8 hours playing this game and while I didn't 100% it, I did most of the things available to you. It's totally worth playing if you're a fan of this type of game.

4/5

 

 


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