Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin - Reader Review  

Double Team
by Prince Jeremy, Duke of Otterland

Easy to Medium
8-15+ Hours


Rating definitions 

   During World War II, two friends, vampire hunter Jonathan Morris and magician Charlotte Aulin, venture to Dracula's castle to stop a vampire named Brauner, who uses mystical paintings to open portals to various worlds, through which the duo must venture and fight together to reach their enemy. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, the second Nintendo DS installment of Konami's legendary vampire-hunting franchise, is yet another solid addition to the series, featuring some interesting tweaks while still retaining the solid gameplay of its predecessors.

   This time around, Portrait of Ruin makes use of two playable characters. Jonathan specializes in wielding whips and other weapons to kill the enemy, while Charlotte specializes in using magic. The player can switch between both characters any time during the game, with both sharing the same HP and MP gauges, the latter refilled by hearts occasionally found from breakable elements of the game's environs. Jonathan can use MP to perform various physical abilities, while Charlotte, of course, can perform magic. When just one character is on the screen, moreover, the player can briefly summon the other to use his or her MP-consuming ability or summon him or her to perform a powerful combination attack that drains most of the player's MP. Additionally, the player can have both characters in play simultaneously, with the player controlling one and A.I. controlling the other, with damage done to the A.I.-controlled character compensated through MP loss. It's a solid battle system overall, with only a few minor flaws such as the difficulty at times of attacking small enemies and the tedium of getting enemies to drop certain items, but otherwise, there really isn't much to complain about.

   Interaction, as with prior Castlevanias, is solid, with clean menus, easy shopping, and fun castle exploration, with the worlds accessible through portraits adding to this enjoyment. Controlling two characters, moreover, is hardly problematic, even when furthering exploration of the castle requires one or the other. The spacing of save points, though, can be somewhat irksome at times, with deaths sometimes wasting the player's time, although there aren't any complaints otherwise.

King Tut! Born in Arizona, raised in Babylonia

   The portrait system, while somewhat reminiscent of that in Super Mario 64, as well as the partner system, do shake things up a little in the creativity department, though the story basically revolves around the "go through the castle and kill Dracula/someone trying to gain his power" camp of most of the Castlevania franchise's installments. That in mind, the plot itself isn't anything particularly special, although there is maybe one interesting twist in the backstory and perhaps an alternate ending or two.

   The music, as with before, is a high point, with tracks never being out of place and hardly going unnoticed. There are even some English voice clips which, surprisingly, are actually pretty good. As for the visuals, they look largely the same as in most previous handheld Castlevanias, being nice and colorful with plenty of well-designed character portraits, enemies, and environs though the character sprites still contain the same odd facelessness as in previous handheld chapters. Overall, though, presentation is solid.

   Despite the presence of worlds outside the castle, though, playing time isn't terribly lengthy, ranging from about eight to fifteen hours, with some sidequests, hidden areas, and a clear game mode. All in all, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is worthy of the series' name, featuring solid gameplay and presentation that compensate for a lacking story, sure to satisfy series fans and those looking for a fun but short portable RPG.

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