Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin


I haven’t properly explored any Castlevania games since the second or third was released for the NES. I’ve seen the 3-D iterations come and go and I’ve heard all of the wonderful things said about them, so understand this is coming from a bit of an outdated perception of the franchise.

First off, I wasn’t exactly comfortable hunting Dracula without a proper Belmont by my side. I mean, for me, Simon Belmont was the heart of the story. That feeling quickly faded, however, as the story isn’t the heart of this side-scrolling, whip-cracking platformer.

Basically you play as either Jonathan Morris, heir to the Belmont’s vampire killing whip, or Charlotte Aulin, a young magician of sorts with a spellbook full of pain. Dracula’s castle has appeared and its foul lord has imbued his power into paintings found throughout the castle’s halls. In order to defeat the vile vampire, you must destroy the power he has placed in these portraits.

At times Portrait of Ruin almost feels like an RPG. There’s leveling up to be done, items, weapons and armor to be collected, used or sold, and gold to find and spend at the friar’s item shop.

The myriad of items seems overwhelming at first, but you quickly realize it’s to your benefit as you customize your equipment to perfectly match your style of play. For instance, when I first found the mace, I was using it a lot because I liked the extra damage it caused and the extra area it covered. I soon switched to a spear-type weapon, though, because I could better use its reach and speed despite the decreased strength.

Portrait of Ruin has the potential to descend into redundancy but you quickly find there are always new abilities to find or earn and thus new areas to explore and enemies to conquer. That unreachable ledge, for instance, is soon accessible once you acquire the double-jump ability.

As for multi-player, there are two ways to go – both require all DS’s involved to have their own copy of Portrait of Ruin. In co-op mode, you have to race through levels with a friend in a set amount of time to unlock new levels. In shop mode, up to three other players can browse items that you’ve found and set for sale and buy them from you. I haven’t tried these modes yet since I don’t know anyone with a DS or a copy of the game.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is a worthy investment. There’s always a new corner of the castle to explore or a new quest to complete, so you’ll never be left wanting for more until you actually beat the game.