Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

aka: Akumajou Dracula: Gallery of Labyrinth
Moby ID: 25238

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 83% (based on 85 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 43 ratings with 1 reviews)

Castlevania back to it's roots, but with a lot of innovations

The Good
Aaah the Castlevania series. What do I need to say ? In case you don't know about it, Castlevania is a MIGHTY video game series of platformers involving vampires. That being said, the series took a major twist for its last (at the time of the release of this game) 2 games, Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow, because they took place into the near-future (instead of a distant past), and the main protagonist wasn't fighting with the "Vampire-Killer" whip. For their next installment, Konami went back on their roots, as Portrait of Ruin takes place during World War 2 area, where the major conflict between humans opened a threat for Dracula to be revived.

You take the control of the vampire hunter Jonathan Morris (son of the hero of the Megadrive game Castlevania Bloodlines) and great mage Charlotte Aulin. Jonathan wears the good old "Vampire-Killer" whip (which is why I told you Konami went back on their roots), but he don't know how to use its full power. This game have both platforming and RPG elements, you can equip a wide range of weapons, armors, helmets, accessories, ... Nothing unfamiliar. The main difference is that sub-weapons aren't "absorbed" from enemies like in the "Sorrow" games, but they are just found as you progress in your quest, or a few are randomly dropped by some enemies (which means you have less sub-weapons to use, so less crappy ones and more effective ones). Jonathan can equip whips and traditional weapons (sword, axes, lances, ...), use the traditional sub-weapons (Knife, Axe, Holy Water, ....) plus some new exclusive powers (javelin, throw cream pies,...). Charlotte fight with books, and can use magic (Fire, Ice, Wind, ....) and has antidote, stat boosting and even healing spells. They also added some street-fighter style combo you can do to trigger critical attacks, dealing greater damage.

For the first time in the entire series (as far I know), a new system where you can use 2 protagonists at the same time is implemented. You can play either as Jonathan alone, Charlotte alone, or control one while the other is CPU-controlled. The controls are intuitive and responsive. B jumps, Y attacks, X switch the control between Jonathan and Charlotte, up+Y uses your subweapon, and L uses the CPU character's subweapon, and 'A' calls/frees him/her. The touchscreen can also be used to control him/her, but as Charlotte says herself, this is hard to pull out and isn't too useful. Oh, yeah I didn't mention you can go into the menu to have advice from Charlotte. This is very useful for bosses, and for puzzles. Yes there is a few puzzles in the game which is great news ! When the character you control get hit, Hit Points (HP) decrease, but when the CPU character is hit, or when you use a subweapon, Mana Points (MP) decrease. If you get out of HP it's game-over (duh) but if you get out of MP, the character you're not controlling goes away and you can't use him/her for awhile, which isn't always very good either. As if that large arsenal wasn't exciting enough, they implemented a new Dual Strike system, where both heroes combine their powers to release some extra-strong attacks (and extra-MP wasting). Those are a great help on boss battles, but be careful, the CPU controlled character won't avoid attacks, and is likely to take major MP damage, so you'll get out of MP in no time. Because of this, a lot of boss fight are almost needed that you play as Jonathan only (as Charlotte is weaker physically). On a lot of boss fight you'll still be very glad that Charlotte is here for various reasons. With all those varied possibilities the gameplay offers, you are sure not to get bored when playing !

Something worth noting is the paining system in the game. Instead of having only one big castle to explore, you have one (unfortunately) smaller castle, but in it there is a few paintings. You can enter in the paintings to get into another full stage (this explain the subtitle of the game). This is completely ripped of Super Mario 64, but let's act as if we didn't notice and call it a great innovation. Another addition to Portrait of Ruin is subquests. A guy in the castle will give you quests (which are for the most challenges, like defeating a rare monster, or find rare items, etc...), and if you complete them you get some kind of reward. Doing those are great fun, although I admit I had to look a FAQ for the hardest of them. If you like challenge, you won't be bored with this game, as there is a lot of secret and rare items to be found, and there is a bonus arena with hard enemies & bosses you have to beat in series. For the first time of the series, you have to fight Dracula and Death AT THE SAME TIME !!

Eventually, it seems Konami partially completed the only lack of the Sorrow games : The storyline. It's not a VERY complex story, but it's still better than almost no story for the Sorrow games (probably the in-between release of Lament of Innocence on PS2 is for something). Because of all dialogue between both heroes, it gives both of them some personality. and without giving any spoilers, there is some noticeable plot twist, and some emotion thrown in. The voice acting, already present in Japanese in the Sorrow games, is now in English so you can hear what the enemies&boss says to you. It makes avoiding attacks easier as you know in advance what they're doing. As in the Sorrow games if you're not careful you'll get a crappy bad ending, but here the way to avoid it is really obvious and you likely don't need any FAQ about it.

I think graphics don't really play a major role in how good a game is. But as long as you don't have anything against 2D platforming, you shouldn't have anything to worry here, as they are top-notch. I'd still say that many enemy graphics here are ripped from Dawn of Sorrow (many from older games too), but there is also new pretty detailed environments, and the sprites for the two protagonists are amazingly detailed and animated.

Last but not least, the infamous seal system from Dawn of Sorrow has been removed and this is a great thing. If you beat a boss, you have won.

The Bad
About the soundtrack of this game, I can't say anything better than "it's good". No almighty amazing soundtrack here, just one that fits well, and that does it's job. Compared to the soundtrack of both Sorrow games (Lament of Innocence too) which are among the best of all video games, if not among the best music albums ever, it's a small disappointment, but hey at least the music found here does its job well.

Second disappointment, Dracula's castle is really small, this is compensated by the painting but the ever traditional sewers level is BADLY missing here, and the game is again really short (10-12 hours). Yes there is extra harder modes available with other playable characters, but those are usually much less fun.

The Bottom Line
Well, if you were afraid that Dawn of Sorrow was so good that this game has nothing better to offer, you are wrong. Even if Drawn of Sorrow has way better music, and a larger castle to explore, the large arsenal available in this game, with 2 main characters, a better storyline, the painting system and the side quests to complete, this one shows that Konami don't just rest on their laurels even after 20 years of amazing Castlevania games being continuously released. So congratulations Konami, and thanks for this great game. It's probably a must buy, unless you are allergic to 2D platformers. Although if you are hesitating between Dawn of Sorrow and this one, I'd say don't hesitate and buy both.

Nintendo DS · by Bregalad (937) · 2009

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Big John WV, Zechs_, Jacob Gens, Alaka, Wizo, lights out party, RhYnoECfnW, chirinea, Jeanne, Xoleras, Corn Popper, Kyle Bell, Patrick Bregger, Evil Ryu, Alsy, Tim Janssen, LordFeder, Maner76.