castlevania: portrait of ruin

a review of Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin
a videogame developed by konami
and published by konami
for the nintendo DS
text by Ario Barzan

1.5 stars

Bottom line: Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin is “as engaging as those kitschy little stories about a TEENAGER'S STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE you find in a Reader's Digest”


–Ario Barzan


12 Responses to castlevania: portrait of ruin

  1. No mention of the lame quest system? Or the hideous grinding to power up your semi-fun subweapons? This is the first portable Metroidvania since Circle of the Moon i haven’t finished (and that one defeated me with difficulty)
    they needed to get rid of the girl and focus on the weapons and subweapons
    the cart i bought had Sisters Mode unlocked, which was kinda neat

  2. well, i think you covered those topics nicely in your own reply!
    at the least, the grinding to power-up the sub-weapons is better than grinding to power-up the souls in dawn of sorrow: in the latter, you’re betting on luck. in the former, you’re relying on an established numerical goal. both are dumb.

  3. Everything you said is true. Now I feel bad having played through it to 1000%. Though I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad, as many of those percentiles were obtained in the bathroom.

  4. You know, a lot of what you say may have merit, and I’m certainly not advocating that we not approach games critically, because isn’t that why we’re all here? The fact remains, however, that I played through this game, and then I played through it again with Richter and Maria, and I loved every minute of it. So from my perspective, it succeeded as a game. What more can I say? I think what more I can say is that there are probably aspects of one’s personal gaming experiences that can’t be quantified nor mapped to a general audience.

    Still, I will say that, objectively (ha ha!), PoR kicks the stuff out of Dawn of Sorrow. And although I will freely admit that by any objective metric it’s not as good as Order of Ecclesia, I kinda enjoyed it more.

  5. that’s fine. i finished portrait of ruin myself, if only because i am a castlevania whore (and because i use the bathroom daily (here’s to good health)). i guess i’d then ask what elements of this dictated your positive experience. were they exterior events that improved in-game events? i mean, i’m familiar with that sort of situation: it’s awkward to talk about the games it applies to with other people, because so much of your relation to the game isn’t a “genuine” part of the topic. so, in the end, i have to say, “yeah — the game isn’t good. i know that. but i had a nice time,” and then add, “i would never play it again” (only to secretly desire to, because i want to relive that weirdly untouchable experience, even though i can’t (and the game blows)).
    look, i . . . don’t even know what i’m going on about!

  6. I won’t lie: part of it had to do with the fact that I was going through a rather painful breakup at the time, and the game was a good/comforting means of escape from all that. More generally, though, I really liked the portraits–and yeah, I know they could be done better, and yeah, it’s kind of lame that they repeat as they do, BUT. At least they’re different. And after, what, five Castlevanias in a row taking place in the same damn castle going through pretty much exactly the same motions, that felt liberating to me. A breath of fresh air. What more can I say? Well, I can say that at the very least, the Nest of Evil in this game is a lot better than the Huge Cavern or whatever the equivalent place ewas called in OoE. That was pretty lame.

  7. were the portraits a change, though? really? they’re essentially no different than the castle. strip away the gothic brickwork and replace it with egyptian motifs. oh, you’re . . . suddenly in egypt! r-right? the portraits are supposed to be (you say it yourself (everyone used the phrase when the game was reviewed)) “breaths of fresh air”, yet none of them are even centrally focused on exteriors, nor do they explore the rich possibilities for level design, given their aesthetic implications. you get to the “forest” of doom and spend most of your time in a schoolhouse whipping skelerangs and killer dolls because you can. the city ends up just being an excuse to shuttle in a chapel theme. the nation of fools harbors interesting gravitational implications, though they’re not truly exploited beyond cute quirks (fleamen leaping in pits to the vertical-left of you). et-cetera. i’m not big on the nest of evil; the final boss — your doppelganger — may be killed before it can reach you. and the slapping in of prior sprites without any context robs them of their charm, displaying them as tools to pad content. to me, ecclesia’s dungeon is shorter, harder, more to the point, and more honest. i wish its background were original. :\

  8. But the Nest of Evil has a bunch of new enemies and bosses. Ecclesia’s only has three new enemies, one of which is a lame palate swap and the other two of which are pretty close to the same thing. You just fight them all over and over. And the boss is kind of underwhelming.

    I guess you’re right about the portraits not being much different than the rest of the game except graphically, but isn’t that a pretty big point? Would it really take that much work to make Ecclesia’s non-castle environments into…castle environments? I tend to doubt it. And I LIKE Egypt!

  9. i don’t recall any of the enemies in the nest of evil being new, except for the iron golem. i know that none of the bosses are new.
    i appreciate how the large cavern works within its few elements: you first fight one double hammer. then, you fight a weapon master. after, two double hammers, and then two weapon masters. finally, a double hammer and a weapon master. to me, that’s a nice progression that operates on the level of, “you finished this, so let’s see if you can handle this,” rather than how the hardest thing in the nest of evil is the mid-fight with two frankensteins. there doesn’t seem to be much progression in portrait’s arena. the chinese vampire is lame, though, yeah. totally.

    i admit that i’m judging a lot of how ecclesia’s levels work based on hard mode. but, since it exists, i think it’s a relevant model to work off of. if you play hard mode, you see how enemies work within environments’ specifics moreso. so, i don’t see it being as simple as switching backgrounds to the castle. they’re pretty confident in what they are, too. portrait of ruin had its weird disjointed “events,” like the mine cart in the city, that only heightened your awareness of their contrived gimmickry. on the other hand, ecclesia’s mountains just stick to what they are and come across as more complete forms, even if they lack isolated, neon-highlighted “specialties” born out of a small group of people forcefully brainstorming in a gray room (“hey — how about we have the characters MOTORCYCLE (a.k.a. stand on top of independently driving ‘cycles) down a lane and they have to keep riding the motorcycles to crash through a wall and we’ll put this in the CLOCK TOWER!!!”). just having those crows swoop down from the trees on hard mode was more engaging than anything i found in portrait’s paintings, its hard mode included. and, though we’re speaking more of level design, i think the actual settings ecclesia brought to the table were a lot more exciting than portrait’s.

  10. Buh? We must have different definitions of “new” here. Certainly all of the Nest of Evil bosses and at least a handful of the regular enemies were new in the sense of “they do not appear elsewhere in this game.” I remember this distinctly because I was obsessively trying to get every drop and found it extremely irritating that I had to go through some of the sections again and again and again for that purpose. If we’re talking about “new to the Castlevania series,” I am perhaps not enough of a fan to speak to that. But I don’t think it’s something worth complaining about.

    I’m not sure about those double hammer/weapon master combos, given that the most effective strategy is “fly back and forth above them, occasionally zeroing in for a hit.” It got kind of tedious, I felt

  11. “new” might be a wobbly term when you apply it to castlevania. might be. to clarify, i’m saying everything was lifted from a previous game (or from enemies already within). and, i mean, if the skeleton sprite didn’t appear in portrait until the nest of evil, would it still be “new”? that thing’s from the early nineties. how much are you willing to excuse self-cannibalization? from my point of view, it’s not that much of a fan thing, as castlevania itself is about the art/monsters/world, regardless of your involvement. anyone could play these games and get the fundamental emphases. sprite-ripping, then, is a negative. the nest’s bosses weren’t even from an old game — they were taken from the last game. not altered in the least. their designs have such presence, i can’t imagine someone fighting them and being a little confused as to why they’ve been put in some faceless, optional maze.
    (p.s.: the most “effective” strategy for fighting the hammer/master combos is using the speed-up glyph)

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