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First Impression: Castlavania – Portrait Of Ruin (DS) ~ No Stars For Mario

castlevania portrait of ruin

Wikipedia entry

Back in the day, when I just got the Nintendo DS, I decided that I wanted to try out a horror game. Castlevania was one of the only horror game series I knew about so when I saw this game on the shelves, I decided that I had to have it. Now, I have never really beaten this game, but recently I returned to it. I wanted to beat this game. Now, did I just want to relive a nostalgic game or did I really want to beat this game since I was having so much fun? Let’s take a look at this game and give my opinion about it.

No Stars For Mario

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In this game you play as Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin. They are childhood friends who are going on a journey to protect mankind from evil. When an evil vampire artist revives Dracula’s Castle, the duo springs into action.

There is also an interesting twist in the story. Notice that I started explaining the story with the last names of the characters. Now, look to the cover-art and you might notice that Jonathan wields the legendary vampire-killing all evil defeating, Master Sword… whoops, wrong series. I mean, the Vampire Killer.

But Jonathan is part of the Morris family, the son of John Morris from Castlevania: Bloodlines, and not a Belmot. So, he can’t fully use the abilities of the Vampire Killer.

Now, the story looks like your generic Castlevania story at first, but the more you go into it, the more complex it gets. Most of the story is told through in-engine cut scenes and dialogue boxes. The “voice acting” in the game are various grunts and sounds to give the story more “umph”. There are spoken lines in the game, but those are mostly sound effects or lines spoken by enemies during combat.

I actually don’t mind that the story isn’t voice-acted. The only thing I really miss is a sort of log. To keep track of what story elements happened. Since, when you pick this game up after a few months and don’t remember where you left off; well, you are going to have to spend a time to find out where you need to go.

Which is, on the other hand, not such a bad thing. The difficulty in this game is pretty high for people who aren’t used to this style of gameplay. So, exploring the castle is a great idea to level up Jonathan and Charlotte.

I find the story really interesting and it actually motivates me to try to beat every monster that comes my way. If you decide to play this game, I really advise you to put a lot of time into exploring and learning how each and every enemy works. Also, there is no shame in avoiding enemies, but do know; if you do that, you will have a lot of trouble with bosses.

So, I’ll go more in-depth about the bosses in a moment. But first, I want to talk about paintings. Since, the main antagonist is an evil vampire painter, you discover various paintings in the castle. These transport you to various locations where you can advance the story. There are no “missions” like Super Mario 64. When I played this game back when it was released, I was convinced that there was an easter egg where you could jump into a painting and come out in a sort of corrupted version of Princess Peach’s castle. Yeah, my childhood imagination is interesting to say the least.

“Charlotte” – “Jonathan”

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If you can’t tell from the screenshots, the game looks amazing. To this day, I find this game one of the best looking action/adventure games on the DS. The details in the background are what I find the most impressive in this game. The world really feels alive.

I find this game not that scary. There is a lot of gothic and mythic imagery, but the game doesn’t get under my skin. At the other hand, I wouldn’t give this game to younger kids. There are some bosses that can cause nightmare fuel to young minds.

Like the boss in Land of the Fools. I won’t spoil it, but I can see how this can become nightmare fuel. If you can stomach basic horror elements, you will be fine.

The atmosphere in this game is just amazing. I really like how all bosses are based on real life myths and various enemies have an interesting spin on them. Together with really nice looking animations and a rarely a dip in frame-rate, you can’t complain.

Personally, I like to have the map on one of the screens. The map is extremely handy to have. The blue squares are teleports, the red squares are save points and the yellow square are paintings or locations of extreme interest. The only thing I really miss is that you are unable to place any notes on the map. A feature where you were able to pin locations like in The Legend of Zelda – Link Between Worlds would be been such a blessing. Since some area’s contain loot that you can only access with a certain ability, and marking them would be a great way to support your mind.

Speaking off abilities, some require you to control both characters. With just a press of the button, you can switch between the two. When you are playing as Jonathan, you switch to Charlotte and vice versa. Now, for some reason I find it pretty enjoyable to switch between both characters. They shout each others names each and every time. I’m sometimes easily amused.

You can also have both characters on-screen. The AI to control the other character is decent, but sometimes makes some pretty questionable decisions. You can also use a support ability to avoid more damage. While this sounds overpowered, know that the damage to the 2nd character also counts! So, yeah. Be careful with that.

The castle and such

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If you have played games like Monster Tale and Metroid, you know what you are getting into. This adventure isn’t that long, it can be beaten in an afternoon if you really know what you are doing. Yet, I’m not that good with the combat, so I think it will take a bit longer.

Currently, I think I’m halfway done with the game. I have died quite a lot in this game, but each time I’m making a bit more progress. The biggest flaw in this game is how slow you go from the game over screen back into gameplay.

You get a “Game Over” screen with a barely readable font, that slowly fades into the main menu. Speaking about the main menu, you might find some interesting features there. The only thing I’ll say is that there is a boss rush mode that might help you in the main story line.

The music in this game is really good. When I want to listen to Castlevania music, I always listen to the soundtrack of one of the DS games. I honestly can’t pick my favorite but, all three are my favorite Castlevania soundtracks. Together with the sound design, this game is a joy to the ears. Playing this game without sound takes a lot of the atmosphere away.

Yet, there are a few things that aren’t that good in this game. First of all, you can only attack sideways. You don’t have an attack to hit smaller enemies easily. Unless, you use a weapon like a mace. You can’t attack on top of you either. This caused a lot of unneeded damage.

Actually, that isn’t really a flaw in a way. It’s choosing the right weapon for the job. Now, if only you could swap between weapons a bit more easy, this wouldn’t be such a big problem.

There are a lot of neat touches I really enjoy. The fact you can an opening and closing sound-effect when you open or close the DS is one of them. Another one of them is, how the interface changes to blue when you are equipping items and armor to Charlotte and to pink for Jonathan.

All-in-all, this game is really solid. If you are looking for a challenging Action/Adventure RPG on the go, I can’t recommend this game enough. I’m glad that I picked up this game again since with the skills I have now, I’m able to beat parts that I had a lot of trouble with as a child. This game is a blast to play, but can be very frustrating too when you die over and over again.

Before I close off, I hope one thing. If you are interested in this game; don’t let the publisher’s name scare you away. This has been published when Konami’s reputation was a bit better.

That’s everything I wanted to say about the game for now. I’ll go a bit more in-depth about the other aspects when I review this game. But, the review will only happen if I beat this game one day.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

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My top 25 DS games of all time. (Part 3/3)

25 – 2019 – 10

Welcome to part 3!

#9:  Monster Tale

Monster_Tale_CoverartI didn’t know what this game was going to be about. I just bought it blindly. The cover was interesting enough to me to actually buy it. But was I taken by surprise. This game is all levels of awesome.

This game is a more kid-friendly version of the Castlevania series. The gameplay is nearly exactly the same. The only difference is that you have a pet monster that follows you. That monster, well, you need it to solve the various puzzles.

Something I’m really thankful for is that in this game you have an pointer to where you should go. But the game won’t punish you for trying to explore beyond the path you are supposed to go. Since you can find toys to train your monster.

There are various different forms of the monster which makes it pretty replayable. Now that I’m writing about this game, I feel like replaying it really soon. The memories are pretty great.

And also, the soundtrack is so good that it’s even on my SD for my mobile phone. I really enjoy listing to it. But a more in-depth look shall be for another time. In conclusion: this game comes highly recommend.

#8: Layton series – Favorite: Unwound Future

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I simply can’t believe what LEVEL-5 has done with this series. They combined two of my favorite genres and made an awesome game series out of it. Professor Layton is an amazing series of puzzle and visual novel adventure games.

I love how there is always a debate on forums between fans of the Ace Attorney series and the Layton fans, since they are kind of similar. You play a detective by solving puzzles.

There are 6 games now in the series, 4 on the Nintendo DS. Out of them, my favorite is Unwound Future. The story is just the best out of the series. I think it’s one of the best. It’s the one I remember the most.

You can really see the evolution the series goes through. That’s why I advice people who want to play through this series to start with the first game. Because if you play the newer games first, you will get annoyed by some missing features like a notepad.

I still have to beat the last 3DS entry in the series, so I’m pretty curious how the series ends. But secretly I’m hoping that they continue the series with a new trilogy. Come on LEVEL-5, go for it!

#7: Castlevania series (Best: Portrait Of Ruin)

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It will be a sin talking about Castlevania earlier in this list and not giving the series a well deserved spot in my top 25 list. Because these games have a lot of memories to me.

I started playing Portrait Of Ruin before I discovered Monster Tale. I was hooked in a matter of minutes. I loved the Metroidvania gameplay. Exploring a vast “open” world in a setting where mythological creatures are your enemies…

These games use enemies from mythologies and myths. Long time readers know this about me, I didn’t start as a game reviewer, I started as a hobby writer. Seeing stories used so powerful always puts a smile on my face. This is the best game when it comes to vampires.

I do warn you guys, this game can be quite hard. But the people who love to grind, this game won’t be a big letdown, because with a lot of grinding you will be able to finish these games without a lot of problems. But I’m not somebody who likes to grind. So, the challenge in this game is quite high for me. Even more enjoyable. Since the game’s controls are near pitch perfect!

#6: Pokémon series (Best: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers of the Sky)

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This game got me to cry. Yes, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon hits my emotional spot each and every time. They are even continuing it on the 3DS. With some cuts and adds though.

The Pokémon series are one of the earliest gaming memories I have. Looking back, my mind is blown, how that as a young child, I was able to understand and (almost) beat a RPG. One with some depth.

On the surface, Pokémon looks to be made for children, but in reality, it can be quite deep and enjoyable to play.  I’m still working on beating the Black & White games, I’m currently about midway in Pokémon Black 2. But I think I might restart with the white version. Or delete my save file. The reason why, well, I lost my notes and I wanted to write an article about it.

Or I might not delete my save file and enjoy the game. Since it was also one of the first games I played on my Nintendo DS. Yeah. Memories.

#5:  Okamiden

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So, I have written a first impression of the Wii game in the series, Okami. Wouldn’t it be a shame if one then didn’t like the DS version?

The DS version blew me off my socks in how it was able to port parts of a Wii game to the portable market. (No need for a new 3DS, more ranting on that … later this month)

This game takes place a few years after Okami ended. Now you play the son of the great Japanase sun god. The humor in this game is just excellent.

Best of all, you have more then one partner! Each partner has their own personality and character trades, which makes the game diverse and fun to play.

It was even able to touch me on an emotional level with it’s ending. Not all games can achieve that.

#4: Suikoden Tierkreis

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First Impression

If you are able to ignore the sometimes bad voice acting of this game, you get an amazing deep story of a group of teenagers fighting against a civilization that believes that the future is already known.

This RPG, I played it more then once. It might be a bit outdated by today’s standards, but it’s still amazingly fun. It even got me into the Suikoden series. I must play Suikoden II. I have heard so much about it.

A little fun fact, I nearly write the title wrong every time. I switch the “k” and the “d” so often. Before I published this article, I double checked if I didn’t make that mistake.

So, read my first impression if you want to know what I recommend this game. That will avoid me having to write an extremely long explanation in this article. Check it out, but forgive the voice acting. It isn’t all that good. It truly brings the game down.

#3: Ace Attorney series

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney review – First Impression: Ace Attorney – Miles Edgeworth – Investigations 2 (Fan Translation)

What can I say about this series? It moved me various times and I’m one big Ace Attorney fan. I even took a look to two 3DS titles. If it wasn’t clear already, look at how high on the list I place this series.

This game made me love visual novels. It was one of my first visual novels I ever played. As you might know, I started as a story writer. Seeing how strong stories can be in games, well… yeah… I have a hard time explaining this but I could feel the passion the writers have put into this series. You can feel those kind of things as a writer.

For every announcement of a new Ace Attorney game, I get quite hyped. I’m even going so far as playing a fan translation of a game that isn’t released in the west. Maybe I should write articles about the other games in the series in the future, maybe that might show my love more clear.

#2: 999: 9 Persons 9 Hours 9 Doors

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So, why is this game so high on my list? If you read my review and saw the score I gave to it, I don’t have to explain myself any further.

In the previous entry I explained how Ace Attorney pulled me into the visual novel adventure genre. Everything that Ace Attorney did right and presented with a more humorous tone, 999 did with it’s grim yet enjoyable tone.

This game isn’t for the faint of hart. And I really mean what I say here. If you have a vivid imagination, this game might even scare you. It’s that well written.

I totally disagree with some complaints, that this game is too repetitive. To me, it’s not. But I can see where they are coming from.

I enjoyed this game so much, I even bought it on a trip to the USA. It never came to Europe. Yeah.

Honorable mentions

Before we take a look to number one, I must have my honorable mentions. A few slipped already into the article but I want to list the other games that didn’t make the list but where great to play through as well. Maybe in the future or if I ever do a (3)DS month again, you might see these games in articles. And various games, well, it was hard to leave them out. But I had to drop games.

Kirby games, Soul Bubbles, Bookworm, Giana Sisters, Lost In Blue series, Henry Hatsworth and the puzzling adventure, Dragon Quest 9, Super Monkey Ball, The Settlers, Age Of Mythology DS, Make 10, Lego Battles, Magical StarSign, Elebits, Dream Chronicles DS (PC version let’s play) and Contact.

It was pretty though ordering the top ten. But I think it’s quite clear which game series is going to be number one. So, yeah. Here we go I guess.

#1: Zelda series (Favorite: Phantom Hourglass)

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The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks review

So, who hasn’t seen this one…. miles coming? Yeah! The first game I played on the DS when I got it… It just stuck with me the most. If you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about, read my article about gaming nostalgia: my history of the DS and 3DS handhelds.

Oh, for this entry I also count the fun spin-off: Tingle – Rosy Rupeeland. That game is quite interesting. It’s like trying to play as Tingle.

But back to the subject, I was already a big Zelda fan before I bought the DS. My love only grew thanks to these games. It’s a shame that I haven’t written an article about Phantom Hourglass, but don’t you worry, it will be written eventually. Be warned, it will be filled with nostalgia.

I would like to know what your favorite Zelda game on the DS is. Since I’m sure that there will be debate over which game is the better game. Phantom Hourglass or Spirit Tracks. I’m really curious what you guys have to say. (Or girls for that matter)

Closing words

I hope that you guys enjoyed these 3 articles. I think it was an awesome way to close this month’s theme. So, if you aren’t following me on other social media, let me tell you here. I posted a whole list of articles I plan to do. I basically posted the possible scheduling for this year.

Anyways, enough about that. I’m not going to write a whole emotional part about how much I love the Nintendo DS. I think that’s clear enough. It’s my favorite handheld. Period. If you are able to look past the shovelware that some studios released, I think you can find a gem of a handheld.

But to further prove my point, read Lpgardian’s article why he thinks that the Nintendo DS is the best handheld. So, yeah. Feel free to leave a comment on this article what your best DS games are. And hopefully you guys can forgive me that I didn’t put big named games on this list.

So, I hope to see you soon. When my next article releases. Until then, take care!