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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 Belmont. 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 “oomph”. 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 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. On 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 a 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 rarely a dip in frame-rate, you can’t complain.

Personally, I like to have a 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 areas 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 other’s 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 the 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 storyline.

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 a 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 the 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 easier, 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.

First Impression: Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS) ~ Tactics Galore

PS_3DS_FireEmblemAwakening_enGBOfficial website

So, the start of 2016 brings a boatload of amazing new (3DS) titles. But one game got me addicted to my 3DS lately. It was that one game I wanted to try out but never gave a fair chance. I always thought that strategy games like these weren’t my thing. But why, does it bring me so much enjoyment? And is the game a guilty pleasure or something I could recommend to anybody. Well, it’s time to take a look at this game and what I think of it. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or of the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Tactical RPG

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After hearing so much other content creators (bloggers and YouTubers I watch) talk about this game, I decided to give it a chance. First, I played the demo, and almost right after finishing the demo, I bought the full game.

The first thing the game does right is the character creation. You decide how he or she looks and how his or her voice sounds. Finally, you can play a character that isn’t a silent one. A character that actually is a part of the story.

About the story, you can play this game in two different ways. Classic and normal mode. In classic mode, when a character dies, it’s gone for good. In normal mode, you can keep the character. It returns after the battle is over. This is something I really like. I’m not that good in tactical RPG’s. I’m afraid that one or two stupid mistakes might screw up my progress and put me in a battle I might never win. That’s why I love the normal mode so much. After I finish the game, I might give classic mode a try since I honestly feel that I’m missing the entire point of the series.

So, the story I have seen until now is quite decent. I finished the first part of the game and I’m having the impression that it’s structured in a sort of anime show format. Like each battle is a separate episode of an anime. And a good one at that. But where the story really shines is that you can influence parts of it, yourself! How you fight your battles will decide who marries who. Oh yeah, that’s a thing. Shipping is totally a thing in this game.

Different and unique

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So, thanks to the “shipping” mechanic, each playthrough of this game are pretty personal. I might pair up my characters differently than somebody else. But enough about that, let’s talk about the gameplay.

And in this game, it throws in so many options for you… I’m amazed at how accessible this game is. If you use only your powerful characters, you don’t level up your weaker but very useful characters. I’m now in a situation where I have to be very careful with my archers since I haven’t used them a lot. This makes me very weak against certain units and is my current weak point of my army.

In this game, you are the tactics master of the kingdom. So, you decide who runs where on the battlefield and when to attack or fall back. This game also works in turns. So, after you moved your character, it has moved. After you moved all your characters, your turn ends and your opponent’s turn starts.

Once your unit has moved, you can’t undo the move. I wish I could do that sometimes. But the game has a solution for that, it’s the dancer. They dance to motivate your warriors to give them one additional turn.

Explaining how this game works could take me a while. But compare the battle system a little bit to how the battle system in Pokémon or any turn based RPG works. Only two differences, your enemy attacks back when it can in YOUR turn and weapons can and do break after repeated use.

While I haven’t played many tactical RPG’s, I want to try out more. Thanks to this game. The gameplay is a lot of fun when you like planning ahead but sometimes changing your strategy to get out of dangerous situations. If you like to play games like Age Of Empires or Advanced Wars, this is game for you.

The Fire Emblem

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So, there are still a few things I want to talk about. First of all, the voice acting is something I have a love-hate relationship with. It’s extremely well done but it falls short sometimes.

When a cutscene plays, only some of lines are spoken. And sometimes, a random line is said to give the emotion more meaning. This can be distracting for some people when the voice acting is saying something completely different than the lines on the screen. While it annoys me here and there, I don’t mind it that much personally.

Visually, this game looks amazing. Graphically this game is really nice done. A good example is that the character portraits change depending on how they are doing in battle. Or better said, how much health they still have left.

But what I love the most about the visual presentation is how the game is animated. When your characters level up, they do different moves. It’s something I can’t explain and you should see for yourself to understand. It really helps to immerse me into the game.

The sound design and music is something… well… It’s one of the best soundtracks I have heard in quite a while. I actually want to buy the soundtrack to add to my collection. I like it that much. It really helps to set the mood.

I think I’m going to wrap up my first impression here. While I have some minor issues with the menu design, they are really nitpicky. In any case, I feel that I can fully recommend this game to any person who likes to play strategy games, RTS, Tactical RPG’s… This game is something I wish I tried sooner. Since it’s a series I’m becoming a fan of.