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Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (NDS)

Akumajou Dracula: Gallery of Labyrinth NDS
Genre: Action
Perspective: Side view
Visual: 2D scrolling
Gameplay: Metroidvania, Platform, Puzzle elements
Setting: Europe, Fantasy
Narrative: Horror
Published by: Konami Digital Entertainment
Developed by: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Released: 2006
Platform: Nintendo DS (NDS)

After the dizzying success of Dawn of Sorrow, Konami was simply obligated to release another Castlevania on DS. And now, after almost a year, Portrait of Ruin came out. What new could developers bring to the time-tested formula of the new school? Let's get it right.

But for starters, it would not hurt to say a few words about the plot of the game. All events unfold in 1944, and this means not only the Second World War, but also a connection with Castlevania: Bloodlines. And therefore, the main role in the game is assigned to the son of John Morris - Jonathan. World War II plunged the world into chaos and took the lives of millions. Having absorbed many wandering souls, the legendary castle of Dracula again materialized. And since Belmont blood was flowing in Jonathan's veins, he sensed this and hurried to Romania in the hope of preventing the resurrection of the Lord of Darkness. To help him in this difficult matter, his childhood friend Charlotte Olin volunteered with powerful magical abilities.

Actually from this the game begins. The first and most important difference between PoR and its predecessors is that you have to play two characters simultaneously. This is partly reminiscent of the Doius Julius Mode. Using the X button, you instantly switch to another character, and using the A button calls your partner for help, that is, Jonathan and Charlotte appear on the screen immediately. One of them is controlled by you, and the other by a computer. Artificial intelligence does not cause any complaints, although in battles it behaves somewhat passively and most often the partner has to be removed. The HP and MP scale is common, if the character for whom the computer is playing is damaged, a certain amount of MP is taken from you. You will have to change characters quite often, because Jonathan specializes in physical and Charlotte in magical attacks. And many enemies are sensitive only to a certain type of attack.

In addition, Jonathan can enjoy numerous specials. weapons. However, it does not fall out of candles, as in the good old days, but it will have to be knocked out of enemies or found in tricky places. It is implemented as an object - it can be stored, and must be equipped before use. Moreover, special. weapons can be pumped. For killing enemies in addition to EXP is given SP. These SPs are also needed to strengthen specials. weapons. The final stage of pumping is called Master. When you gain the necessary amount of SP for "skill", the special weapon will change the appearance, and the effectiveness of attacks will significantly increase. Charlotte uses magic instead, she also needs to be knocked out or found. Moreover, spells are not cast instantly. As soon as you press Up + Y, a scale appears, when it is full, you can cast a spell, and if you hold the buttons, the scale will flash and the magic will become much more effective.

When you run together, using the R button, you can order the partner to use specials. weapons or use magic. There are also joint spells performed by Up + X combination, they are very powerful, but consume a lot of MP. There are about ten such combos and they are all scattered around locations. The study of the castle also underwent some changes, due to the fact that there are two characters. Of course, the puzzles in which both heroes are involved are fewer than we would like, but, nevertheless, they exist and bring a significant variety to the gameplay. For example, some plates can only be moved together, some levers need to be pressed simultaneously, etc. The TALK option has appeared in the menu, which allows the characters to talk to each other, thereby giving various useful tips.

Despite the fact that the characters have the same HP and MP, the equipment and statuses are different. Charlotte has not too many weapons, she uses magic books as such. But Jonathan is much better at that. Due to certain circumstances, his father did not teach him how to use Vampire Killer. Therefore, Jonathan will have to do it himself, but until then there is a bunch of other weapons: swords, axes, spears, etc. etc. There is even such an interesting weapon as Nebula - a long holy chain, which itself is aimed at the enemies.

The next innovation is the design of the castle. It itself is not too big, however, in some rooms you will find paintings that can be teleported to, thereby opening up new large locations. There are nine such paintings, each with its own theme: London foggy streets, Egyptian pyramids, the academy of black magic, a ghostly forest, etc. All of them seem to immerse you in a certain world with your boss. Bosses also match the locations: the headless knight, the mummy, Frankenstein, the werewolf, etc. Each location is teeming not only with enemies, but also with all kinds of traps, such as falling spikes or huge stone balls. Some paintings are very original. For example, Nation of Fools. Made in the style of the infernal circus, it makes one wonder at the design of the rooms: the walls turn out to be the ceiling, and the floor that you walk along the wall. The percentage of the game grew to 1000% - 100 per location.

It should be noted such an interesting thing as subquests. When you meet a ghost named Wind, you can contract him with a lot of tasks, the complexity of which varies from "buy a couple of tinctures in the next room" to "kill a powerful boss with the weakest weapon." For their implementation, the Wind will reward with new weapons and abilities.

In PoR, there is also some similarity to the Battle Arena from Circle of the Moon. Pass it, of course, much easier, but, nevertheless, there is something to pump. The difficulty in the game, by the way, cannot be called low. Saves are scattered at a decent distance, traps and some enemies take off almost half of their lives per hit, and tinctures are quite expensive and there are a lot of them. Boss battles are not easy either. Everyone needs to choose their own weapons and tactics. Moreover, bosses also have their trump cards. For example, the Egyptian priestess Astarte can lure Jonathan to her side, Death - chained one character, and the Keremet slug must be beaten together.

After the first passage of the Portrait, the player can try his hand at one of the options for hard modes, which, unlike other 2D games in the SotN-style, make the game very difficult. At your discretion, there are three options in order of increasing complexity: Hard mode lv.50, Hard mode lv.25, Hard mode lv. 1. In the first case, in addition to the traditional complication of the game by strengthening monsters and weakening heroes, after the 50th level the character is no longer pumped. In the second case, respectively, heroes can only swing up to level 25. The third case means that pumping during the game does not go at all.

The graphics are about the same as in DoS. Enemies, as always, are many, most of us are familiar with SotN, Rondo of Blood and DoS. But new original ones appeared: a sniper with a laser sight, an invisible man, a nurse with a poisonous syringe; a hive teeming with hefty hornets, etc. Music is at a decent level. The soundtrack for the game was written by two legendary composers: Michiru Yamane and Yuzo Koshiro. Each melody corresponds to a location. There are bright, catchy compositions, for example, Jail of Jewels, The Gears Go Awry, Invitation of a Crazed Moon, etc. There are also old tunes from Bloodlines, Rondo of Blood and Haunted Castle. About voice acting: the localizers decided this time to translate all the screams and replicas. Good or bad for them, it turned out, let everyone decide for himself, but many thanks to them that they retained the opportunity to switch to the original Japanese voice acting. True, this opportunity is more like a secret one. To do this, press L + A on the title screen - Jonathan will say "Show time!".

According to the old tradition, after watching the final credits, the game does not end. Bonus modes such as Hard Mode, Richter Mode (playing for Richter and Maria from Rondo) and Sisters Mode will open for you. The latter is worth a little more detail. As you probably know in DS, the bottom screen is touch sensitive. In the main game, this function is practically not used, but in this mode it is fully used. You play the role of vampire sisters, and you need to control them with your left hand using the D-pad, and with your right hand with the stylus, you attack enemies, drawing a swipe of the sword on the screen. A very interesting find that allows you to explore the castle with new interest. To whom this is not enough - the opportunity to run Old Ax Armor'om (the armor in which Alucard in SotN changed clothes) is given. And, of course, no one canceled the Boss Rush Mode and sharing things via Wi-Fi.

Summing up, I must say that the game may cause a little less vivid emotions than DoS (whatever one may say, the beaten track remains the same). But thanks to innovations in gameplay, a lot of bonuses and a quality approach to creating a game, PoR can be considered if not a masterpiece, then a very good game in the series.