DISCLAIMER: THE IMAGES I USED IN THIS POST, I GOT FROM GOOGLE SEARCH ENGINE. I DO NOT OWN THESE IMAGES.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is one of the more popular metroid-vania games for the DS. This game has a unique game-play mechanic, a great sound track and cool level designs. However there are a few flaws here are and there.
The main flaw I noticed was the lack of proper balance in the core game mechanics. What do I mean by this? Well, you play the game as Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin. Instead of selecting who you'll play as you play as both. You can switch the character you control anytime during your play-through. You can also fight alone or as a team depending on whatever suits you. This is a cool concept. Jonathan is physically stronger and is able to use weapons and sub-weapons of all kinds. He is weak to magic. On the other hand, Charlotte is strong against magic and weak against weapons. She attacks with powerful spells and weak books.
In this way, they work together to compensate for their personal weaknesses. It sounds perfectly balanced in theory right? But the problem becomes clear if you personally prefer spells over blades. See, I like using spells and when I got the first spell for Charlotte, I started using her more than Jonathan. This caused Jonathan to not master sub-weapons (They get stronger the more they are used). At first, this didn't cause any problem. I got used to how Charlotte is handled. But near the end of the game, it becomes insanely difficult for those who like to use magic. Jonathan becomes more agile with abilities like the Griffon wing skill while Charlotte still remains sluggish. This is a huge problem as many of the attacks the later bosses use are really hard to dodge as Charlotte.
And to add insult to injury, you're in for hard times if you haven't mastered the sub-weapons yet. The simplest way to beat Brauner, Dracula and True Dracula is to use Jonathan's Vampire Killer. Non-mastered sub-weapons are next to useless against these guys. If you plan to use Charlotte, you should either grind to insane levels or just give up because at levels 35-40, her spells will damage the bosses as much as throwing pillows at them will. For me, this caused a world of pain. I wasn't used to Jonathan and it took me an extra 2 hours just to get used to him.
You can't just rush in and hope to win either. Dracula's attacks are easy enough to dodge but will wreck you if they hit. To make matters worse, Dracula will launch a powerful attack that is likely to kill you when he's low on HP. And yes, this attack is very hard to dodge as well. But True Dracula's attacks are the hardest to doge of any boss. Granted, he IS the final boss after all. But if you're like me, you'll be button mashing like crazy and will keep hoping you can beat this guy.
As for the levels themselves, they aren't too difficult and are really nice to look at. But later levels like the Forgotten City and Burnt Paradise seem a tad recycled. The music is awesome through out the game.
The story isn't that great. But hey, who plays Castlevania for the story? It seems they focused all their writing on developing Jonathan's character and the history of the Lecarde family. Sadly, they left no character development for Charlotte, Vincent or Brauner. Also, this game has 2 endings. They are mostly the same only with a few differences here and there. But the bad ending is a bit... funky. See, the bad ending of most games make you want to see the good ending. You want to see the characters prosper. You want to know what happened next. Here, you just feel a bit empty and unsatisfied. It didn't make me want to unlock the good ending. All it did was make me feel a bit annoyed and got me to accept that ending and stop playing the game. Bad endings aren't supposed to make the player accept it and stop playing (at least, I don't think so).
Overall Portrait of Ruin isn't a bad game by any means. Hell, it's a pretty good Castlevania game. But I personally liked Order of Ecclesia and Circle of the Moon more.
I rate this game: 60/100
Thanks for reading!
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