Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin is the sequel to Castlevaina: Bloodlines for the DS. It is set during WW2 and introduces vampire hunter Jonathan Morris, a descendant of Trevor Morris and Charlotte Aluin who were also famed vampire hunters. Jonathan is in possession of the vampire killer whip used by his relatives in there centuries old battle against Dracula. Charlotte Aluin is a witch raised by church. She is connected to the Belnades clan which would mean she’s somehow related to Yoko from the Dawn Of Sorrow line of Castlevania. Dracula’s castle returns and now a vampire Brauner, plans on resurrecting Dracula and it’s up to Jonathan and Charlotte to stop Brauner and Dracula.
In this game, you not only explore Dracula’s castle but also portraits of different realms created by the main villain Brauner. He hates humanity because his real daughters were killed during World War I. Each painting has its own unique style such as one place using aesthetics of London. Brauner is named after real life painter Victor Brauner. Brauner creates paintings by using the souls of everyone who has died from WW 2 from the holocaust, the Allied and the Axis forces. Brauner is able to construct paintings containing pocket dimensions in order to harness the castle's power. He is joined by twin vampire sisters Stella and Loretta. Although the two are vampires, they are actually Eric Lecarde's daughters who were turned into vampires by Brauner, who they believe is their father.
The gameplay uses the same kind of style seen in Symphony Of The Night and elements from Dawn Of Sorrow. You are going to have to backtrack a lot, defeat bosses in order to gain special abilities to access new areas of the castle. The control system was very easy and comfortable to use. The series habit of pushing you back every time you take a hit unfortunately makes a return. The touchscreen implementation is much improved. The menu screen in the game is easy to understand but still as in depth like in dawn of sorrow.
You can select to either Jonathan or Charlotte anytime as each has their own combat style. Charlotte relies on spells and Jonathan uses more traditional Castlevania combat style. They can combine both of their special abilities to deal devastating damage to enemies and this is known as Dual Crush, a feature that originated from Julius Belmont in Dawn Of Sorrow. Charlotte and Jonathan can speak to each other anytime you like in the menu screen for hints on how to progress through the castle.
As you progress throughout the game, a variety of powerful weapons becomes accessible. In one of the portrait realms, you can ride a motorcycle and you have to dodge obstacles in order to gain enough speed to crash through a wall. You can purchase items from Vincent, a priest and a ghost who goes by the name “Wind” who sells skills and equipment that belonged to him in life.
There are about 155 enemies in the game and you can check the bestiary anytime to get information about them. Like previous Castlevania games, Portrait of Ruin has various endings based on how much you explored.
Combat is made easier due to the JRPG elements as in Symphony Of The Night. Enemies you defeat drop items sometimes and also the chance to use their special abilities and you can choose which ones you like on and which ones you like off. The game is still as challenging as Symphony Of The Night.
The final boss fight with Dracula and Death at the same time was extreme. Both put up quite the fight and the final form as well will really put you on your toes.
For a 2006 DS game, the environments are very spacious even more so than in Dawn Of Sorrow. The anime art style from Dawn of Sorrow makes a return and the anime opening looks pretty good. It was done by KamikazeDouga which has also done animation work for JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure. The dialogue and the voice acting in the game are not really great in English. The original Japanese dialogue was included as an Easter Egg and this was from a time when when switching to either English dub or Japanese sub was seen in the anime dvds and is now the norm J-gaming. The audio quality for an early DS game is very solid and the musical score is outstanding. The audio tracks are also accessible via a "Sound Mode" that is unlocked by defeating Dracula. The player can also collect records of certain tracks that can be used to replace the game's default background music. The songs "Sandfall" and "In Search of the Secret Spell" that play in the Forgotten City level are originally from Konami's own King's Valley 2 released on the MSX2 computer.
There is a soft lock glitch after you fight the grim reaper. When you skip his cutscene, the entire game will be glitched so I recommend you avoid skipping that scene at all costs. Overall, Castlevania does a great job once again on the portable systems.
It gets 5 out of 5 stars.
The Castlevania games would have been perfect to remaster on the Switch but Konami clearly wants nothing to do with gaming anymore so it remains dormant. Time Hollow as well never is going to get a sequel.
If you enjoy Castlevania series, you would really enjoy this game