Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

Your return to Castlevania features a new set of worlds, but an old set of issues
SeriousGamer - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Combat against non-human and human-like enemies, blood spurts from player character and some enemies when struck, some enemies have gruesome deaths

Adult Content: Some enemies are immodestly dressed or nude but without detail, one boss is seductive in nature

Spiritual Content: Enemies and game world is supernatural in nature, fantasy magic is used by player, some sub-weapons are items like holy water and a cross

Mild Language: The words d**n and h**l are seen in dialogue

Oppressive Atmosphere:A few bosses are quite disturbing in appearance

When things start to go bump in the night, who do you call? When monsters roam the world and threaten mankind, who do you call? When a certain vampire rises from the depths of oblivion (again) and threatens to bring the world to ruin (again), who do you call? It better be the ones who own a certain whip. Did you expect to call the Ghostbusters?

Portrait of Ruin, like so many of the titles before it, brings you back into the dark halls of Dracula’s castle to combat the schemes of the evil vampire lord. Whether or not you want to stay there is up to you.CastlevaniaPoR_1

Plot

Time rolls on in the world of Castlevania. It’s now 1944, and World War II is ravaging Europe. With death and destruction abounding, an imposing castle, Castlevania, appears. This spells worse trouble for the world because when Castlevania appears, Dracula himself is not far away. Never fear, after all a member of the Belmont family should be around to send the count back into the darkness. They should be, but they aren’t. The Belmonts have disappeared, not that I really blame them.

Instead, the task of reducing Castlevania back to a heap of fallen rock falls right on the shoulders of a young man named Jonathan Morris, along with the Belmont family’s trademark whip, the Vampire Killer. Aiding our new hero is a girl named Charlotte Aulin, a young, book-smart mage. With Charlotte providing the brains and Jonathan providing the brawn, the two enter Castlevania to bring down both it and its master…who is not who you’re expecting.

In the place of Dracula, a rather artistic vampire named Brauner rises and takes control of Castlevania and its hordes of monsters. Brauner had decided that he will rule the world in the place of the former dark lord. Still, it’s two to one, so the odds are in favor of the heroes; or not because Brauner’s twin daughters enter the fray alongside their dear, old, undead dad. Now, our pair of heroes must fight against this trio of vampires by journeying  into…the world of art.

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Gameplay

Portrait of Ruin takes place in 2D, anime-style environment.  You control either Jonathan or Charlotte, but you can freely switch between the two. You can also call out your partner to help you fight the monsters lurking about Castlevania’s halls, or to help you solve the puzzles in your way.

Just like in other Castlevania games, you can get a wide variety of sub-weapons. If you’ve played the earlier games, you’ll know these are fueled by hearts. Not so this time around. You have a meter that tells you how many times you can use a subweapon. What’s nice is that it fills on its own. What’s also nice is that you and your partner can gain attacks that they use together, dealing out massive amounts of damage to those big, bad bosses.

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That’s not the only thing. You can also explore other worlds other than the run-down castle. In a move similar to Super Mario 64, you can explore worlds inside the paintings hanging around, ranging from the old time streets of Europe, the sandy ruins of Egypt, and a bizarre circus.

What hasn’t changed about this game is its difficulty. While it’s not as challenging as the old games, you’ll see the game over screen a lot. But did you expect any less from a Castlevania game?

Offensive Content

Violence

You fight a wide variety of monsters, some more human-like than others, with a wide range of weapons, not just your trusty whip. You can take them on with swords, spears, clubs, metal knuckles, or even just your bare fist. No matter what, the deaths are very much the same. Sometimes blood sprays from some enemies upon their defeat, and sometimes it sprays a lot. Some enemies also split in half and fall apart after being defeated. A bit of blood sprays from your character when hit.

You can run into a few secret bosses from Dawn of Sorrow that are pretty gruesome, such as Gergoth, a bloody T-Rex corpse with a bit of skin stretched over its bones, which some are exposed, and Balore, a cyclops with rotten flesh around its eye.  One enemy you encounter in this game has a bloody blade in its mouth that it tries to bring down on you.

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Speaking of blood, whenever you enter a new area for the first time, a red smear appears on the screen with the name of the world in it. This looks very much like blood. You’ll also see a bit of blood splattered on the walls of some areas.

The only non-bloody element, but still violent and disturbing, is the game over screen. It shows a skull biting down on a sword with a snake slithering through its empty eye sockets. Not bloody, but still it’s a disturbing image.

Spiritual Content

Vampires, and monsters, and magic painting, oh my. A lot of this is familiar territory to the world of Castlevania, except for the paintings.

Once again, your primary goal is to defeat vampires, and just like in the old games you do this with the old familiar whip that happens to be magic. Speaking of magic, Charlotte is a magic user and can learn a number of spells. Her magic ranges from Final Fantasy-like spells such as fireballs, blasts of wind, falling icicles, and blasts of light, to transformations into things like frogs and owls and summoning enemies to attack. The majority of these are optional, as is controlling Charlotte, however you will need one particular spell to complete the game.

A lot of your sub-weapons are spiritual in nature too, like holy water and cross that acts like a boomerang.

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The enemies are far more related to anything dark. While there are the usual zombies, skeletons, and walking suits of armor, there are other enemies like witches and devils among  the enemy ranks as well. Some bosses are quite horrifying in nature and in name as well.  And once again, in true Castlevania fashion, you meet up with Death personified at several points.

One seemingly mild bit compared to all the rest is that one character you meet is a ghost.

Oppressive atmosphere

A few bosses, while not bloody are very disturbing sights. One such boss, Legion, is encased in a shell of dead bodies. It could best be described as weird, although that does sugar-coat it a bit.

Sexual Content

A few enemies don’t wear much. One enemy is a woman fused onto a monster’s tail, and you can just see part of the female part’s bare backside. A few human-like enemies, while they are clad, show off legs, shoulders, arms, and I think a bit of cleavage as well. In comparison, that’s fairly tame. A couple of enemies don’t wear anything at all. One plant/woman hybird covers her breasts with her arms. The rest are entirely exposed, but lack any real detail. Even so, I don’t think that is necessary.

One early boss acts in a seductive manner. She wears little more than a bra and loincloth and speaks, “Come hither” when you face her. She also can seduce your character into fighting for her, if you’re controlling Jonathan.

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Language

The words d**n and h**l get tosses around in the dialogue once or twice.

Anti-Religious Themes

The only thing we see of the church in this game is a priest by the name of Vincent. He serves as the merchant for this game, selling you weapons and health restoring items. He acts pretty greedy sometimes too, and I’d say that paints a bit of an unfavorable light on the church.

Commendable Material

Believe it or not, there is some good in this title. Once again, it’s the case of good verses evil. You’re also encouraged to try and save a couple of characters, previously established as your enemies, from what they’ve become.

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Conclusion

I started my Castlevania collection with the first game for the Virtual Console. While it was impossibly hard, I liked it. There was little to be offended by and I rather liked the challenges the first time. The fifth time I was stuck in the same place, it got old, but still it wasn’t that bad.

I got Portrait of Ruin on a friend’s recommendation. I have to say I was pretty disappointed in it. There was just so much in it that they could have, and probably should have, done without. Do we really need to see enemies walking around in the nude? Not really. Do we really need to add to the already-murky spiritual waters? Hardly. Other than that, I think I was more disappointed with the large exploration feature. I liked Castlevania more when it was an old time, and old style, platforming game. If you want to get into the series, I’d recommend the harder games of yesteryear. They were harder, but they were also much cleaner.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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