Originally posted on www.defaultprime.com
The Castlevania Series didn’t make a smooth transition from 2D to 3D, Castlevania 64, Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness, while not bad titles, haven’t reached the level of their two dimensional counterparts. Instead of trying the same thing over and over again, Konami decided to take a different path. Castlevania Judgment is more along the lines of a one on one open ended arena fighter with various in stage hazards and items to use similar to the original Power Stone. It’s no secret that before its release Castlevania Judgment was looking to be a flawed title, Konami even gave permission to employees to remove people from the booth at E3 if they were making fun of the title while playing it. Can Castlevania Judgment waggle its way into your heart, or will you be stabbing it with a stake?
The first thing you should do when powering on Judgment is plug in a Gamecube Controller or classic controller. The Wiimotes motion contorls amount to waggle replacing the press of a button. Waggle acts as attack and you can change your attacks by pressing a direction on the analog stick or by holding down another button while attacking. Waggle controls just tire you out and theres no difference in which direction you swing the wiimote, as long as its moving. The Effects of the Wiimote and Nun-chuck set up can be felt in the traditional controls as well though. Instead of like a normal fighter, Judgment has this weird button combination system, where you hold down L and A in combination with the attack command for different attacks. While its not necessarily bad, it just feels unnatural and because of the limited buttons on the Wiimote and nun chuck it limits the variety in attacks.
Judgment, much like many other franchise fighting games spin offs, takes characters from multiple entries in the franchise and shoves them into a some strange event that allows them all to fight each other. In Judgment’s case, the story deals with a time rift, pulling heroes and villains from the Castlevania universe from different points in time. Fan favorites like Simon Belmont, Alucard and Dracula appear, while some other lesser known characters like Cornell and Eric Lenarde appear along with one new comer, Aeon a time traveler. Many of the charters come from Pre-Symphony of the Night games so those who are familiar with the older entries may find the character roster more appealing then those new to the series. The roster totals up to fourteen characters. Each of their stories are driven by them trying to obtain what they desire most by passing a series of trials. These trials are for the most part just fighting other characters whether it be friend or foe. Some of the cut scenes can have interesting conversations, but most of them are just references to things that happened in the past titles.
Judgments character roster isn’t just filled with a bunch of clones. While some characters may use similar weapons, all of them feel unique for the most part. Dracula is a slow moving power house who uses deadly magic attacks, while Grant Danasty is speedy and chips away at opponents health and Simon Belmont a great all around fighter. If built like a normal fighter, Judgment may have been able to fend for itself in the fighting genre, but being built around the Wii Remotes limitations limits the command list to only a few attacks, and the attacks barely differentiate between each other. Visually its somewhat different such as swinging the sword left instead of right but they all feel like the same move. When hitting a foe they seem to float a little, and if you don’t continue to hit them with the preset attack sequence then they usually just fall to the ground. This kills off the potential for combos. You can make some basic combos, but they feel short and won’t satisfy fans of the genre. The addition of item like holy water and crosses can help you juggle a person in the air, usually its not worth of the effort trying to break open boxes on the stage in order to get hearts to power these items. The targeting system has a difficult time telling what you are trying to aim at, which can leave you open to enemy attacks just because it thinks you are trying to turn around and attack a foe when they are out of range rather then trying to destroy a object.
As you fight you build up a special meter, once its full you can perform a special move. These moves can be blocked or evaded, but if it hits it takes almost half the players health. Which is great for trying to make a come back, but the bar fills up way too fast, letting you unleash multiple in one round. It wouldn’t be too much of a problem if they were hard to pull off but its as simple as the press of a single button, making timing the only difficulty to pulling it off. When landed there is a long cut scene specific for each character, theres nothing to do during these special moves so you can only sit and stare at the screen. Their fun to watch the first few times but after awhile it interrupts the flow of combat.
Aside from fighting other characters there are fights against monsters like zombies, fish men, giant golems and minotaurs who use simple move sets to attack you with and usually there are multiple foes attacking at once. While its a nice change of pace, the lack of enemy types make the fights repetitive. These monsters can also appear in normal stages as stage hazards. The same lock on problem applies to the monsters though, making it difficult to choose your target. Special moves don’t work on these creatures oddly enough, despite some of them being humanoid figures.
Judgment has a decent amount of modes to select from, but very few really add to the game. Story mode makes you fight through a series of battles till you reach a boss fight. Arcade Mode, Survival and Vs. modes are exactly what you would expect them to be. Castle mode lets you go through a series of rooms and complete challenges under certain circumstances to earn different clothing items to equip on characters. Last but not least theres a on-line multi player mode. It doesn’t seem like many people are actually playing though, taking up to fifteen minutes or longer to get a opponent at times, so if you want to play a match on-line, prepare to trade some friend codes.
Those who keep up with the Castlevania series will probably already know that for quite some time, Konami has been playing around with different art styles for each game, and Judgment is no different. The artist for the popular series Death Note redesigned all the characters in the series for the game, giving them all their own unique look. Fans will probably be upset with how their characters look and are represented mainly because they look almost nothing like their original design. On the plus side though the art style translates well into the games 3D character models. Animations are fluid but during the cut scenes characters stand awkwardly still while talking. While the special attacks get in the way during game play they look great and feel strong for the most part. Voice acting is well done and theres quite a bit more here then your typical fighting game. Characters will address specific people during special moves and in the short cut scenes before and after the battle. The soundtrack features remixes of past Castlevania music and as with every Castlevania title the music is superb.
Judgement falls in a weird place. Its not exactly a bad game, it just isn’t that fun or suited for competitive play. Theres a large variety of characters but they all feel limited by a very simple move set and while chaining attacks is possible, its like the game discourages you from doing them. The waggle controls are just terrible, and the Gamecube and classic controller work but have a very strange button lay out. On the bright side the graphics hold up even today despite being a 2008 title. There are much better titles in this genre you can get on the market right now and with the upcoming Tatsunoko vs Capcom you may want to hold off on purchasing a fighter. Unless you are in some desperate need for Castlevania fan service, it would be ideal to skip over this title.