ESRB:T for Teen
In recent years, I've become a fairly big Castlevania fan. I've purchased every title for the past 4 years, and I've also gone back and played almost all of the previous titles. Castlevania has stepped out of its original 2D boundaries and joined the ranks of "2D games that have no right being in 3D," meaning that while they've tried several times, they haven't gotten it right. So it's quite a wonder why anybody would decide to make a fighting game with the Castlevania name.
Castlevania Judgment completely confuses me. Not the game itself, mind you, but the fact that it exists. Who exactly is the target audience, and why would they care? If it's fans of Castlevania, then they missed the mark, because fans just want more good side-scrolling action. If it's fans of fighting games, then they really picked the wrong series to attach itself to; and they also picked a bad time to release it, what with two Street Fighters, a Soul Calibur, and a Tekken all in the forefront of the media. I'm still surprised that Castlevania Judgment got the greenlight.
All that aside, how does it actually stack up? Well, that's going to depend on what you want to get out of this game. If you're looking for a new Castlevania game, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a great fighting game, you should also probably look elsewhere. The best and most basic way to get the big picture is that Castlevania Judgment is a Soul Calibur clone. Weapon-based combat? Check. 3D semi-free roaming battles? Check. Optional adventure mode that boils down to nothing more than random fights? Check. A horribly strung together storyline with cutscenes that don't really make sense? Check. I guess if you're going to copy, might as well do it shamelessly.
When I first started playing Castlevania Judgment, I absolutely hated it. There were two attacks, one was controlled by the A button, and the other was controlled by flicking the remote down. Two fights of that made me want to stop playing and to write the following review: "NO." After glancing at the back of the case, I discovered that the classic controller can be used in lieu of the wiimote/nunchuk combo. After plugging in the classic controller, something strange happened. I started having fun. I could actually understand the moves I was doing and I didn't feel like I was twitching every time I wanted to attack. It's not incredibly deep, and there are a few super-overpowered characters, but it definitely has the possibility to be "fun". Each character has normal attacks, unblockable attacks, and super attacks; fights consist of running around and hitting each other until you fill up the bar for your super attack, then using said super attack which causes anywhere from 40% to 80% damage. Yeah, they're pretty overpowered.
In addition to normal one player versus another fights, the game also uses some of its heritage in good ways. Intermixed with the normal fights are fights with groups of enemies from the Castlevania series. Sometimes you'll fight a bunch of zombies, sometimes they'll be mermen. After fighting and defeating all those enemies, the game then throws a large boss character towards you, either a minotaur or a golem. You'll spend the largest portion of your time with Castlevania Judgment in one of two modes, either Story mode or Castle mode. Story mode has 9 fights and follows a story that basically boils down to "a magic time loop appears and now everybody has to fight." It's not going to win any awards, that's for sure. Castle mode is similar to Soul Calibur's various adventure modes; you go from room to room battling enemies and making your character slightly stronger and battling slightly stronger enemies.
Even though Castlevania Judgment isn't a "true" Castlevania game, and even though it's not a really good fighting game, I had fun playing it, and that's all that matters. The game wasn't overly complex, it didn't anger me, and some of the super attacks looked really really cool. Plus, playing it allowed me to connect to the Nintendo DS Castlevania game, Order of Ecclesia and unlock extra goodies in both games.
One last thing; if you're a fan of Castlevania, I suggest checking out the comics located at The Official Castlevania Widget. Unlike most company-made comics, these ones are actually funny!
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