Castlevania is one of the golden trio of Konami titles that emerged from the halcyon days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. But along with Metal Gear and Contra, the series featuring the mortal Belmont family fighting the immortal Dracula has had an uneven track record.
Recent entries on console systems transformed Castlevania into a 3-D platform adventure, while the Game Boy versions have been more faithful to the classic game's original design.
Castlevania Judgment, the new Wii-only entry, is neither a 3-D action game nor side-scrolling adventure title. Instead, it takes the form of a fighting game, but it mostly disappoints.
It's not that the Castlevania characters wouldn't work in a fighting game; in fact, the series' androgynous heroes and dark anti-heroes do make interesting fighters.
But the fighting-game genre relies on quick responses and tight controls, and Judgment is difficult to play using the Wii's motion controls. Players will find themselves twisted into all sorts of odd contortions while trying to move and execute special attacks during a fight.
Luckily the Wii-centric controls are not the only option, which keeps Judgment from being a complete failure; players can also use the Wii Classic Controller or any Game Cube controller.
Once you find a control scheme you can use, the game does offer a number of visually interesting, free-roaming arenas. The cast of fighters is fairly large and features personalities from many Castlevania games.
Alucard, son of Dracula, and original whip-wielder Simon Belmont join with less-well-known characters like Grant Dynasty and Shanoa. Many of the favorites, however, have received odd visual makeovers, which keeps them from being instantly recognizable.
While it's nice to see a developer attempt to expand the sorts of game series that feature favorite characters, this title was a poor choice, and it's poorly executed for a classic franchise like Castlevania.
Ultimately, Castlevania Judgment is likely to please only fighting-game fans with no vested interest in the characters of the Castlevania series. Castlevania fans should probably just ignore the console entries and stick with the handheld games, which remain true to the series' roots and continue to entertain in a logical way.
System: Nintendo Wii
Players: 1 or 2
Rated: T for Teen
Who Should Buy It?: Whip-snappers and undead fanboys
GameOn! Grade: D
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