Castlevania has a long history as a successful action adventure franchise, dating back to the glory days of the NES original. With over 22 years of heroes and villains to draw from, creating a fighting game based on the action-heavy universe isn't as far-fetched as it seems. We headed over to Konami's E3 2008 booth and got a brief play with the upcoming supernatural fighter.
While Konami has promised a lineup of 14 characters in the final version, there were just three on show at E3--Simon Belmont, Maria Renard, and Alucard. In addition to the trio, Dracula has been confirmed as a playable character--as seen in gameplay footage and screenshots. However, he wasn't available to play on the day.
In addition to regular attacks, you'll have a secondary attack and you'll be able to choose one of these from the character selection menu. Options we saw included knives, holy water, and crosses. As expected, Belmont carries his trusty whip as his preferred weapon of choice, and which you can pull off a range of attacks. Despite a lightweight frame and a cutesy costume to match, Maria is a formidable foe to go up against, and we suffered at her hands (thanks to a Konami staffer) on several occasions. She can perform a number of powerful attacks including a nasty flame attack that should be avoided at all costs if you value your health.
Taking into account the Wii's unique controllers, Konami have come up with a control structure that seems to work well, from our brief experience. Shaking the Wii Remote performs a basic attack, while doing the same with the Nunchuk performs a dash. Blocking and jumping are mapped to the Nunchuk's Z and C buttons, respectively. Shaking the remote while holding B pulls off a strong attack, and A unleashes a secondary attack.
We were able to play two levels in Judgment. The first, Abbey Ruins, is the ruins...of an abbey. With the backdrop of night, the stage sure has the look and feel of a graveyard, compete with skeletons that will attack either combatant at will, making the battle that bit more challenging. Thankfully they're slow-moving and a bit predictable, but if you're taking damage you won't want to get in their way. Konami tell us that the "environmental" enemies seen in Abbey Ruins won't be the only ones, and that other stages will include similar foes. The second level we saw, Between Thrones, is based on Dracula's throne room. Complete with deep red carpets, gothic architecture, and candlelight, the level's spot-on for dishing out some supernatural punishment.
The battles we played were only single rounds, and it's unclear how many rounds will take place per battle in final game. Despite mentioning an (Konami passes Judgment on Castlevania) online mode previously, there was no word of this during E3, although it looks like this will still be implemented in the final version.
Castlevania Judgment will offer a change of pace for the action adventure franchise when it hits stores later this year. If Konami manage to hit the right buttons when it comes to solid gameplay, controls, characters, and visual appeal, Judgment may even go on to create its own spin-off series in the process.