Portrait of Ruin is another successful Castlevania reincarnation.

User Rating: 8.2 | Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin DS
THE GOOD: Interesting dual-character mechanics. Improved visuals. Various weapons, spells, and items to collect.

THE BAD: Not as lengthy or challenging as previous installments. Plot and character development aren't its greatest strengths.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is a little different from last year's Dawn of Sorrow, but it's all Castlevania.

GAMEPLAY is excellent. Once again Dracula is on the verge of resurrection and it's up to a whip-wielding hero to save the day, except this time he's got company. Portrait of Ruin stars Jonathon Morris, an offshoot decedent of the Belmonts, whom has been entrusted with the Vampire Killer. His trusty partner is a young girl named Charlotte Aulin who unlike Jonathon can use powerful magic spells.

While exploring the castle, both characters can be on the field at the same time or fight solo. Although more damage can be dealt with both characters attacking at once, the computer controlled character is often reckless risking major MP deductions. As usual, MP is quite important because it is used not only for magic and skills, but for a variety of devastating double-team special attacks that can literally turn the tides.

In the beginning Charlotte is the more powerful character. Her magic spells are exponentially stronger than anything Jonathon is able to dish out and she easily defeats the many bosses; however, by mid game Jonathon obtains better weapons and eventually surpasses Charlotte's capabilities.

GRAPHICS are great. Visually, Portrait of Ruin is very similar to Dawn of Sorrow except with some graphical improvements. Many of the monsters, scenery, and spells are 3D and the environments are as grand as ever.

SOUND is good. The music is exciting and there's plenty of different scores for each location, but it isn't as memorable as other Castlevanias. Fortunately, the many voice samples for spells and attacks in both English and Japanese help accentuate the gameplay.

VALUE is decent. The average player will finish the game in 10-12 hours. Keep in mind, Dracula's castle is very big and there will be times when it's not so obvious where to go next. And of course, completists can add a few more hours by picking up extra side quests like the Nest of Evil. There is also a co-op WiFi or local boss battle mode as well as a single-player Boss Rush mode.

OVERALL Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin is another successful Castlevania reincarnation. It certainly shares key mechanics from the series, but adds many compelling new ones. Portrait of Ruin is a fun side-scrolling adventure that is recommendable to any Castlevania aficionado.