Judgment for Judgment
The Castlevania series has been around a long time, and it hasn't really branched out into new genres. Well, you can't say that anymore now that Castlevania Judgment has hit the Nintendo Wii. Surprisingly a 3D brawler, can Castlevania keep up with the likes of Street Fighter and Soul Calibur?
A mysterious being named Aeon has opened a time rift, creating an alternate reality where Castlevania heroes and villains can meet one another through the passage of time. You'll have Trevor Belmont meeting up with his younger ancestor, Simon, Shanoa from Order of Ecclesia meeting Alucard, and more. The story mode in the game lasts ten matches long, and each character's story is introduced with some background information regarding that particular character. Sometimes their reasons for fighting make sense such as Alucard wanting to take down his father while others are more nonsensical like Maria desiring to fight Carmilla all because her bust size is much larger. Don't try to make sense of it. Just move on.
Make no mistake about it. Castlevania Judgement is a fighter through and through. The game has tons of modes to choose from. As stated, story mode has you choosing a character, fighting through ten matches against predetermined characters, and unlocking one of twelve time door keys. When a character has cleared story mode, a new character is unlocked to play as in the same mode. Then there's arcade mode which pits a character of your choosing in a best of three match against several opponents. Meanwhile, Dracula's castle is an interesting mode where you battle from room to room. Each room has its own parameters for victory and defeat such as defeating a boss character or collecting several hearts. The twist is that each room also puts a handicap on both player and enemy like lowered or raised attack. Getting to the goal is fraught with peril, so making it to the lord of darkness is no easy task.
Judgment isn't your ordinary fighter. It does enough to separate itself from the pack, both good and bad. Fights are waged in a 3D arena where combatants are free to move around at their leisure. Main attacks are set to shaking the Wii remote. The problem here is that there's two types of waggle, horizontal and vertical, and the game does a lousy job of differentiating which from which. You might think that waggle is tiring after long periods, but it's actually not too bad and feels good to do. If that isn't your cup of tea, you can opt to use the Gamecube or Classic controller instead. Both work just fine.
Holding down the Z button while attacking will unleash a special attack. The A button uses up hearts in order to use a character's special weapon. When the blue gauge is full for a character, players can use a hyper attack, the strongest form of attack in the game. When an attack connects, the game enters a real-time cinematic showcasing your character bringing some serious pain on your opponent. Carmilla, for instance, puts her foe inside an iron maiden, slamming it shut, with blood flowing everywhere.
Even on normal difficulty, however, fighting in Castlevania Judgment comes down to one of two things: blocking and retaliating. You block, waiting for your opponent to attack, and then you retaliate. It also doesn't help that the characters are nowhere near balanced. Let's just say this game won't be played at EVO any time soon.
Playing through the story mode of Judgment will take players about five hours total with every character. Then there's slugging it through the arcade mode, Dracula's castle, and trying out the online portion of the game which has too many loading screens to count just to start up. Additionally, there's accessories, music, and gallery art to unlock. Accessories can be equipped to your character purely for aesthetic purposes, so if you ever wanted Alucard to wear a top hat and a monocle, now's your chance! Collecting everything the game has to offer will take upwards of thirty hours, but will anyone really want to do that? My guess is no.
On the presentation side, Castlevania Judgment boasts impressive visuals. There's occasional slowdown when there's a lot of stuff going on. The textures are a bit on the muddy side, but the character models look and animate beautifully. Each character's voice sounds as it should apart from Maria who is the bastard of the Castlevania Judgment voice acting family. Character cut-scenes are voiced well, and they make reference to a lot of lesser-known plot elements in the Castlevania legacy.
As a fighting game, Castlevania Judgment is average at best. The fighting boils down to blocking and retaliating, the battles are simplistic, and the action is only good for so long before the novelty of fighting with Castlevania characters wears off. As a video game, there is plenty to see, plenty to do, and plenty to accomplish here, but most players won't last long enough to see everything there is to see. And as a Castlevania game, this is an interesting experiment at best. For those looking for a bargain-priced fighting game, stick with Street Fighter IV or Soul Calibur IV. Fans of Castlevania on the other hand should definitely check this title out for its new low price.
[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]