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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
- Added: 10/27/13 -

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Though the ride has been relatively short, it will only be a few months before the Lords of Shadow trilogy comes to a close. What began in 2010 as a mission to reinvigorate the franchise and bring to it a greater sense of awareness will come to a predestined end with the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, which arrives on February 25th, 2013. Will Mercury Steam's short reboot, which produced one of the series' best-selling titles, accomplish its creators' goal of garnering the attention of a mass audience and ensure a brighter future for Castlevania? Lords of Shadow 2's success or lack thereof will certainly be the deciding factor. Well, that and the whims of Konami, which these days seems more focused on becoming the M&M (Mobile and Metal Gear) factory.

Putting in his best effort will be Dracula, the former Gabriel Belmont who returns 1,000 years after his Mirror of Fate campaign weakened and yearning for an escape from his mortal bonds. And, well, he's got a bit of a problem (as we learned in Lords of Shadow's postscript): As informed by Zobek, his "good friend," he's learned that Satan's acolytes have begun preparing for their Dark Lord's return. Before he can find a solution to his troublesome immortality issues, he'll have to battle many nightmarish foes and settle the score with their leader, the previously encountered dark angel, Satan. Complicating matters is the existence of Victor Belmont, who claims to be the last of the members of the illustrious Belmont clan; Victor (who finally makes an appearance in a game that won't be canceled) is also determined to destroy Dracula and will prove to be a persistent nuisance as the game's story unfolds.

Lords of Shadow 2 gameplay style stays true to form--it's a high-intensity action-adventure game whose combat is precipitated through a number of combo attacks and evasive maneuvers; the rest is Lord's usual brand of feverish platforming and ledge-climbing. At his most basic, Dracula can use his standard Shadow Whip to dispatch foes with series of short and long snaps and the many combinations therein, with skill and strategy prevailing over plain button-mashing. The new main gimmick is Dracula's Void Magic system, which allows him to use magic to power his his more-useful weapons; he can replenish this magic reserve by "Focusing" on enemies, after which he can rip them apart and capture their blood (via "Blood Orbs") into his Void Magic container. Maintaining his focus while keeping his weapon sufficiently potent will allow him to more easily tear through enemies without suffering much damage in return. Though initially weakened, Dracula can attain a mighty arsenal and improve his physical and magical abilities by exploring the game's world and defeating certain enemies, which will earn him necessary artifacts; these will afford him increased accessibility. The Void Projection procured from a Stone Golem, for instance, allows him to freeze curious sections of the environment and traverse them by means unavailable before.

The game's epic tale will partially unfold through a series of highly polished cut-scenes, every inch of the adventure accompanied by mood-setting orchestral scores. It looks to have hit each of the check-boxes of features you'd come to expect from a grand finale. Does the package include other modern AAA-formula accouterments like DLC, online leader boards, and some tantalizing pre-order bonuses? Nothing of the sort has been mentioned, but I'm betting we'll hear more about such topics as the game nears its release date.

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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
- Added: 6/17/12 -

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When Mercury Steam and Kojima Productions introduced the world to the term "Lords of Shadow," it did so under the auspices that its very attachment as subtitle to Castlevania would point the series toward a complete, continuing reboot. Such prospects hinged, they told us, on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow's commercial success, which it apparently achieved; proof enough is the sudden appearance of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate, the direct follow-up to the Xbox 360/PS3 title from two years ago. Mirror of Fate, for the Nintendo 3DS, is the second in what's confirmed to be a trilogy, to be capped by the future console title Lords of Shadow 2.

Mirror of Fate deals with the fallout from the original Lords of Shadow, in which Gabriel Belmont thwarted a sinister plot hatched by Death, itself, and destroyed Satan--the world's ultimate evil. Unfortunately for Gabriel, due to events not yet fully explained, his continuing battle with the dark forces led to his mortal wounding and later reemergence as a powerful vampire--a tainted being who took on the name "Dracul" (otherwise recognized as "The Dragon"). We find our former hero, a quarter-century later, occupying Bernhard Castle, within which he formulates a plan to eradicate the Brotherhood, which he blames for both the death of his wife (killed by vampire Gabriel, no less, which speaks to his sense of responsibility) and his current undesired state. Enter Trevor Belmont--the son Gabriel never knew he had--whom Pan and the Brotherhood's elders had been secretly training; after informing the youth of his true lineage and the circumstances surrounding his mother's death, they send him on his way toward Bernhard Castle. Now filled with purpose, Trevor vows to extract revenge on Dracul and clear his family's stained reputation.

While Mirror of Fate shares the same graphical style and tone as its console counterparts, this portable affair is not a 3D-world, chapter-divided experience; it's instead a more-traditional exploration-based sidescroller in the vein of Symphony of the Night and the five previous IGA-produced portable titles. Though locked into a 2D plane, the graphics are polygonal--not sprite-based--which is only a cosmetic difference and doesn't change the basic formula. That is, Trevor can freely explore Dracul's huge haunt and return to previous areas when the action requires, as we've seen before. The true differentiation is in the combat system, using which Trevor will brandish his version of the Combat Cross to pummel foes with two separate attacks: A wide-but-weak long strike, and a short-but-impactful close strike; Trevor can chain together strong and weak blows to execute fierce combos. Too, he can grab and toss foes, perform dodges, utilize complementary sub-weapons, and even dabble in the art of Light and Shadow magic.

"But what's the hook?" you ask. "Is no portable Castlevania title complete without one?" Assuredly not: Mirror of Fate's real-estate is not limited to Trevor's inspection. No--you'll also be taking control of three other characters in alternate time-periods. One such infiltrator is Lords' version of the famed Simon Belmont, who in this continuity is orphaned after Dracula kills his parents; raised and trained by mountain people, the introverted, rage-driven Simon grows into a warrior who thinks of nothing but revenge. Holding tight to a fragment of a mirror given to him by his father, Simon heads and out to begin the hunt for Dracula. While his mission's gameplay is largely the same as Trevor's, Simon in contrast wields the Vampire Killer whip, with axes and holy-water-like burning oil serving as sub-weapons; rather than magic, Simon can conjure a number of guardian helpers to aid in the fracas.

The heroes' stories will of course play out in separate time-periods, the actions chosen in one era effecting events in the others. Trevor's destroying of an obstacle in his own era, for instance, might open a path for Simon in his future endeavors, where it otherwise might have been permanently blocked off. This bold, interesting concept raises plenty of questions. Who are the two additional characters? How can events in one time-period immediately effect those in another if they're not running parallel? How will this all tie into Lords of Shadow 2? We'll begin finding our answers as we near the holidays of 2012, whence Mirror of Fate will see its release.

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Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
- Added: 6/26/10 -

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It wasn't so much that Harmony of Despair was one of Konami's worst-kept secrets--it's that the concept sounded absurd. Castlevania heroes teaming up, defying the series' already fragile timeline, to explore and conquer Dracula's imposing haunt? Had Judgment not soured us on the prospect? Regardless of such, this is again the case in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, the latest from Koji Igarashi and his crew, who were thought to be on the outs. Instead, the still-active vagrants will bring the heat this summer when they release their latest product, an Xbox 360-exclusive downloadable title, as part of Microsoft's "Summer of Arcade 2010."

It's no secret that Igarashi is a huge proponent of the Symphony of the Night-style games, which his team has been pumping out almost yearly since 2002. It's with Harmony of Despair that he gets to expand upon the formula not by repeating it while slapping on a new coat of paint but by collecting the most tempered elements of the genre's best titles (Symphony, Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia) and smushing them together in a 6-player free-for-all. Those who download the game can go at it alone or utilize the 360's Xbox Live service to team up with five of their friends and storm through the castle, whose every room thanks to HD power is always functional; that's the most impressive feature--the "level structure," which is eschewed in favor of one fully scalable map (as seen in the first screenshot) that can zoom all the way out to track and visualize the real-time progress of all heroes castle-wide. The cast of heroes includes Alucard, Soma Cruz, Jonathan Morris, Charlotte Aulin and Shanoa, who will be tasked with an exercise in survival, both a manhunt targeting Count Dracula and a contest to determine which vampire killer will be the last left standing.

Naturally, the whole of Harmony of Despair is recycled from the titles previously discussed--everything from its graphics to its character sprites has been ripped directly from (or "inspired by") the PlayStation and DS titles, which are comparable visually and mechanically. It should be easy for anyone familiar with the modern titles to jump right in and participate in the hunt. Konami will entice the customers to keep playing by providing downloadable content, which could be anything from additional characters to extra locales, the objective to contine challenging players in new and unique ways. Players can otherwise share their experience by uploading "ghost data," which will record their entirety of their adventures.

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Castlevania: Encore of the Night
- Added: 6/26/10 -

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Castlevania fans for more than a decade have begged for what they've hypothetically titled "Symphony of the Night II," desirably an action-adventure side-scroller that continues the legacy of the beloved PlayStation title while expanding its scope thanks to the increased power of modern-day consoles. While resilient holdouts have finally been provided a follow-up to the much-celebrated classic, it's not quite the successor they've been expecting. No--it's instead Castlevania: Encore of the Night, an adventure-puzzle hybrid that marries Symphony's formula with a block-matching game directly in the vein of Puzzle Quest. More of a surprise is Konami's platform of choice for the title--the Apple iPhone, the popular smart phone known for its touch-based games and applications.

Encore of the Night is being developed by Konami's mobile division, whose most visible staffer is Daniel Gutierrez, the designer and lead programmer who previously worked on Castlevania: Order of Shadows. Gutierrez and his team, hoping to rebound from what they believe was previous failure, present what they call a "Puzzle-RPG," within which you'll take control of Alucard and explore the enormous Castlevania; each new room discovered becomes stage to a puzzle-based battle wherein you'll match tiles in sets of threes to inflict damage upon enemies, which are taken directly from Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. Victory will earn Alucard new weapons and armor, which he can equip to both raise his stats and render negative conditions on opponents during battles. All actions, be they exploratory or puzzle-based hijinks, are of course all handled via touch control.

There will be two modes of play available: The Story Mode, in which you take control of Alucard and re-expierence Symphony of the Night's tale in a unique way, and Arcade Mode, a more-focused two-player mode where participants can choose one of seven characters (Alucard plus Richter, Maria, Succubus, Death, Shaft and Dracula) and battle it out using Encore's puzzle mechanic. No release date has been set as of this posting, but Gutierrez has nonetheless spoken of possible ports to unnamed platforms.

Other Media

While we await further word on the project, you might want to check out the following:

 

Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth
- Added: 10/20/09 -

Unbeknownst to the majority of fans not from Japan, the Castlevania series had an already-established canon as early as its very first entry--Akumajou Dracula for the Famicom Disk System. The game's manual notes, "With world of darkness now controlled by Dracula's ambitions, a hero named Christopher Belmont set out to defeat him." Too, Vampire Killer's manual mentions this "legendary" hero Christopher Belmont with much the same reverence. It wasn't until three years later that Konami thought to chronicle the exploits of this famed hero, whose adventures preceded Simon's by 100 years; Christopher was thus the star of two Game Boy titles, the more infamous of which is Castlevania: The Adventure, the inaugural entry.

Castlevania: The Adventure is infamous not for its content but for a number of technical issues that severely hampered the game and clearly distracted from what was to be the tale of a man whose heroic efforts cemented him as a legendary figure. It didn't help that Konami of America's localization chose to altogether ignore the character's history, his connection to an ongoing lore, and hang the title out there as a sort-of remake of Castlevania. Let's just say that things just weren't working out as Konami had hoped.

Fortunately for the veteran company, the video-game industry is all about second chances; we see this occurring daily with the releases of enhanced ports, remakes, and the reimagining of games whose older concepts lend themselves to the current climate, where everything old is again new. Konami hopes, especially, to lend a hand in bolstering of the current retro-style movement with Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth, which offers the company an opportunity to propose a back-to-the-basics Castlevania game while giving the original Game Boy title a second chance at life--a chance, also, to redeem the good name of Christopher Belmont where the much-improved Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge might have failed.

Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth is classically styled (featuring stage-by-stage action with a intentionally limited hero) and reminiscent of entries predating those from the adventure-RPG era of Castlevania games. The download-only title, available exclusively for the Nintendo Wii's WiiWare service, is a 1-player game whose story unfolds over several stages, which may or may not be directly patterned after those explored in 1989's Castlevania: The Adventure. Japanese gamers will find out for sure on Oct. 27th, 2009. The rest of the world will have to wait just a bit longer.

 

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
- Added: 6/4/09 -

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A little more than seven months ago, venerable series director Koji Igarashi took the stage and to the delight of the enthusiast crowd announced that Castlevania would be returning to consoles in the form of a direct Symphony of the Night sequel, a quick trailer confirming his words. Logic, then, insisted that E3 of 2009 would serve as the perfect platform to finally give form to what had only been an idea. No such follow-up occurred; rather, to the surprise of the gaming press, longtime Konami employee Hideo Kojima took the stage and announced as part of Kojima Productions' future projects Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which is being developed by the Spanish company MercurySteam under the studio's guidance. What followed was a spectacular trailer showcasing action-heavy, cinematic gameplay directly in the mold of God of War and Ninja Gaiden but not far removed from Lament of Innocence or Curse of Darkness--obviously elevated to a much higher level.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow marks a turning point for the enduring Castlevania series. For one, the development houses involved in its creation have been afforded a noticeable increase in budget, which is the antithesis of the rather stingy allocations reserved for the previous creative team. More startling is the absence of Koji Igarashi, who is responsible for the previous fourteen titles and many other related ventures; it's instead Hideo Kojima, most revered for the creation and nurturing of the famed Metal Gear series, who's been handed the reigns, which begs a few questions: Is Kojima Productions now the bearer of the Castlevania license, or is this a one-time deal? Are Koji and his team out? Was the rumored Symphony of the Night II (working title) canceled in favor of this project, or will its development continue as planned as complement to Lords of Shadow?

Of greatest relevance to the series' legacy is Lords of Shadow's story, which is not an extension of the existing timeline and instead a reboot--a gaiden-type entry described bluntly by Konami's Dave Cox: "Forget what you know about Castlevania--this is what a next-gen Castlevania game should be." It's MercurySteam's continuing mission, then, to successfully bring the series into the world of three dimensions. Will the high-octane, action-focused formula, with its combo-heavy fighting mechanics, this time nail the concept? Players will find their answer when they take control of Gabriel, our typical series hero; armed with the Combat Cross (a combination of a chain whip and a stabbing weapon), Gabriel seeks revenge for the murdering of his wife at the hands of the very evil that roams the land unabated. Pure of heart, the grieving warrior will attempt to do what few men are brave enough to try: Claim the power of the Lords of Shadow as his own and put a halt to evil's reign. This will undoubtedly entail his scouring the countryside and raiding the haunted Castlevania in search of an ultimate evil (though, we've seen no sign of a main villain or even Dracula, whose absence would certainly cement this "new direction"). Most importantly, we'll discover the true context of the power known as "Lords of Shadow" and what it means to the future of the series.

Kojima and his pals hope to repair the series' damaged reputation and reintroduce a global audience to Castlevania. They'll do this in 2010, when Lords of Shadow is slated to appear on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3.

Other Media

(1) Konami has put up an official E3 site, which hosts the game's trailer: http://www.konami.jp/kojima_pro/e3_2009/castlevania. Patrick Stewart, of Star Trek and X-Men fame, provides the narration--a sure sign of how high Konami is aiming.
(2) Computer and Video Games has a shorter trailer that gives us a closer, more impactful look at the troubled Garbriel: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/video.php?id=1856

 

Castlevania Judgment
- Added: 7/18/08 -

        

        

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For people who have bemoaned that the Castlevania series is like many of its contemporaries in how it's eschewed growth in deference to riding the treadmill of success, Castlevania Judgment is at the same time intriguing and highly curious--it's a bold move for a series that has become a victim of its own working formulas. It's no shock to longtime industry observers, then, that the majority reaction seems to be venomous where you'd think the fans would delight at a sure sign that a company is looking to expand the scope of a game series that has never strayed from comfy confines of action-adventure; where expected was a return to classic 2D action on modern consoles emerges, instead, the Nintendo Wii-exclusive Castlevania Judgment, fighting game that promises to pit against each other an assortment of series characters.

Judgment looks to capitalize on two trends: The reemergence of the fighting game genre due to the high expectations for the likes of Soul Calibur 4, Street Fighter 4 and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe plus the crossover appeal borne from these and other such creations (Super Smash Bros. Brawl and other mascot mash-ups), where characters who could never theoretically coexist are tossed into the same arena in a veritable buffet of possibilities. Those who have obsessively indulged in the Castlevania universe can finally answer for themselves lingering questions: Which Belmont is the toughest? Could any of them take Alucard in a fight? Just who is more powerful--Dracula or his estranged son? While the final roster, numbering 14, is a closely guarded secret (outside of those discussed plus Maria Renard), it's easy to imagine that such luminaries as Trevor Belmont, Death, Soma Cruz and Frankenstein will make an appearance and hopefully leave enough room for two or three unexpected (Eric Lecarde, Grant Danasty, Nathan Graves, etc.).

As for the basics: Two characters are thrown onto the battlefield, a familiar Castlevania locale where they'll fight a number of rounds, as littered with monsters, candelabras, and possibly interactive environments (or "special features," as described by Koji Igarashi); the combatants will have to deal with such dangers, capitalizing on any extracurricular activity by powering up accordingly, and at the same time a bloodthirsty opponent. Fighting is controlled with the Wii remote-nunchuck combo: The nunchuck handles character movement, jumping and defensive postures while Wii-remote gestures launches the actual attacks, sub-weapons and any subsequent combos, which can be further fueled by fighting maneuvers as executed by holding in tandem certain buttons; other character abilities include item-crashes, summons, exclusive special moves, and "some elements that will make fans who are familiar with the series smile." Indeed, each character employs a unique fighting style, ranging from fisticuffs to melee attacks to magic to even the bizarre.

Modes include Arcade (standard fighting), Story (the creators promise that each cast member has attached its own story arc), and Internet Play--surely a source of great excitement for those seeking endless replayability. Judgment will also feature wireless connectivity with the DS' own Order of Ecclesia, a convention about which Igrashi is not yet ready to speak. We'll learn more as the game's late-2008 release date nears.

Judgment's development team has a long road ahead if it hopes to win over the most jaded of series fans who obviously oppose the series branching into other genres, but it has a chance, if successful in producing a quality product, to surprise a lot of people and take the first real step in its mission to appeal to a much broader audience. As someone who's completely bored with the series' current direction, I'm certainly rooting them on.

 

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
- Added: 5/18/08 -

            

            

Images months ago leaked to the Internet told us what we already knew--that a new Castlevania title was on its way to the Nintendo DS. While the game's imminent announcement was a poorly kept secret, in question was the screenshots' legitimacy, as the source was untrustworthy and there was no immediate follow-up. Come May 14th, 2008, Konami confirmed the previously dismissed screenshots to be the real deal courtesy of Konami Gamers' Night 08'. What these screenshots confirm is that Koji Igarashi and his team are sticking to the current formula but leaving behind Portrait of Ruin's dual-hero setup and delivering to series fans a more traditional adventure.

The lineage already packed, you would think the team would explore possibilities beyond Dawn of Sorrow, the last known tale, in a world where the Dark Lord powers are perennially contested, but they instead choose to again squeeze in an entry between two existing titles. Their newest creation, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, chronicles events following the adventures of Richter Belmont and family's unexplained and highly troubling disappearance. In a world still threatened by the forces of darkness, several groups emerge to fill the void. Details are scarce, but it appears that players will take control of a female hero (as of yet unnamed) who's obviously in league with one such company.

Other than the storyline, which is sure to unfold in the usual wacky style that comes define the modern entries, the gameplay is tried and true: You'll explore a huge haunt and, as promised, many outdoor locations; power up via an RPG system; dip into an unmatched inventory; defeat many monsters, old and new; and discover multiple endings. The additional screen will no doubt continue to function as your map and a constantly updated stat-sheet. Most interesting is the news that the game will support co-op play, of which we only saw glimpses in Portrait of Ruin's rather-limited two-player challenge mode; if more ambitious, we might be looking at an exciting prospect--the first instance of two players teaming up to navigate Dracula's castle. As of now, though, there's nothing specific.

Of course, Order of Ecclesia wouldn't be complete without its very own overcomplicated "system," which in this case is "Glyph Magic." Glyph Magic, in simple terms, is a collection of magical powers that will help the hero negotiate the castle's many obstacles and more easily tackle its assortment of foes. Glyphs come in two flavors ("Light" or "Dark") and can be acquired as procured from certain locations or absorbed from defeated enemies, similar to how Soma Cruz steals enemy souls. Individual Glyphs can be assigned to three separate body parts--right arm, left arm and back, each controlled by its own button--and used in tandem to execute combos or special attacks, placing heavy emphasis on combat that's sure to see the hero accosted from every angle.

Of more mystery is Ecclesia's apparent connectivity to Nintendo's Wii console, information as gleaned from screenshots seen in Famitsu and cryptically addressed by Igarashi. Whether this speaks of a new console title or something more simple is a conundrum whose unraveling can potentially reshape the series in more ways than one.

 

Castlevania: Order of Shadows
- Added: 9/5/07 -

                        

                        

It's not so much that it's big news when Konami brings a series title to a new or relatively untested platform--it's that Konami had the gall to bring a new entry to mobile phones, a platform that you never associate with serious gaming, a genre Castlevania certainly inhabits. It's with the blessing of Koji Igarashi that lead game designer Tyrone Rodriguez and his staff take on the daunting challenge of bringing Castlevania: Order of Shadows to tech-challenged cell phones and finding a way to capture the spirit of recent standouts and release a worthy and more importantly "fun-to-play" (Koji advises) product.

In what should be a touchy subject to legacy sticklers, Order of Shadows, though featuring Belmont warriors, doesn't fit directly into the functioning storyline and is instead a "gaiden" or "side story" placed sometime during the 1600s. Furthermore, the random generator of fate has chosen Desmond Belmont and siblings Zoe and Dolores, his sisters, to battle against the forces of Count Dracula, whose scheme will no doubt implicate a twisted cast of supporting characters.

How it will all play out, in terms of quality and fan acceptance, is anyone's guess, but Konami was kind enough to supply a peek behind the curtain via a quick Flash demo that shows off the storyline and gameplay basics. Order of Shadows will see release September 18th of 2007.

 

Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
- Added: 2/1/07 -

             

             

             

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Begging, pleading, petitions, e-mailing campaigns--they were all fruitless until February 1st of 2007, when on "Konami Gamer Day" Koji Igarashi introduced Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PlayStation Portable. As the second entry into the Castlevania Chronicles sub-series, The Dracula X Chronicles is a remake of the famed Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, the PC-Engine: Turbo Duo title that saw only a Japanese release due to the failure of the system's western counterpart, the Turbo-Grafx 16. In contrast to the Akumajou Dracula X68000 remake, in which the designers simply bolstered the presentation through the manipulation of existing sprite-work, The Dracula X Chronicles is a true "remake," rebuilt from the ground up in 2.5D style--that is, a fully polygonal world as viewed from a two-dimension plane a la Contra: Shattered Soldier and New Super Mario Bros.

But not to worry, traditionalists: Included on the UMD (the game's media) is the original-version Dracula X: Chi no Rondo, which bore a superficial resemblance to the SNES' own Castlevania: Dracula X and used the enemy templates as borrowed by future titles like Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin. The PC-Engine classic is said to be unlockable, rewarded to those who play through the remade version.

As an extra bonus, the title will also include the PlayStation classic (the aforementioned) Symphony of the Night, which by its rightful name, Akumajou Dracula X: Gekka no Yasoukyoku, completes the "Dracula X Chronicles." It will not like its Chi no Rondo companion feature any remade elements, but it's as a standalone a nice extra for those who might have missed the original. (There's nothing to suggest that Symphony will feature any of Sega-Saturn version enhancements.)

(All images are credited to 1Up.com, which also has featured a five-minute video of the remade Rondo in action.)

 

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
- Added: 4/21/06 -

               

Seen above are the first two official screenshots for Konami's upcoming Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, which will be the second series' title to find its way to the Nintendo DS. From best we can tell, its aesthetics certainly point to it following the lead of the past four handheld titles, with Dawn of Sorrow's influence most prevalent, and landing in the expected genre of adventure-RPG.

Contributed by Mntdew
Here's a collage shot - click on the image for a larger version

Though, early details do confirm in part what I hoped a Dawn of Sorrow follow-up would entail: Building upon what transpired in the excellent "Julius Mode," you will control more than character at a time--in this case, the duo comprised of the whip-wielding Jonathan Morris, Jr., and the magic-using Charlotte Orlean. The game is set to a World War II backdrop, which places the game in a post-Bloodlines world. As you could guess by the the name, Portrait's Morris is the son of Bloodlines' John Morris (though the anime-style artwork doesn't paint the clearest of pictures). Familiar-summoning, afforded to both characters, will apparently play a big part in the game's design.

The heroes' challenge is to put a stop to the evil deeds of two vampire sisters, who are looking to resurrect the overworked Count Dracula. Most disturbingly, in terms of storyline, Koji and crew will use the war's very real consequence, "the deaths of thousands," as a subplot where the lost souls are seeking to escape limbo by rebuilding Dracula's castle and using its demonic properties in an as-of-yet-unexplained way. The two events will somehow tie together.

Videos from GameSpot: www.gamespot.com/ds/action/castlevaniaportraitofruin/
Videos from IGN: media.ds.ign.com/media/774/774649/vids_1.html

For this and more information, you can find out more on Portrait of Ruin in the latest issue of Nintendo Power. Thanks, also, to computerandvideogames.com.

 

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
- Added: 1/24/05 -

                 

                 

                 

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In following up the announcement of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2 (as previewed on this page below), Konami has finally confirmed the rumor of another title for the PS2. Yes--Castlevania: Curse of Darkness is in the works. While the title is expected to closely follow the blueprint laid forth by Lament of Innocence, it is said that Curse of Darkness will feature a new graphics engine, a new camera system, and a more nonlinear quest; also (as frequent contributor Carl notes) the project has seen a boost in staff, as people who worked on Silent Hill also show their wares here. However, don't expect the formula or the overall style of play to change.

The game's placement is set in 1479, three years after Trevor Belmont and his allies (Grant, Sypha and Alucard) confronted and destroyed the Count. The story: Though destroyed, Dracula's lingering curse has begun to take its toll, and people have begun to exhibit a more deviant nature amidst the darkness, be it mob violence, pestilence or through heresy. In order to escape from such a predicament, our main hero Hector--described as a "Devil Forgemaster who had once refined his skills under Dracula"--has fled the scene to find a more peaceful life. During this journey, he crosses paths with his old friend Isaac, another Devil Forgemaster, who reveals, mysteriously, that he's implicated Hector's wife in a deadly conspiracy. Isaac hurries home only to find that his home has been "morphed" by Dracula's dark magic, with there no sign of his wife. What will follow is Hector's revenge, but his course of action against Isaac and the forces of evil has yet to be explained.

Though, details confirm that Hector will command "innocent devils," in what I assume is this game's "system," that will afford him different powers, the most intriguing of which is the ability to fly (on a winged dragon, perhaps?). There are also rumors of an Alucard appearance, fresh off the first deadly encounter with his father. And other questions arise: Will Lament's excellent fighting system carry over? Will the sword-wielding Hector approach combat in the same fashion? Will we learn more about what happened to Mathias? And will they continue to employ watered-down Symphony elements, like Lament's useless RPG system? The answers are mere months away.

All images and information were supplied by the following sources: Carl "The Gargoyle," gamesarefun.com and jeux-france.com.

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