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Castlevania: Judgment
 

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STORY:  According to Iga, the "The timeline goes over 1000s of years as Dracula fights the forces of good. There is a character trying to destroy that timeline, and due to magical forces, characters from different periods are brought together to battle." Galamoth plots to send the Time Reaper from 10,000 years in the future into the past to destroy his rival Dracula, and change history. Aeon discovers this and pulls together champions from different eras of history into a time rift, in order to find a chosen one capable of destroying the Time Reaper.

In this world, a battle has been raging between vampire hunters and their prey for ages. Thirteen people from around the world have been called into an alternate dimension through a gap in time. A mysterious man named Aeon appears before the thirteen and tells them "if you pass the trial, you can have your wish..." The trial is a battle between those assembled. But what will they gain if they pass the trial? And how do they escape from the time gap? An epic, era-spanning battle of destiny is about to begin.
 

A fighting game based on the Castlevania series? Sounds awesome on paper.

REVIEWCastlevania: Judgment is the first ever fighting game to be based on the long-running Castlevania series. Within the fighting genre, Castlevania Judgment's "free-running" style of gameplay is most comparable to the likes of the Power Stone or Bushido Blade series. The character designs and artwork for the game were done by Takeshi Obata of Death Note fame, giving the game a distinguishable art style. Unsurprisingly, Judgment delivers quite a bit of fan service for Castlevania fans, including: remixed classic Castlevania tunes, recognizable & familiar environments, and even a few classic monsters from the series that interfere with battles.

Castlevania: Judgment
features 14 playable characters spanning a variety of titles in the Castlevania universe. Each character presents their own unique weapon and fighting style, and characters can even use classic sub-weapons from series history during battle (such as magic spells, holy water, dagger, axe and even that awesome boomerang). It would seem Nintendo wants you to play the game with a Wii nunchuck and Wiimote, but most fighting game players would scoff at the very idea of that. Thankfully, you can play the game with a classic controller or arcade stick.

After a pretty cool intro movie, Castlevania Judgment's main menu features a decent selection of modes, including: Story, Arcade, Castle Versus, Survival, Online, Training, Tutorials, Accessories, Gallery, Options, and Connect to DS (Judgment also connects with the NDS title Order of Ecclesia, which unlocks bonus content). Story Mode offers a story path for each selectable character in the game, but presents minimal, short cutscenes, unmotivated voice acting and subpar writing overall. Everything else about Story Mode is comparable to a typical fighting game arcade mode.
 

Pretty cool camera angles.

For any level of Castlevania fan, the idea of a fighting game based on the series sounds awesome on paper. Sadly, Judgment looks far better in screenshots than it does on-screen. There really isn't much going on in the graphics department. Castlevania: Judgment looks like a mildly-impressive early PS2 game, with pretty bad aliasing. The only graphical option is "flicker reduction".... So basically, you can either play the game "blurry and jaggy" or "very jaggy". Textures, hit effects & stage elements are rather drab as well. It's cool how some stages have destructible areas, but when breakable stained glass ends up looking like blurry confetti, the effect is a miss. The character models are stylishly "thin", but lack rendering quality. The "anime style" faces of the characters do look pretty coo up close, at least. As you can tell from the artwork, Judgment's character designs contain a ton of details (similar to the Soul Calibur series), but the poor in-game resolution makes details that much harder to appreciate. On the same token, comparing Castlevania: Judgment to Soul Calibur IV (which was released several months prior) really shows how behind the Nintendo Wii is on graphical prowess.

Castlevania: Judgment's gameplay is fast-paced in some areas, but due to minimal movement options, it feels very limited and sometimes clunky. The fact that Castlevania: Judgment only runs at 30 frames per second doesn't help the pace either. The animation is actually pretty good at times, but with only 30 frames (which sometimes seems like 27), the animation clearly isn't being used to it's full potential. No doubt if the game ran at 60 frames, not only would the animation look much better, the game would feel better to play as well. No, the gameplay isn't completely terrible... for a 3rd person action game, that is. Indeed, Castlevania: Judgment a very casual fighting game in more ways than one, and pretty underwhelming for a fighting game player looking for any kind of depth. 

It's easy to forget you're playing a fighting game when playing Castlevania: Judgment... because it really does feel like a "cut & paste" 3rd person action game most of the time. There are even moments in the game where you have to fight against several different monsters at once, in which the game plays nearly identical to a 3rd person action game (with an annoying camera to boot). However, I actually like some of the camera angles obtainable with the game, and it's mildly impressive how far apart characters can become on some stages. On a side note, I personally like running toward the camera for dramatic effect (for no particular reason)... lol.

 

Watch out for zombiz.

As a traditional fighting game fan, a free roaming fighting game doesn't get me all that excited... even considering that I enjoyed Bushido Blade 2 & Power Stone 2 for a good chunk of time. So why doesn't Judgment have the same effect? Besides the facts I previously mentioned, another major gripe I have is that there isn't an option to walk, or even "run slow". Unfortunately, you're forced to run the same speed at all times. That means there aren't any variations of character movement, besides jump and double jump. Generally, you're pretty much attacking the entire time, defending, or just "standing and looking cool" if you prefer. It promotes aggressive fighting, but with character control being of utmost importance in any fighting game, there should've been more movement options - for example, a quick dodge technique of some sort. At least blocking comes out fast when you hit the block button, enabling effective defense strategies.

Characters have a small but halfway decent array of attacks, some of which look pretty cool, and there are some nice looking combos. HOWEVER... (and a big HOWEVER, if you didn't notice)... One-button super moves. Need I say more? Never have I pulled off a 99-hit combo in a fighting game by hitting one button.... Yes, one-button = half life gone. Where's the skill in that? Super moves look cool the first few times through, but watching the same exact 10-second segment over and over again becomes tiresome even in a single sitting. Several of the super moves aren't all that impressive either, but most of them are at least worthy to be called "super moves". Naturally, the fighters of Castlevania: Judgment are a cool cast of characters, but needless to say, cool characters running on a below-mediocre gameplay system can only be "cool" for so long.

The game's prominent 1-player mode besides Story, Castle Mode, takes you through a variety of missions and battles (but annoyingly sends you back to a previous save point if you lose). Through Castle Mode, you can unlock customization items for use in Accessories Mode, which enables you to customize the appearance of your fighters. There are at least 45 costume customizations that can be distributed on the face, left arm, right arm, head & body of the characters... some of which are rather cool & entertaining, but others not so much. Additionally, all of the accessories can be used by any of the characters, so if you ever wanted to see Alucard with a bunny tail, or Maria with Ram horns, you'll finally get your wish. In fact, if you really wanted to, you could give everyone in the game a bunny tail... (Please don't do that).

Page Updated: July 6th, 2014
Developer(s): Konami, 8ing
Publisher(s): Konami
Artwork by: Takeshi Obata
Platform(s): Nintendo Wii
Release Date(s): Nov. 18th, 2008   ()
Mar. 27th, 2009  
()
Jan. 15th, 2009   
()
Characters Aeon, Simon Belmont, Maria Renard, Alucard, Dracula, Shanoa, Trevor Belmont, Eric Lecarde, Carmilla, Death, Cornell, Sypha Belnades, Grant Danasty, Golem

Featured Video:

Related Games: Power Stone, Power Stone 2, Bushido Blade, Bushido Blade 2 , Soul Calibur 4
  

Gameplay Engine  4.5 / 10
Story / Theme  7.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  5.5 / 10
Animation  7.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  8.5 / 10
Innovation  5.5 / 10
Art Direction  9.0 / 10
Customization  6.5 / 10
Options / Extras  6.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation  7.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  5.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  5.0 / 10
Characters  6.5 / 10
BOTTOM LINE

 5.8 / 10

 

 

Final Words:

As a an old school gamer with quite a few Castlevania titles under his belt (Super Castlevania IV happens to be one of my ALL TIME favorite video games) and also a fan of Death Note since its original manga release (especially the artwork), I was cautiously excited when Castlevania: Judgment was first announced. With cool characters, great music and moody stages, there's definitely something to like about Castlevania: Judgment. Unfortunately, it's not the gameplay mechanics...

Takeshi Obata's artwork and character designs are easily my favorite part about the game, even though some characters hardly resemble their previous incarnations. This actually becomes a flaw in some ways, because Obata's redesigns actually take away some of the "epic" out of these dream battles. If you squint, it's possible to forget you're even playing a Castlevania game at times. Besides a few characters appearing "over-designed," the fighters of Castlevania Judgment are worth a look.

Castlevania: Judgment's recognizable theme and setting can be immersive, and thankfully, the music is still superb (although I'm actually still partial to some the original MIDI tracks over the remixes). The decent variety of modes can also keep you busy for a while, and the basic online & matchmaking options aren't too bad (good luck finding someone to fight against though).

So if you haven't figured it out by now, as a fighting game, Castlevania: Judgment is a pass. A 2D fighter would have made much more sense given the series' history. Even if they wanted to be lazy and make a 2D fighter with 3D graphics, it likely would've turned out a lot better than this 3D fighter / action game. Yep, I just denounced Castlevania: Judgment as a fighting / action game. Without further ado... at least enjoy the artwork below, because it is quality stuff.  ~TFG Webmaster
 

 
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Click Here for all character art!

 

   
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 Click Here for all concept sketches!

 

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