Preview: Whipping Some Ass With Castlevania Judgment

It was funny hearing that “Castlevania: Judgment” shouldn’t be called a “fighting” game, even though it could very easily pass for one. In case you’re looking to categorically correct, Koji Igarashi, and the team at Konami are calling “Judgment” a “3D versus action game” and so should you. In their defense, it isn’t your typical fighter, but not calling it a fighter is like saying sky blue isn’t really a shade of blue. Attempting to call it anything other than what it is might take away from the the overall goal in the newest “Castlevania” which is, like all other fighting games, to beat the snot out of your opponent.

At a recent demo, I was told by one of Konami’s product managers that the upcoming title for the Wii was created to be a pick-up-and-play, multiplayer game. In other words, the controls are supposed to be easy to learn (which they are) but not very precise (and they are not), in hopes that this re-imagining of the classic franchise might appeal to the Wii’s broader audience. So much so that, one of the goals of “Judgment” was to take advantage of the Wii’s motion controls, but within reason, and not force players to over exert themselves.

“Castlevania: Judgment” doesn’t appear to be anything but a fighting game from the outset, partially because it’s hard to shake that label when you have two characters beating each other up under the confines of their enviornment and the match’s time limit. However, both of those confines are what really help define this new game in their own unique way.

The environments in “Judgment ” are more vast than your standard 3D fighter’s, they make the matches feel bigger, and they give your character the opportunity to run around instead of just standing their ground and fighting. The game uses each unique environment to accomplishes this because each location has elements of Castlevania’s history woven into them, like destructible candelabras and familiar enemies that attack you during the match. Also, the vastness of the playing field is something that has been lost in screenshots from the game - you really need to see it in action to appreciate the lay of the land.

The time limits in each match help control the amount of time that the players are using their arms, and allow for them to get at least a few seconds of relaxation in between rounds. It was Igarashi’s idea to help keep the players engaged in the game, and not have to worry about the strain on their muscles from all the movement. In the past, Castlevania games have been specifically designed for extended play sessions, but “Judgment” was created with the hopes that players might play the game for shorter periods of time, which would be less strenuous on their arms.

When the game is released it will boast 14 different characters, taken from all over the 20 year Castlevania history, so long time fans should be happy to hear that they will recognize characters going all the way back to the original game. Hopefully, that will be enough to distract them from the game’s art style. While newer fans of the series might be more accustomed to the “gothic” versions of their characters, “Judgment”’s Simon Belmont would totally have gotten beaten up daily by the NES’ Simon Belmont on their way to whip class. That’s not to say the art in the game is bad, because it isn’t, it’s just a very different direction than longtime fans of the original titles may be used to seeing.

The game’s controls are very basic, and shouldn’t take long for anyone to get used to. Move and jump are mapped to the nunchuck and the attacks are all controlled by swinging Wiimote while pressing one of the face buttons - it’s all very simple really. This simplicity helps the game succeed where “Soul Calibur Legends” and “Mortal Kombat Armageddon” failed - it’s fun to play. Basically if you mix those two titles together you’ll get a good sense of the 3D Verses Action that “Judgment” is trying accomplish. However, there is one key component that “Judgment” has over those two games - online multiplayer. That’s right, you’ll get to take Dracula online and see if he is strong enough to take down little Maria from across the country.

“Judgment” may be the first Castlevania title to succeed in 3D, and it could be because it takes the franchise in such a radical direction, without losing the feeling of the franchise. In a unique twist, gamers as well as Konami should have an invested interest in the sucess of “Judgment” since one of the main reasons the game was made was so that Igarashi could create a game that he felt was a sucess in 3D. In other words, if “Judgment” does well enough then we may never have to see another 3D Castlevania again, and Igarashi’s mind can get back to creating great 2D games.

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