Name: Castlevania Judgment
Platform: Nintendo Wii
“For me, the Nintendo Wii controller doesn't yet connect with the core gameplay of Castlevania. I definitely don't want to make a game with gimmicky controls where you swing the controller like a whip...”
Since that interview, Koji has admitted to warming up to the system, explaining that it has inspired some ideas for the series. Just two years later, Castlevania Judgment has been released for the Nintendo Wii in fighting game form, far removed from typical dungeon crawls. It’s not what gamers wanted or expected, and the initial outcry was fierce, but if Super Smash Brothers taught us anything, it’s that turning a popular series to a fighter isn’t always the worst thing that can happen.
Since the invention of the fighting game nearly 20 years ago there have been many attempts to bring the 2D affair to the third dimension. Like, really to the third dimension, with use of backgrounds and environments. Games like Power Stone and Super Smash Brothers have attempted to remove the typical walls and let players battle in more open environments, while others, like Marvel Nemesis, tried the same and failed abysmally. It’s a hard feature to implement correctly, and Castlevania Judgment has fallen short of adding anything new to the genre. Instead, the game presents perfect examples of the reasons fixed-camera 3D fighters are generally poorly received. While running around, jumping, fighting, and attempting to knock out the opponent, the camera will show consistently inconvenient views of the battle. Due to the lack of a lock-on system of any kind, it’s easy to waste time swinging at nothing while your opponent tries desperately to right himself for a counter attack.
The controls don’t help the situation any, and the easiest way sum them up is to say that it has “gimmicky controls where you swing the controller like a whip.” There is only one basic attack, and it’s achieved by wagging the remote randomly to swing at the opponent. Other buttons on the remote can throw items or jump, but a good portion of the gameplay involves swinging the controller wildly. Not only that, but the sensitivity of the remote feels off, and it will sometimes take unnecessary amount of effort to attack an opponent. The only other way to fight an opponent is with a super attack, which looks all right, but is overpowered and far too easy to use. Most games become a race to charge the special meter and unleash the attack, which requires as little skill to use as it did to conceive.
Check out the video review.
There are several different game modes to play, but nothing out of the ordinary. It comes feature complete with unlockable items, concept art, and musical tracks, as well as fourteen characters to play as. Most of the characters should look familiar to Castlevania fans, but their design is slightly off. While they have the basic look of Castlevania characters, there is something stylistically keeping them from looking like they fit in the universe. Some aren’t bad, but others look completely foreign, like they would be more at home in Final Fantasy or Nightmare Before Christmas than any past game in the series. Aside from the opening cut scene and some of the musical tracks, there’s very little Castlevania about Judgment.
Graphics aren’t worth complaining about, but they do little to help the game’s presentation. Voice acting, however, is barely tolerable, and the game’s writing makes Dead or Alive’s sound like Shakespeare. Characters sound completely unenthusiastic, likely because of the awful scripts they are forced to follow. The lack of any real polish makes it hard to defend Castlevania Judgment.
Multiplayer over WiiConnect 24 works surprisingly well, but a functioning online system isn’t enough to get over the broken, unresponsive, and unentertaining fighting mechanics of the game. The gameplay isn’t enjoyable, the graphics are just barely passable, the controls are terrible, and there’s little to keep even Castlevania fans interested. If you really, really want to, you might be able to convince yourself that you are having fun, but for most gamers it isn’t worth the hassle, or the waggle.