E3 2008: Hands On With Castlevania Judgement (Or How To Make Me Lose Interest in Less Than a Minute)
Castlevania Judgment is a fighting game for the Wii that’s set in the Castlevania world…and that should be enough to give anyone pause. The game unfortunately falls into that annoying category of titles on the E3 showcase floor that I picked up out of curiosity, realized I didn’t like, and ended up feigning interest for several minutes while the presenter tried to tell me more about it. Then I usually scurried off the instant their attention went elsewhere. In this case though, even the presenter didn’t seem to care too much. It’s really too bad though, since the concept of the game and a few of the ideas presented in it are a little different and interesting, but the whole package is just terribly executed.
The demo allowed me to play as three characters: Maria, Simon Belmont, and Alucard. They all of course have their own special moves and such, not to mention a selection of extra weapons. As Simon, you can choose the knife or the cross, which work as a long-range projectile or a short-range boomerang, respectively. So of course, you simply choose your fighter and battle through the rest of the cast, all while the story is explained through expositional conversations between fights.
I’m sure that all sounds straightforward enough, but let me assure that it isn’t. Konami has been claiming that this isn’t a “fighting game,” but that doesn’t excuse that fact that the whole thing feels like a very stripped down Soul Calibur. About the only difference I could garner between this and any other fighting game is that you occasionally have a zombie or something wandering around the arena. Apparently, you can use them against your opponent, but mostly they just get in the way. You also have a very limited array of moves, meaning you’ll probably figure them all out in a couple of rounds, after which they’ll just get old. Eventually, you’ll just end up using the same one or two moves over and over. The fact that even the computer kept using the same exact moves on me repeatedly doesn’t speak well to the complexity of the fighting.
Having to play the game on the Wii doesn’t make things much better. Most games allow you to mash buttons until you get the hang of it. Castlevania Judgement makes you try different combinations of wild flailing, hoping you get a different result. All the moves involve basically holding one or two buttons and flicking the Wii-mote in a direction. Konami has claimed that they chose the Wii for this game so that players could really feel like they were using the different weapons in the game as they played. There are two facts working against this though: 1) a Wii-mote doesn’t feel like a whip and 2) the waggle just overcomplicates things. Even once I was flat out told how to pull off certain moves, just getting the damn Wii remote to register it proved to be a pain. It reminded me of playing a game on an old arcade cabinet with a busted joystick.
I can see how Konami might have thought this was a good idea; hell, it at least sounds like an interesting concept. Unfortunately, if there’s a Wii owner out there that’s really itching to play a fighting game, they’re going to pick up Smash Bros. I really just hope the next 3D Castlevania game they make is, well, and actual Castlevania game; a good one. Konami, you do this, and I’ll be willing to forget all about Castlevania 64.
Love Castlevania, but don’t like fighting games? Check out our complete Castlevania: Lords of Shadow walkthrough!