E3 06: Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin - hands on

Dracula seems to rise up every year now. Hey, we're not about to complain - every time he shows up, the world is treated to another adventurous vampire hunt that trumps practically every other 2D game out there. Portrait of Ruin already feels like it won't be the exception to the Castlevania rule.

You can switch between whip-wielding Jonathan Morris and magical sorceress Charlotte Orlean. With a simple button press, you can switch between these two any time, and even summon the other down to help fight the various unholy denizens. We saw a usual roundup of enemies - skeletons, floating heads and crack-shot soldiers.

Portrait, so far, seems just like its predecessors in that you're exploring a dauntingly sized castle and searching for power-up items. The one level we played rewarded us with a double jump and the equipment-swapping ability from Dawn of Sorrow, though traditional leveling up still occurs by beating down monsters. Morris also had a projectile weapon to toss, in this case a flaming boomerang. Expect a ton more.

At the end of the demo, a hulking knight boss was blocking the only way out of the level. He pops his own head off, then sends it flying around the room. Only the body is vulnerable - though it's holding an absurdly sized lance and really wants to kill you, so it was time for some tag-teaming action.

Once the knight fell, the level was over. It seemed much more linear than the open-ended castles of previous games - a feature hinted at earlier. Portrait may in fact be less adventurous and more action-oriented, though we can already say it's a welcome entry to the franchise.

May 11, 2006