This flimsy, pathetic fighter gives Castlevania (and evil monsters in general) a bad name.
More than a few times while playing Castlevania: Judgment, I was reminded of the goofy camp classic Rocky Horror Picture Show, but not in a good way. Judgment has cross-dressing vampires, absurdly buxom creatures of the night, and some of the worst dialogue ever written. Filled with off-key sexual overtones and horrendous exposition that fits the Castlevania series like an uncomfortably tight cape, Judgment fails spectacularly as both a fighting and action game.
[image1]The story, where characters from past and present Castlevania games have fallen into a time rift and must now fight their way to "that which they desire", is pretty ridiculous. While fans might initially be excited to see old-school holdovers like Grant, Sypha, and Trevor Belmont from Castlevania 3, these characters have been slapped with cardboard-thin backstories that are insultingly shallow.
In the awful story mode, your character faces off against ten combatants while spouting painful, random nonsense. Instead of making the most out of potentially historic encounters between Trevor Belmont vs. Simon Belmont or Alucard vs. Dracula, in these cutscenes the characters stand perfectly still while the camera pans over them. It's an awful choice of direction that drains the life out of these matchups.
[image2]As excruciating as the storyline might be to watch, it's a somewhat welcome respite from the cheap, repetitive fighting game itself. With only a few attack buttons, this is one of the simplest fighting games ever made, and it's possible to destroy any opponent just by blocking and following up over and over again with the same basic combos. The lack of depth in Castlevania: Judgment is a stunning oversight.
One thing this game does have to its advantage, however, is the breadth of character types. The Belmont family's whip and Alucard's sword are natural choices for a Castlevania fighter, but more surprising was Maria's wooden staff/owl cage, which lets her float around a bit and summon spells. If more of the characters were as refreshingly original and well-animated as Maria, this game might merit a higher score, but instead the rest of the roster is rounded out with duds like an overweight, ugly Golem and a stiff, stuffy Dracula that looks like he's got rigor mortis.
[image3]The extra gameplay modes in Judgment are also uneven. The most notable is castle mode, which is a series of arenas laid out over a map that resembles the one from the original Castlevania. Player handicaps and minion encounters (which total only four: mermen, zombies, iron gladiators, and minotaurs) offer a slight variation in the gameplay, but it's not enough to make up for the bad fighting system. Each character must play through all 30 rooms to unlock pointless extras like character art or wearable bunny ears.
As the basis for a full-on action game, Castlevania: Judgment might have worked, but the dull arenas, limited enemy monsters, and horrible storytelling means that we're only left with a poor fighting game instead. It's an awful game, and to top it all off, it's nearly unplayable with just a Wii Remote and Nunchuk, because the game won't register multiple swings for the basic attacks the way it does rapid button presses on the Wii Classic Controller. This might be a hidden feature, though—it's almost as if the game itself knows that it shouldn't be played. Stay away from this monster.