Wii

North America

Castlevania Judgment

by Zachary Miller - March 9, 2009, 11:38 am PDT
Total comments: 24

7

It's not as bad as you think!

The mainstream gaming media basically eviscerated Castlevania Judgment the day it was released (and even before), bemoaning the franchise’s bizarre attempt at a 3D fighting game and heavily criticizing the motion controls, messy camera, and Takeshi Obata’s art design. Well, they’re all right. Castlevania does not translate well to the 3D fighting genre, the motion controls are horrible, the camera is too erratic, and the character design lies somewhere between atrocious and comical. However, once you accept Judgment for what it is and isn’t, you can have a pretty good time with it. You just have to be willing to spend some time learning the ropes.

The story is absolutely inconsequential, so I won’t talk about it other than to say there’s a time rift and different characters from the Castlevania franchise are all fighting each other for no obvious reason. Dracula is involved somehow; it’s not really clear. The game is divided into different sections: traditional Story and Arcade modes, an interesting Castle mode (more on that in a minute), and online matches. Sadly, I cannot comment on the online content, because I couldn’t find anybody to play with.

The game’s control scheme is its biggest hurdle. Do not play this game with a Wii Remote and Nunchuck, because you’ll be whipping yourself in the foot. Shaking the Remote to attack is awkward and tiring, and the button configuration makes the game nigh-unplayable. The GameCube controller is an option, but the button layout makes certain attacks awkward. Your best bet is the Classic Controller, which, in spite of its own problems, is your only viable choice. Jumping and blocking are handled with the shoulder buttons, while attacks are mapped to the face buttons. You move around the 3D battlefield with the left stick and dodge with the right stick. Learning the ropes (whips?) of attacking takes some practice. The B button will be your primary attack button. Like Smash Bros., pressing different directions on the left stick in conjunction with the attack buttons results in different attacks. The A button charges attacks. Using it and the B button along with analog stick directions (or while jumping) produces different results, too. If you hold down the A button until your character flashes, the ensuing attack will (usually) be unblockable. The Y button is used for sub-weapons, and the X button is your super attack. Sub-weapons (Holy Water, Knives, etc.) are useful only when fully charged, and even then you’re better of simply attacking the usual way. They are an interesting addition to the standard fighting formula, but haphazardly implemented.

However, there is no lock-on button, and unlike a technical fighter such as Soul Calibur or Tekken, characters do not automatically face each other. This makes it very easy to run away from the opposition, although the camera will swing around like a drunken monkey as it tries to keep you and your opponent on-screen at all times. Because of the erratic camera, evading attacks is difficult: what you perceive to be the backwards direction may be different from the camera’s perspective. Very often, you will “evade” directly into an opponent’s attack. Movement problems are compounded by the various items sprinkled around battlefields, from barrels and crates (which hold items) to traps like spikes or scythes. Because the camera doesn’t give you a broad enough view, I found myself inadvertently stepping into disaster time and time again, or just falling right off the stage. The game already has a Soul Calibur bent to it, what with the weapons and certain character designs, but it either needed to be a more traditional 3D fighter or limited to two dimensions like the old King of Fighters games or Street Fighter.

Once you learn your and your opponent’s attack combos and adjust to the camera, the game becomes significantly easier. But in order to really feel like you know what you’re doing, you need to put some time into it. This is not a learn-as-you-go game, which I found irritating. The tutorials (accessed via the main menu) help drill skills into your head, though, and with its help you’ll be chaining combos with move cancels and recovering from falls in no time. Spending some time in practice mode helps, too, but without going through Training mode, Judgment has a pretty high learning curve, even compared to a more technical game like Soul Calibur IV. Another good place to pick up your skills is Castle mode, which resembles the old Soul Calibur Mission and Conquest modes, where you move from room to room fighting enemies under special conditions. They range from ridiculously easy (break five objects in the room) to unbelievably hard (keep enemies from breaking any objects for twenty seconds). But as long as you avoid the uber-hard challenges, Castle mode is pretty cool, and it unlocks cosmetic accessories for your characters.

This game's character design has been largely ridiculed, and for good reason. Absolutely none of the characters, except maybe Alucard and Shanoa, look like their canonical counterparts. Some, like Death, look like they belong in a different franchise. Others, like Aeon, look straight out of Death Note. The main problem is that each character’s costume is way too busy and modern. I don’t think they had intricate belt-coats in the 1600’s. Yet incredibly, there’s a Soul Calibur influence to the design. Carmilla is basically Ivy with a red (instead of purple) corset. She even has a whip. Grant DeNasty, who’s supposed to be a pirate, looks like Voldo here, even to the point of being covered in bandages and adopting bizarre postures for attacks. And then there are the non-canonical characters like Cornell (Castlevania 64) and Golem (from no game in particular). There are plenty of other canonical characters that could have filled those shoes, like Soma Cruz, Shaft, or Charlotte Aulin. The designs of some of Judgment’s canonical characters, like Maria Renard or Eric Lecarde, are hideous. Rather than redesign Maria based on her teenage Symphony of the Night form, Judgment gives you the little kid Dracula X form instead. Eric Lecarde looks like a 12-year-old boy, and giving him the Alucard Spear just emphasizes his small stature that much more. Even Dracula looks kind of silly, what with the gold and the spikes. .In all, these are not Castlevania characters.

At least Konami was kind to the musical score, which features remixed versions of classic Castlevania themes, including the seminal “Bloody Tears” and plenty of Symphony tunes. Additionally, the voice acting is good, but in a campy way. Few combatants sound out of character, but there’s definitely a strong anime influence (Maria's voice is straight out of Inayusha). Castlevania fans are also rewarded with bonus content for both Judgment with Order of Ecclesia when the two are hooked together, although the DS bonus content isn’t all that great.

If you work at learning the game, and view it as something that’s not necessarily Castlevania proper, Judgment can provide a decent romp. If you're looking for a good lighthearted fighter, Judgement is outclassed by Brawl. However, if you like Soulcalibur but don’t own a PS3 or Xbox 360, Judgment is your only real alternative, and it’s not as terrible as people have been saying.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 9 7 7 8 7
Graphics
8

There is definitely better on the Wii, but on the whole, these are good character models with smooth animations. The battlefields are diverse, too. There are times where a brighter look would’ve been appreciated, though.

Sound
9

Judgment has a great a great soundtrack that's filled with remixes of beloved classic tracks.

Control
7

The controls definitely take some getting used to. Using a shoulder button to jump just doesn’t seem kosher, and the use of sub-weapons seems haphazard at best. There really should be a lock-on button, but once you get used to how the game is played, it’s not a deal-breaker.

Gameplay
7

The fighting system, once you train and practice, is surprisingly robust. The Arcade and Story modes are just what you’d expect, and Castle mode is a combination of fun and frustration. I wish I could’ve found somebody to play with online.

Lastability
8

Taking all the characters through Story and Arcade will take awhile, as will Castle mode. More characters are unlocked as you progress through the story.

Final
7

There are some really scary aspects to this game—like the art direction—but when you remove all the anti-hype, Judgment succeeds at being a perfectly playable, albeit obtuse, fighting game. Wii owners should definitely check it out. It won’t please everybody, but I can guarantee it’s not the crap-fest it has been made out to be.

Summary

Pros
  • Connect Ecclesia to Judgment to unlock bonuses in both
  • From a technical standpoint, it looks great
  • It's a full-fledged Wii fighting game
  • Once you figure it out, the fighting system works quite well
  • Soundtrack classy and diverse
Cons
  • Apparently nobody plays online
  • Character design is atrocious, hilarious, and not Castlevania in the slightest
  • Frustrating camera with no opponent lock-on
  • Pretty much unplayable without a Classic Controller
  • Some Castle mode challenges are basically impossible
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusMarch 09, 2009

I disagee with only 1 point, It's actually really playable with with the wii remote+ nunchuk, try nunchuk style B the only thing you have to shake the wii remote for is to do your hyper attack and shaking the nunchuk to do a dodge. However I do agree that the other 2 nunchuk style controls are awful since it's not really fun shaking all the time to do your basic attack.

I would of given this game a 7.5 personally. It's made by a respectable fighting developer 8ing which also made Tatsunoko vs Capcom, the gamecube and wii naruto fighting games and bloody roar series.

I'm curious -- do you really think this kind of connectivity between Wii and DS is a good thing?  It seems like a craven marketing ploy to require owning two different games to unlock everything in each.  Maybe it's not so bad when there's an alternate method (as I think was done for some of the unlocks in Metroid Prime).

EnnerMarch 09, 2009

There was an alternative to getting the fusion suit in Metroid Prime? First I heard of that. Then again, I'm pretty there was some Action Replay code out there.

I think it bears mentioning that the character designs look like from Death Note because the character designer worked on the art of Death Note.

NinGurl69 *hugglesMarch 09, 2009

So far we haven't seen GOOD Wii-DS connectivity yet.

Where's my secret agent spy game where we get to use the DS as a PDA or hAxors gadget?  or as a radar map?  or some camera display device?  Hell, I don't think the Wii Remote's been employed as a Geiger Counter yet.

What if the DS was used to spot... GHOST AURA in a game setting?

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusMarch 09, 2009

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

I'm curious -- do you really think this kind of connectivity between Wii and DS is a good thing?  It seems like a craven marketing ploy to require owning two different games to unlock everything in each.  Maybe it's not so bad when there's an alternate method (as I think was done for some of the unlocks in Metroid Prime).

Not really since it just unlocks a few things on the Wii version and a few things on the DS version it's nothing major. The most complex use of DS connectivity on the Wii is Pokemon Battle Revolution.

KDR_11kMarch 09, 2009

Hm, I think I remember an earlier 3D fighter with buttons for jumping and ducking but I don't know which one... Overall the idea makes sense though. Konami kept claiming the game is a 3d action game, not a fighting game so I guess they wanted action game controls and in pretty much every genre other than 1 on 1 fighters jumping is a discrete action.

When I saw the Death design for the first time I thought "D. Gray-Man". No idea how you can screw up the goddamn GRIM REAPER and noone can say that the plain old reaper isn't awesome enough as a character design.

You can unlock Shoana and Aeon in Judgment by alternate means, and you can unlock the new level cap in Ecclesia by alternate means, too. So the connectivity isn't a requirement, but I s'pose it's nice to have.

I know the Death Note guy designed the characters. I put that in the review!

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 09, 2009

I personally don't mind the design of the characters, but I do agree that they do look out of place. But I don't mind it since this isn't even canon.

Now if the design was used in a real Castlevania game then it would be troublesome.

NinGurl69 *hugglesMarch 09, 2009

Smash Bros. isn't really GANON but at least it goes for proper representations.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 10, 2009

Quote from: NinGurl69

Smash Bros. isn't really GANON but at least it goes for proper representations.

True, but still since this is a quick side project for Konami I don't see it as a major entry in the series.

Then again, I am not a big CV fan, so maybe I have to be a major fan in order to be disgusted with the designs.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusMarch 10, 2009

Quote from: pap64

Quote from: NinGurl69

Smash Bros. isn't really GANON but at least it goes for proper representations.

True, but still since this is a quick side project for Konami I don't see it as a major entry in the series.

Then again, I am not a big CV fan, so maybe I have to be a major fan in order to be disgusted with the designs.

Actually Eighting did the development.

Quote from: Halbred

You can unlock Shoana and Aeon in Judgment by alternate means, and you can unlock the new level cap in Ecclesia by alternate means, too. So the connectivity isn't a requirement, but I s'pose it's nice to have.

That's really good to hear.

EnnerMarch 10, 2009

Quote from: Halbred

I know the Death Note guy designed the characters. I put that in the review!

Hmm, from how I read the review, that particular connection wasn't explicitly mentioned. "Others, like Aeon, look straight out of Death Note," could be interpreted as "looks like that style" if one didn't know the character designer worked on both properties. Bah, I don't know; I'm probably missing something. This is a trivial thing anyway.

StratosMarch 10, 2009

Quote from: NinGurl69

So far we haven't seen GOOD Wii-DS connectivity yet.

Where's my secret agent spy game where we get to use the DS as a PDA or hAxors gadget?  or as a radar map?  or some camera display device?  Hell, I don't think the Wii Remote's been employed as a Geiger Counter yet.

What if the DS was used to spot... GHOST AURA in a game setting?

Remember using the GBA as a remote detonator and mini map in Splinter Cell on Gamecube? I loved that feature!

I'm actually glad to see some companies starting to bring back connectivity.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 10, 2009

You know what's funny?

When the fanbase was small Nintendo went crazy with connectivity on the N64 and GC. The N64 had many games that were compatible with the GB Transfer pack. And on the GC days they went crazy with GBA/GC connectivity.

Yet, now that both the Wii and DS have the largest user bases ever neither Nintendo nor third parties have tried to connect them in unique ways (the only exception is "Echoes of Time", and that is debatable as Pro will argue).

NinGurl69 *hugglesMarch 10, 2009

Yeah, Nintendo dropped the ball again.

Think about it, Nintendo's experimenting with online a bit this gen despite never making it a priority to fuel Wii's success.

Next generation, Nintendo will leave out online completely.  This is how Nintendo works.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 11, 2009

Quote from: NinGurl69

Yeah, Nintendo dropped the ball again.

Think about it, Nintendo's experimenting with online a bit this gen despite never making it a priority to fuel Wii's success.

Next generation, Nintendo will leave out online completely.  This is how Nintendo works.

While I agree that Nintendo should have experimented with connectivity more in this generation, especially since both can easily do it without the need of additional hardware, let's play Devil's Advocate for a bit.

As cool as connectivity was it only attracted a small niche sector of the core market. The only ones that truly embraced it were the Pokemon fanatics. Outside of that very few games used the transfer and connectivity outside of unlocking stuff.

On the GC only two games fully used them; Crystal Chronicles and Four Swords. They were awesome, but they were largely criticized for requiring other pieces of hardware for functions that could have been done with just the controller. Because of that both of these games didn't sell as well as expected and no other game tried to be as bold and innovative.

The sad truth is that Nintendo sees this as a failed experiment that costed them a lot of money and had little return.

NinGurl69 *hugglesMarch 11, 2009

PSP-PS3 connectivity success is only reinforcing Nintendo's stance.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterMarch 11, 2009

Quote from: NinGurl69

PSP-PS3 connectivity success is only reinforcing Nintendo's stance.

Unless you are being sarcastic, isn't the connectivity kind of limited there?

It seems most of the features are for the PS store.

What PS3 game use the PSP to the fullest, as an alternative way to control your games?

StratosMarch 11, 2009

Quote from: pap64

Quote from: NinGurl69

PSP-PS3 connectivity success is only reinforcing Nintendo's stance.

Unless you are being sarcastic, isn't the connectivity kind of limited there?

It seems most of the features are for the PS store.

What PS3 game use the PSP to the fullest, as an alternative way to control your games?

That is what Pro is saying. Since PSP-PS3 connectivity is not terribly successful Nintendo is seeing that as another reason why they shouldn't try it again.

I see WiiWare as a potential outlet for cool connectivity projects like a new Pac-Man Vs. I even recall Namco mentioning that they were considering a Vs. release for WW.

*Jumping back on-rails*
I'm thinking that I will eventually grab this since I liked Soul Calibur 2 on GC and would like to get another game like it. I also plan to get Ecclesia so I know I would get something out of this feature.

GregLover5000March 17, 2009

Awesome news... I just bought this last weekend (MicroCenter had it on sale for $19.99 new) but haven't gotten around to playing it yet.

I'm a huge Death Note fan, so I was happy to spend $20 just to have Obata's box art, essentially; now if the game doesn't suck, that's purely a bonus. I did distrust a lot of the really harsh reviews -- seems messing with the art direction (and making it a fighting game) really ticked off a lot of fanboys. Me, I don't see why I can't enjoy Castlevania III on virtual console and Judgment as well. (Same with Soulcalibur Legends; I paid $20 and really enjoyed it, even though it's not the game Soulcalibur II is.)

I have a feeling I'm gonna gravitate to the Gamecube controller, but I'll give the Wiimote a shot.

KDR_11kMarch 17, 2009

I've preordered it because Amazon had it for 26€ (now it's 27 so I've saved 1€ by preordering :P). Seems Konami figured the game got too much hate from the people it was aimed at and all they could do to salvage it was to make it a budget title. Which is quite uncommon, usually games release as budget titles in the US and full price in Europe... (lol 60€ for Alien Syndrome and We Love Katamari)

NinGurl69 *hugglesMarch 17, 2009

Did you just imply Konami has some business sense?

PeachylalaMarch 17, 2009

Making another MGS game.
Has two of the most self-centered game development douches ever (IGA and Kojima).
Goemon development team left and is now Good Feel.
They must've had some hand in Bomberman: Act Zero... (???)

Yes, they have really good business sense Pro Daisy.

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Castlevania Judgment Box Art

Genre Fighting
Developer Konami
Players1 - 2
OnlineYes
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Castlevania Judgment
Release Nov 18, 2008
PublisherKonami
RatingTeen

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