Castlevania: Judgment is a fighting game for the Nintendo Wii featuring a lineup of characters taken from throughout the pre-Lords of Shadow Castlevania timeline. Though the game is based around one-on-one fighting, aspects such as its 3D open movement and environmental hazards make it play as more of an action-brawler with Castlevania elements than a traditional fighting game like Street Fighter II or Soul Calibur.
There are fourteen playable characters in the game's roster. These characters are:
The stylized character designs were created by manga artist Takeshi Obata, best known for his work on the manga Death Note. He was approached to work on the game at the request of lead Castlevania designer Koji Igarashi.
Obata's designs are in some ways influenced by the works of previous artists. Elements of Ayami Kojima's design for Simon Belmont, for example, can be seen in Obata's interpretation. Some of the characters also bear a resemblance or take influence from figures from Death Note. In particular, the Judgment incarnation of Death in some ways resembles Death Note's shinigami.
The story of Castlevania Judgment takes place within a time rift in which the characters have become trapped. At the beginning of each character's story mode, Aeon appears and informs them that the only way to escape the rift is to pass through a series of trials. Once these trials have been passed, Aeon collects the fighter's soul key. When all thirteen soul keys have been collected, the door to the true final boss is opened. It is only by defeating the Time Reaper that the rift will disappear and everyone will return to their own times.
Judgment allows for the use of three different control methods. Players can either use a Wii Remote/Nunchuk combination to fight using motion controls, or a more traditional control scheme using either a Classic Controller or Nintendo GameCube controller. Each controller type has multiple control schemes that can be selected from the options menu, and GameCube controller rumble can optionally be turned on or off.
Combat in Castlevania Judgment is, for the most part, one-on-one. Battles can last one or multiple rounds. Unlike standard 3D fighting games like Soul Calibur, the characters are able to move freely around the arenas and are not bound to each other by an invisible axis. Arenas also vary greatly in size and design, with some offering cramped, trap-filled surroundings while others are large and free of environmental hazards. Each character is capable of using standard and special attacks, as well as a cinematic hyper attack that inflicts a great deal of damage. However, these supermoves can only be used if the special gauge at the bottom of the screen has been filled by landing blows and taking damage. Combat ends when a character has been knocked out, has fallen out of the ring, or when time expires.
A variety of subweapons based on such items found in the Castlevania franchise can be collected from the battlefield by smashing objects or defeating NPC monster enemies. These weapons consume hearts when used, but hearts can also be replenished by collecting them from smashed objects. When a subweapon is used, it can be charged by holding the proper button for a second before releasing, producing a more powerful effect at the cost of more hearts. In multiplayer matches, the players must select a subweapon to take into battle after selecting a character.
Modes of Play
Castlevania Judgment features several different modes of play, including:
- Story Mode: A single-player mode in which the player selects a character and fights through a set of matches until the ending is reached. The mode must be cleared once with each character before the story mode boss, the Time Reaper, becomes accessible.
- Arcade Mode: A time attack-style mode in which the goal is to beat all of the CPU opponents as quickly as possible. The final opponent of this mode is Dracula.
- Survival: A standard mode in which the goal is to win as many battles as possible before being defeated.
- Castle: A challenge mode. The player is presented with a series of challenges that must be cleared in order to progress, with the ultimate goal of reaching Dracula at the end. Save rooms open up along the path as boss challenges are cleared.
- Versus: A standard one-on-one mode for two players.
Play options available when connected to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection include:
- Normal Match: A basic one-on-one match between two players that have been randomly connected.
- Ranked Match: Battles that affect the winner's/loser's place in the online leader boards, which is determined by the number of wins and losses, as well as a numerical score that rises and falls with each battle.
- Friends Match: Allows two players that have exchanged Friend Codes to fight.
- Rivals Match: When two randomly paired players have finished fighting, they may agree to tag each other as rivals. Selecting to fight against rivals works in a similar fashion as Friends Matches, but without the use of Friend Codes.
Castlevania Judgment features a limited form of connectivity with the DS game Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. By selecting "Connect to DS" from the main menu and establishing a connection with a DS running Order of Ecclesia, the characters Shanoa and Aeon can be unlocked from the start without fulfilling Judgment's in-game prerequisites, along with a couple of character customization accessories that cannot otherwise be obtained in the game.
Castlevania Judgment was by and large given negative reviews. The game's metascore on Metacritic is 49. 1up.com gave the game a D-, ending the review with the quote, "As a fighter, Castlevania Judgment employs too many design ideas that are neither well planned nor well executed. It's a strange misstep for the beloved series, one that Konami hopefully learns from."
Not all of the criticism levied at the game was bad, however. One of the most positive reviews was given by IGN, which awarded the game with a score of 7.5, calling it a "pleasant surprise."