CASTLEVANIA : PORTRAIT OF RUIN / Konami / Nintendo DS
Alright young Mr. Handheld Castlevania, last time I gave you an A for your efforts. However, I felt you were really beginning to rest on your laurels and at were at risk of underachieving, and in order that I not see you wind up in detention with that serial reprobate Mega Man, I made it a condition that in order to get another excellent grade, you would have to really challenge yourself and come up with something new, fresh, innovative and/or inspiring in your next outing.
So, what do you have for us this time? Well, at a cursory glance ... I have to say that this looks pretty much like everything else you've ever turned in. Same non-linear castle with automap, same-looking sprites and backgrounds, same gameplay style and moves. I also see you've retained that icky Deviantart "amateur anime" facial portrait art from the last installment - I thought I told you to get rid of that!
Ah, but what's this? A new feature? Two players at once, whom you can switch between at any time, or have on-screen at the same time? Ah, I see, one is the typical beefy whip stud and the other is a wielder of magic, and you'll need to use both to defeat certain enemies and solve certain puzzles. Well, that's a nice try young man, but I am old enough to remember Trevor and Sypha and that this was done in Castlevania 3. You get a little credit for expanding the idea and adding basic puzzles (finicky though they may be - I especially don't like the imprecision of jumping off the shoulders of your partner, and the way in which you have them catch up to each other automatically just completely defies logic and makes a mockery of physics), but it's not gonna be enough to keep your A average unless you have something much more substantial to offer.
You know, as I go through this, I can't help but notice you got off to a decent start here with the level design and story, but you seem to have just given up and rushed the remainder about halfway through. I see a whole lot of copypasta in the last four portraits, and you've recycled almost all of your bosses from other games (and no, I don't accept "fanservice" as an excuse. Laziness is laziness in this classroom, mister.)
Also, can you explain why I am delivering groceries to ghosts in return for odd weapons? This part seems inexplicable to me.
I like that you chose Bloodlines as your main theme - underappreciated classic, that - but then you didn't really go and do anything with it other than working in a couple of the characters. The whole game just looks and feels like another entry in the Sorrow series, just without Soma and crew.
Oh, and I commend you on getting Yuzo Koshiro to come and work with Michiru Yamane on the soundtrack, but I'd like to speak to both of them in my office after class as well. Honestly, if you hadn't pointed out Mr. Koshiro's name on the credits, I wouldn't have even guessed he was involved, as the music doesn't seem to bear any of his unique stamp. It sounds like straight-up Yamane all the way, and honestly, sounds a little too much like the previous four games that she has scored. Seriously, I think it is high time for her to take a break.
Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Handheld Castlevania - you may have quite the appealing formula going, solid gameplay, the whole non-linear exploration morphine drip system, and all of that, but you've just been going to this well far too often, and it's really beginning to get tiresome. I don't see any reason why anyone who has sat through most of your previous efforts should have any great desire to sit through the same thing yet again for the ... sixth time now, I believe it is? Look, you have a tremendous history, and we will certainly look forward to your next effort, but I can't find any real reason to get excited about this one. I sincerely hope you challenge yourself more and live up to your full potential the next time I see you.