Finally, a day straight of nothing but game play. It would have been two but... stupid car with it's stupid battery terminals. Anyway, there are more important things than transportation and Castlevania is one of them.
One of the things I liked about Dawn of Sorrow was the wide range of color pallettes and interesting scenery. Portrait of Ruin takes this a step further by developing a wide range of locales for exploration to the paintings. No longer is Castlevania just the traditional castle. You can now go to strange places like Ancient Egypt, something we only saw a taste of in Dawn of Sorrow.
Portrait of Ruin, while being 32 bit in play is 64 bit in some of the background rendering. Since 64 bit games tend to make me a little woozy, I was pleased to see soemthing I could interact with and not get motion sickness. Speaking of the backgrounds, not only do they look fantastic, they have a life of their own. Cans fall when you land on food store shelves, making change at a cash register will net you some food, hell, punching meat will get you a quest item.
And then their are the quests: run by the ghost of Eric Lecarde, you get some pretty nifty stuff for completeing them.
We've got some griping about the anime style art all over forums and message boards. (i.e. no Kojima). To be honest, I'm glad. I don't think his style would have worked well for this one. Jonathan has a very animated face and a wide range of expressions. Kojima has traditionally done singular portraits for the characters and left it at that. Since I like to see more than one expression on the face of the characters, I'll take the new art. (Though the artist for Portrait is different from DoS, I like the new Soma better.)
I've also seen some people dissing the game before it was even released. That's just bad form, people. I'm not anywhere near finishing the first castle and I'm enjoying it immensely. The game forces you to use your brain and come up with strategy. Dying a few times with Jonathan means you need to be using Charlotte more and combining their attacks more often. It also means using the talk function. Jonathan and Charlotte will give you valuable information here.
So far, the game, which was cheaper than previous releases in the franchise, is giving me my money's worth.