Having received a very, very early holiday present from relatives, I finally got the chance to play Castlevania: Judgment. Castlevania is one of my favorite video game series (the name of my website is derived from one of the games [link]) and whenever a new game comes out, I’m rarely disappointed. But Judgment is one of the instances where I am disappointed.
While I won’t nitpick on the less-than-stellar graphics compared to other games, or the horrific character redesigns – that’s Simon Belmont on the cover? Really? – but the gameplay experience can yield insightful lessons for game designers and developers, namely on how not to make a video game.
Koji Igarashi is often praised as a genius, but it’s games like this that make critics say that he should stick to developing 2D games. The nature of fighter games really doesn’t translate well with the Wii remote, which Judgment was developed for. He himself admitted that he had complaints about the control scheme…but rolled with it anyway. The only possible reason for doing so is because the Wii was the biggest-selling console at the time (2008) so perhaps the thought was that making the game a Wii exclusive would yield big sales.
Lesson to be learned: if it sounds like a bad idea from the get-go, most likely it’s not worth pursuing further.
Other troublesome aspects of the game are not being able to reconfigure buttons to your preferences. As someone coming from PlayStationland, it was a huge adjustment to remember which buttons are for attacking and guarding (and this is with the Classic controller that can be purchased separately.) Odd camera angles can make battles in certain stages difficult, and can even disorient gamers who are sensitive to sudden movement. Richard Li of 1Up.com rightfully points out that Judgment ignores “established fighting conventions.” Gamers are certainly getting a different experience with this game, but it’s not a good one.
I can only echo Li’s sentiment at the end of his review: “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.”