Castlevania Judgment: It's like Soulcalibur Legends (but better?)

Castlevania Judgment. When we first heard of this title, we immediately conjured up memories of Soulcalibur Legends (read the preview that got us blacklisted by Namco Bandai here). Somehow, Konami is daring to tread the same path by re-imagining the Castlevania franchise as a waggle-filled fighting game with subpar (even for Wii) graphics and shallow gameplay. We'd feel sorry for poor ol' Castlevania for being treated this way -- but we've been through this before.

At the very least, Judgment is much more competent and fun than Soulcalibur Legends. Graphically speaking, Judgment is rather unattractive, featuring awkward character models that certainly don't belong in the Castlevania universe. Textures are low-res, environments are uninspired and character models are poorly constructed with flat textures and low poly counts. Sadly, it doesn't match the visual fidelity of the 3D Castlevania titles on the PS2.

Thankfully, the gameplay in Judgment isn't as shallow as you may expect. Yes, you can swing your Wiimote every which way, but you won't be able to win with blind waggling. Perhaps it's because Judgment is being touted as a fighting game and not an adventure game, but the fighting engine does feature a bit more depth than the one found in Soulcalibur Legends. A huge change, for example, is that you'll actually have to block attacks (!). Players will also be able to equip various Castlevania-themed secondary weapons to unleash upon opponents. For example, I equipped the trusty cross with Simon. A press of the A-button throws it like a boomerang. It's perfect to use after knocking an opponent to the ground. As they get up, it smacks them in the back. Yeah, it's a dirty trick.
Quite possibly the most fun, and most game-ruining aspect of Castlevania Judgment, is its special attack. Kill the random zombies that are aimlessly wandering around and absorb power-ups. Slowly, you'll build up a special meter on the bottom of the screen. Get it completely filled, and you'll be able to unleash a special attack with a single press of the down button. Yes, just press it once and if you make contact with your opponent, it will unleash a devastating attack that will almost certainly KO the other character. Cheap? Yes. Hilarious? Yes. James Ransom-Wiley was utterly destroyed by a 99-hit combo that I unleashed by simply pressing down on the D-Pad. James, you've been judged!

Ultimately, Castlevania Judgment isn't a surprise. It's most likely exactly as you're imagining it. Perhaps we've become so accustomed to poorly imagined translations of franchises on the Wii, but we're certainly not disappointed in Judgment. To be disappointed would mean we had higher expectations.

Casltevania Judgment will be available on Wii later this year. It'll feature 14 playable characters, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support, and connectivity with the far superior Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia on Nintendo DS.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.