Castlevania: Judgment is widely considered the oddball in the Castlevania series. Released in 2008, it was announced as exactly what it was: a 3D Castlevaniafighting game.It boasted a cast of thirteen familiar faces from the entirety of the Castlevania series in addition to a new game-specific character, justified with an Excuse Plot about pulling people from various time periods to battle a future menace who sought to change history. Long-time bosses Dracula, Death and Carmilla were playable for the first time ever. (Well, Dracula is debatable...) Battles took place in 3D arenas with their share of obstacles, as well as breakable objects containing items that could be used in addition to each character's natural abilities. Despite the odd concept, it looked to be promising.The game garnered mixed reactions. Reasons are numerous; the fighting engine was significantly different from several other fighters of the time, and many felt that the Wii remote configuration was tiring after prolonged use (though other controller figurations are supported). Noted manga artist Takeshi Obata (of Hikaru no Go and Death Note fame) was called upon to do the artwork, resulting in drasticlly stylized character designs that the franchise had never been known to display before. Character motivation was given the spotlight, but many were of the traditional fighter variety and tended to be more annoying than interesting. On the brighter side, the soundtrack was highly praised.Fan opinion remains split. Either it's a breath of fresh air after ten years of Metroidvania sequels that shows IGA is still open to new ideas, or it's the worst thing to happen to the franchise in decades.
Judgment provides examples of:
A-Cup Angst: Maria's storyline, taking place three years after Rondo of Blood, involves being jealous of the other female characters' larger breasts. Aeon tells her point-blank she'll get the figure she craves, but will also mature past the need for it.
Ancestral Weapon: Simon tries to prove himself worthy of the Vampire Killer whip to Trevor. Eric tries to prove the value of the Alucard Spear to the eponymous donor.
Arc Number: Aeon has thirteen. Thirteen hours on Aeon's clock, thirteen hits to his Super, thirteen characters brought to the time rift to help him...
Art Shift: TakeshiObata's artwork for this game got a strong reaction from the fans. Which is ironic, considering that Castlevania has almost never maintained consistent character depictions over the 25+ years of its existence. Simon Belmont himself has changed outfits and faces repeatedly throughout his career.
Perhaps the shining exception to this is Cornell, whose wolf knight redesign is almost unanimously deemed to be awesome and a good step up from his werewolf form in Legacy of Darkness.
BFS: Eric's spear is larger than he is. Alucard's sword is of normal size, but he uses the larger Sword Familiar as a sneak attack.
Blessed with Suck: Prior to his plot point in Legacy of Darkness establishing that he trained himself to harness such abilities, Cornell seeks to eliminate his beastman nature.
Cursed with Awesome: He's still a werewolf, so he puts those abilities to good use while hunting the other denizens of the night.
Blood Knight: Shanoa, who's willing to test her power on the Belmonts.
Boss Battle: Each character has a boss battle against another character in their regular story modes. When True Story Mode is unlocked, players will battle Aeon one more time (or Dracula if the player is Aeon) before taking on the True Final Boss, the Time Reaper. Dracula is also the final boss in Arcade and Castle modes.
Breaking Speech: Aeon incorporates these into his Hyper Attacks, with an individualized one for each character, even himself.
Costume Porn: The character designs give almost everyone very elaborate clothing.
Crisis Crossover: Calling characters from different time periods in Castlevania history. This is meant to explain why certain incarnations of characters were used, such as Sypha (before her alliance with Trevor and Grant), Eric and Maria (younger versions). According to the official Castlevaniawiki, the characters entered the time rift in this order:
Sypha enters the Rift before the events of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. Trevor and Grant enter separately after Dracula's Curse but before Curse of Darkness.
Simon enters a year following the events of the first Castlevania.
Maria enters the Rift between the events of Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. To be specific, 3 years after Rondo (or 2 years before Symphony).
Alucard enters the Rift sometime after the events of Symphony and after passing on the Alucard Spear to the Lecarde clan, but how long after cannot be determined.
Cornell enters the rift right before Legacy starts.
Shanoa enters during the events of Order of Ecclesia.
Eric enters a decade before Bloodlines.
The timeframes for the villains can't be confirmed, but Dracula must logically enter after Bloodlines and before 1999, when Julius Belmont kills him once and for all.
Dark Is Not Evil: Cornell and Golem pull this off, tear-jerkingly so for the latter.
Deal with the Devil: Subverted. Cornell asks Death if he knows how to cure his condition. Death responds in the affirmative and offers to do it. Cornell refuses; he only wanted to confirm that there was a way.
Dojikko: In addition to her super move's odd outcome, Maria randomly trips during two of her moves. It's a Scrappy Mechanic, as it leaves her open to any combo or super move even if her move connects.
Mixing this in with a Player Punch, Golem reverts to a soulless being, and is slain by an unknown hunter.
After his Blessed with Suck experience and resolve to solve his problem in another way, Cornell will still lose his beastman abilities at the end of Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness... and in exactly the same way as if he had let Death remove them in the first place.
Dramatic Irony: Sypha comes from a time prior to Castlevania III, while the other three protagonists come from after it. Some of them take advantage of this.
Enemy Mine: Aeon's method requires help from the other thirteen, including the villains. Death in particular is quick to aid him, as he knows what's going on.
Expy: Aeon is a composite of two time-manipulating characters from the series: St. Germain from Curse of Darkness (his organization, outfit, inability to directly act outside areas rifted from time, and Death rivalry) and the Chronomage from Aria of Sorrow (the White Rabbit motif with color, pocketwatch, and obsession with being on time, and his opposition to Galamoth).
Flechette Storm: Grant has a stance, meter-draining special move, and super move all devoted to filling the enemy with numerous knives.
The Ghost: Galamoth is the mastermind behind the plot. He never appears in the game, and only a single line from the final boss establishes his involvement.
Heroic Sacrifice: Oddly, the Golem has the most heart-wrenching story in the game. He becomes self-aware and strives to become human, only to sacrifice his newfound consciousness to save the rest of humanity.
Ineffectual Loner: Eric, here portrayed as a child prior to the events of Bloodlines, is unhappy with being The Lancer (literally) to the Morris clan, and goes out to prove he's good enough on his own. Others call him out on his arrogance, and he ends up begrudgingly accepting his fate in the end.
The Inner Reveal: True Story Mode. During the normal story mode's progression, Aeon tells each character about the time rift, suggests that they pursue their goals, holds back during the initial fight, and is not seen again except for claiming soul keys. At no point does he reveal that he is a time traveler or that the timeline is in peril... until Death reveals that he knows the truth during his story mode. Aeon also explains it to Dracula, but it is only in True Story Mode that he tells anyone else about the situation or shows off his clock-based moves in battle. The implication is that he is only entrusting a single character, who he believes can solve the crisis, with the truth.
Grant can also use his to throw dozens of knives at his opponent, although if the first few knives don't connect then he is left wide open until he is hit or finishes. The only real use of this is against the Time Reaper, who can't get hit by standard Limit Breaks.
Death can use his meter to fly for a while.
Shanoa and Golem can use theirs to keep their dashes going.
Dracula can use his in order to keep himself suspended in the air. This eats his meter noticebly faster than the rest of the characters, but it allows him to use a combo that does a lot of damage and is hard to escape from once it hits. The problem is hitting with it.
Love Triangle: Grant's storyline stems from his unrequited feelings for Sypha, who went on to marry Trevor.
Mechanically Unusual Fighter: Dracula has little-to-no mobility and cannot be knocked down. His dash/sidestep moves are all changed to teleports, including a variant where he teleports directly behind the opponent. Rather than jump, he teleports into the air and can stay up there for as long as his super meter holds out. The majority of his attacks, including normal ones, are projectiles and ranging moves. Basically, he utilizes a variant of his standard Castlevania moveset, in contrast to other boss characters who are given more traditional fighter designs.
Mighty Glacier: Golem, though a savvy player that's skilled at using evade moves can readily use him as a Lightning Bruiser since Golem's rolling evasion is quite fast and long-ranged. It's usually better to use that instead of his painfully slow walk as his primary mode of locomotion.
Dracula himself also fits this mold, but with more emphasis on long-range attacks than melee.
Moveset Clone: Simon and Trevor—same Vampire Killer, different applications.
Place Beyond Time: None of the battles fought within the time rift have any effect on the timeline. Trevor takes advantage of this when fighting Sypha, and Death occasionally laments that his victories are meaningless.
SNK Boss: The Time Reaper certainly qualifies. His health bar is three times as long as anyone else, and he gains new attacks as you chip away at his health bar, including the ability to fire Frickin' Laser Beams out of his hands, summon random magical explosions, and even self-destruct without taking damage. This is taken Up to Eleven on Brutal difficulty, where the number of attacks, as well as their strength, go up.
The Starscream: Much like in the non-canon Kid Dracula, Galamoth is once again trying to wrestle away control from the Dark Lord (this aspect of his personality was also briefly hinted at in his SotN bio). He fails yet again.
Stripperiffic: Carmilla's outfit. Oddly, she usually wears less than this in most of her other appearances.
Whole Plot Reference: If you squint hard enough, to Kid Draculaof all games. Galamoth is trying again to usurp Dracula, take his throne, and control the Netherrealm. The Time Reaper's "I come from ten thousand years hence" line refers to 10,000 A.D., the date of Kid Dracula. In Kid Dracula, Galamoth has in his service a reaper named Shinigami-San, which is Death's name in Japan, thus linking him to the Time Reaper.
You Don't Look Like You: Some of the character redesigns are so drastic that their names, weapons and dialogue are the only reliable indicators of who they're supposed to be.