Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night Hands-On Preview

Konami’s E3 booth was rocking a variety of iPhone and iPad games, both released and unreleased. Most notably, Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is an original title using the popular Castlevania license. While it’s not the classic side-scrolling adventure we would all salivate over, we’re hopeful that this is a proverbial sprinkle before the rain.

This puzzler is a Match-3 game, reminiscent of Puzzle Fighter with its one-on-one battles. Like all games in the genre, matching three or more colors together removes those colored blocks. A few twists have been added here, though.

Besides regular falling blocks, there are inactive and translucent ones that become active when you make color matches on adjacent blocks. This allows for some strategic planning if you want to trigger combo chains. Also, many characters from the Castlevania universe– like Alucard, Richter and Maria– are selectable, each having magical and special attacks.

Story Mode and Arcade Mode are the two main ways to play this game. While Arcade Mode consists of picking a character and fighting others in a ladder-style structure, Story Mode is where most of the action takes place. The Konami representative we spoke with claimed there’d be 15-20 hours of gameplay, and from what we saw, that’s completely possible. We didn’t see much of the Story Mode, but it’s clear that you progress through the classic castle picking up items and fighting evil minions all along the way.

Gameplay feels solid enough, and throwing in magical attacks to drain the opponent’s health bar adds an interesting dimension. Playing more extensively will tell the story on longevity, but the early prognosis looks good. Visuals that resemble Symphony of the Night give fan service for diehards of the series, and there are over a dozen backdrops to battle in. We were also told that achievements and Facebook Connect will be in place when the game is released.

Details on a launch date and pricing could not be confirmed. From reading between the lines in our conversations with Konami, we’d guess the game will come in around 5 bucks sometime this summer. Till then, check out our hands-on video from the Konami booth.