Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
When darkness and death spread across the land, the powers of evil thrive. As with the Great War (World War I, of course) making the world ripe for the rise of Dracula (in Castlevania Bloodlines), so too does the Second World War give Dracula a chance to return once again.
When Dracula's castle appears in its usual location, two friends, Johnathan Morris (son of John Morris and heir to the Morris and Belmont clans) and Charlotte Aulin (heir to the Belnades clan), meet at the dread demon castle to return the foul demon to his grave. What they find, though, is not Dracula but the master vampire Brauner (who also happens to be quite the painter). He, along with his two daughters, Stella and Loretta, plan to use the power of the demon castle to spread darkness across the world and rule on their own. Dracula isn't even a blip for them.
Johnathan and Charlotte explore the castle, encountering allies like the priest, Vincent, and the ghostly merchant, Wind. Wind aids Johnathan in his quest, helping the kid deal with the death of his father, John Morris. The Vampire Killer, the family's whip and aid in defeating Dracula time and again, was the cause of John's death. John was unable to use the whip fully without damaging himself, and destroying Dracula eventually also destroyed John.
The two heroes also discover paintings that act as portals to other worlds and serve as power bases for Brauner's evil plans. Upon entering these portals, the heroes are able to defeat the evil within, destroying that source of Brauner's power.
In time, the duo of Johnathan and Charlotte explore enough of the castle and collect enough clues to discover that Wind is actually Eric Lecarde (the other hero from the previous game). Worse, Stella and Loretta are actually Eric's daughters, turned into vampires and brainwashed into believing they were Brauner's own daughters. Charlotte, thankfully, is able to master a spell, Sanctuary, that can cure vampirism in its intended targets and grant new life. The two heroes eventually confront the vampire sisters, and with Charlotte's magic, free the girls from their evil and Brauner's hold.
From there, the sister's aid Johnathan in gaining full use of the Vampire Killer whip. Filled with power, the two heroes then break through further worlds to reveal Brauner's own workshop. Within they drive back the evil vampire, but it's Death who deals the killing blow. Death had believed Brauner was working to resurrect Dracula, and once he discovered that the vampire was not working with him, Death took his terrible revenge.
But it's Brauner's death that brings about Dracula's true resurrection. Teaming together, Dracula and Death go toe-to-toe with John and Charlotte. Once the tide of battle turns, Death gives his own life to bring Dracula's truest form. It's only through a final push that the heroes are able to defeat Dracula once and for all (for a time, of course).
Job well done, the heroes flee the castle before it crumbles. With his daughters freed of the magic of the castle (and undeath, of course), Eric is able to leave this world. The demon has been put in the ground, and the countryside is saved once again (except for that pesky war, of course, but who's counting?).
Portrait of Ruin features an interesting play style (a style unlike most other games in the series). As the player you have direct control over both Charlotte and Johnathan at the same time. Both characters are on screen, and can team up for various moves. Each has different moves and strengths, so playing to both sets of skills is necessary to clear the game.
This game is a direct sequel to Castlevania Bloodlines (one of the few direct sequels in the series). Much of the plot deals with characters related to the previous game, their descendents, and events that occurred after the previous game.
One of the major plot points is the death of John Morris, a death caused by John's inability to use the Vampire Killer whip safely (using the true power without being a Belmont will apparently kill you, eventually). Johnathan Morris, his son, is wracked with guilt over the death of his father and fear of the whip and what it will do to him (he's honestly rather whiny for much of the game and not a very engaging hero). To gain full power over the whip, John has to fight the Whip's Memory (a battle he has to do on his own, without the help of Charlotte). The Whip's Memory, to note, is Richter Belmont, marking another game where that vampire hunter shows up (giving Simon a run for his money in the over-exposure department).
Of course, the other major plot point is that Wind is actually Eric Lecarde, and that his daughters, Stella and Loretta, have become brainwashed vamp-slaves on Brauner. To free then, Charlotte learns the Sanctuary spell and casts it on the two girls. Sanctuary cures the intended targets of vampirism... and yet no one thinks to try it on Dracula. Far be it from us to tell Konami how to write its game series (they stopped returning our calls and took out a restraining order the last time we tried), but it seems to us that a spell that can cure vampirism should be able to work on any vampire, not just the ones the writers conveniently think it should work on.
Bonus modes can be unlocked (as is par for the course in the series now). Stella and Loretta can be unlocked, showcasing their early adventure (you can play through the whole castle with them using the touchscreen to control their magics). Richter and Maria can also be unlocked, although their adventure is totally non-cannon.