The dual character play and co-op is sounding more and more fun.
IGA (full name Koji Igarashi) is here at the Leipzig Games Convention to give us an update on his latest (and early word is, greatest) production yet - Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin for Nintendo DS.
Portrait of Ruin takes place in Europe at the time of the Second World War, as an evil artist, Brauner, plots to use the souls of war victims to resurrect Dracula. Two heroes - Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin - must infiltrate Brauner's castle and dive into magical paintings (the portraits of the game's title) which transport them to new worlds rife with demons.
If you're wondering where IGA gets such gothic ideas, we soon find out. He begins by telling us, through his translator, how he came to Germany via Romania. Holiday? No, a research trip to Dracula's homeland. This man is serious about his work.
We last spoke to IGA about Portrait of Ruin at E3 in May, so we're curious to know how the game has progressed since then.
"In the E3 version not so many weapons were available but in the Games Convention version many weapons can be carried by the character. More weapons and attacks are available to the enemies, too, and more magic. Furthermore, cooperation attacks are now available."
Cooperation is going to play a major part in Portrait of Ruin because, instead of controlling a single vampire hunter, you control two of them.
"The two characters have different strong points," says IGA. "Jonathan is good at physical attacks and Charlotte is good at magical attacks, so for instance if the enemy is weak against physical attacks, the player should choose Jonathan more. Basically, the player can have two options to attack the enemy.
"The player can switch between characters but another option is available which is that one character can accompany the other character, behind them. We have prepared various attacks by using this cooperation."
IGA explains that if, for instance, Jonathan is poisoned by an enemy, you can switch control to Charlotte, curing Jonathan in the process. Also, if a character is turned to stone by an enemy's magic attack, the other character can jump in and smash the stone to set their partner free.
Cooperative gameplay in single-player mode is all well and good, but what about online? Has IGA been able to fulfil the promise of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection gameplay?
"It's almost 100% confirmed," he tells us. "Not only Wi-Fi Connection but also local wireless. We have two new elements: the items that the character has obtained can be exchanged with other users, and cooperation play with another player can be available to clear the difficult areas such as Boss Rushes. [Face the game's bosses one after the other - Ed.]
"Due to the restriction of Wi-Fi Connection there are more elements available in local wireless. The biggest difference [between Wi-Fi and local wireless] is in the cooperative play mode. We have one co-op stage available in the Wi-Fi mode and several levels on local wireless mode."
While IGA is reluctant to give more details about the cooperative online mode, we manage to probe deeper into the intriguing 'item exchange' function.
"Item exchange is available in Wi-Fi and local wireless," says IGA. "It's not really an exchange, though: one user copies items to the other. The user who gets the copied item will lose money but the player who sold the item will not gain the money because it's copied, not traded."
IGA explains that players who sell copies of their weapons online through the item exchange system will earn 'secret points' which can be used to buy new items. The rarer the weapon you sell, the more points you earn, so it will pay to be a good player and hunt down all the secrets the game has to offer.
As well as using the DS's wireless function, Portrait of Ruin will also use the stylus and touch screen, though not as extensively as its predecessor Dawn of Sorrow.
"We have fewer points to use the stylus in this version," says IGA. "The magic seal system which was in the previous version was popular but some users complained about it because writing magic seals would affect the smooth gameplay. The strongest point of DS hardware is two screens so we will make full use of them."
IGA explains that the majority of character control is done with the D-pad but you can use the stylus to point to areas of the screen where you want your CPU-controlled partner to attack. Normally, though, the CPU is intelligent enough to do what is necessary by itself, he adds.
It seems that IGA and his team have made a lot of progress since E3. We ask how much more he has to do before the game's planned release in November.
"Now is the peak time. I shouldn't have come to the Games Convention actually because I still have a lot to do," he says, laughing.
Sadly we're out of time, but we manage to squeeze in one more question. At E3 IGA said he couldn't envision a Castlevania game working on Wii ("You cannot keep on whipping with the Wii Remote; you would get tired within five minutes," he said back in May). Has he had any more thoughts on the subject?
"We still can't think about anything other than this DS version because we are so busy but of course we would like to think of something interesting and pleasant for Wii. I have some ideas for Castlevania for Wii."
With that enigmatic answer hanging in the air, we wonder where IGA's imagination will take us nextů
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin comes exclusively to Nintendo DS in November.
Also sounds like we might see a Castlevania from Igarashi on Wii after all.