Castlevania Aria Of Sorrow Review 6/19/2003
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2D or not 2D that is the question. Konami delivers it's next iteration of Castlevania, is it worth it?
The Castlevania to End All Castlevanias In the year 1999, Dracula was completely destroyed and his castle was magically banished inside of a solar eclipse, where his evil could no longer reach humans. We then fast-forward 36 years later to the year 2035, where 18-year-old Soma Cruz and his cute high-school friend Mina Hakuba are visiting the Hakuba shrine to watch the first solar eclipse of the 21st century. As the moon begins to cover up the sun, he and Mina are magically transported into Castlevania. Why are they there, and how the hell do they get out? You must play to find out, dear friends!
Back to Drac’s Wacky Castle! This game borrows heavily from one of the greatest games ever made, period: that game is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The two previous GBA Castlevania games have been good, however there were things in both of the games that kept them from reaching legendary status. In short, Circle of the Moon was too difficult and dark, while Harmony of Dissonance was confusing, but easy, and the music sucked. This time around, they finally got it right. The animation and graphical quality of the game is unmatched by any other GBA game out there on the market today. Soma moves incredibly fluently, much like Alucard did in Symphony. The graphics are so good, in fact, that they actually come very close to competing with its Playstation counterpart. The only thing keeping it from overtopping the PS version is that it had larger bosses and more 3D effects. Keep in mind that this is a portable, cartridge based system we are talking about, so that is pretty damn good. There are times that the game can get pretty dark, so those of you that don’t own a GBASP or an Afterburner are just S.O.L.! Knowing that, this would make a great game to play on your TV via the GameBoy Player.
Soul Stealing 101 The game plays almost exactly like SoTN: RPG elements flawlessly combined with 2D action platforming. Soma can use a variety of different swords, knives, lances, and hammers (and even a few guns for good measure) to go about destroying the many mythological enemies in Castlevania. Add onto that one of the coolest magic systems ever to grace a Castlevania game. Gone are the standard subweapons like holy water, cross, axe, bible, etc. Instead, you can collect the souls of every single enemy in the game. These are given to you randomly, so sometimes you will be entering and exiting a room to make the enemy respawn so you can get his soul. Effectively, this gives you 110 different unique abilities and attacks at your control. The souls are broken up into 3 different categories: red, blue, and yellow, where red is projectile with Up+A, blue is a helper ability with R, and yellow is environmental; a constant that is always on. It is truly fun collecting all these souls, and some are really cool, but it is sometimes a pain in the ass trying to get one soul from an enemy that you’ve killed over 100 times and he STILL won’t give it to you. URRGGHH!! The hit detection in the game is perfect, the enemies are great fun to dodge and battle, and it just does everything it should splendidly.
Michiru Yamane Does it Again Ms. Yamane has been writing the music to Castlevania games ever since Bloodlines, which was on the Genesis. Her most popular work is, of course, for Symphony of the Night, which yours truly of course owns the soundtrack to. She is once again at the helm of composing the score for Aria of Sorrow. The game’s soundtrack is, out of all the GBA CV’s, the best one. However, you can only do so much with the GBA’s limited sound hardware, so it cannot be nearly up to par with SoTN. It does include some very catchy tunes and you will find yourself undoubtedly humming along with them when you traverse the castle. The game also includes speech sound bytes for the many characters of the game, though it’s all in Japanese— d’oh! They could have hired some English actors, but maybe it would have been too expensive or taken too much time; who knows. There are a ton of great sound effects for all of the enemies and you couldn’t expect anything but greatness from Konami.
The Solar Eclipse Beckons… This is exactly the game that we have been begging for after Syphony of the Night. If you have played through that, then you need to do everything you can to play this game. Even though it isn’t leaps and bounds beyond it, it does an incredible job of recreating the feel and gameplay. The game is also somewhat short, I beat it in a little over 6 hours, but that isn’t counting all the times I died. If you want to go about collecting all the souls, I would add a few hours on top of that. The game also gives you incentive to keep playing after you beat it, with a Boss Rush Mode, a New Game +, Hard and Normal modes, and the ability to play through the game as Julius Belmont, the newest member of the Belmont clan. This also could quite possibly be the last 2D Castlevania we get for a long time, so make sure you get around to playing it! Highly recommended!
GameDiscovery.com : Game Boy : Castlevania Review : Adventure