Review by xcamel24
"Another masterpiece game by Konami."
With Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow on the Gameboy Advance, Castlevania game play was changed a bit, with the addition of new characters and the new main character, Soma Cruz, who had the ability to collect enemies souls. Now with the direct sequel, Dawn of Sorrow, the game play has improved significantly, and shows that Konami can continue to pour out quality Castlevania games on a near yearly basis.
The story is pretty high quality for a Castlevania game. As I do not want to spoil the main storyline of either this game or Aria of Sorrow, I won't go into too much detail into the "why's" of the storyline. But basically, because of an unforeseeable turn of events, your character, Soma Cruz, ends up chasing a cult gang to their hideout, and then finds all his allies have also arrived, and now they must work together to defeat their leader and prevent this leader from doing their super evil goal. A lot of things happen along the way, and there are some pretty good twists to the story. It does what it needs to do though, it keeps you interested into finding out what happens next, so you continue on. All in all, the story is quite entertaining, and shouldn't be dull to most people.
Game Play: 10/10
This is the reason we come right? This is a game after all. Now Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow has a whole extra screen to use, so what will they add to the gameplay? How bout a constant map and drawing. Yes thats right, I said drawing. You will get to make some drawings in this game. (Not just your name entry box either) but infact you will need to have a stylus and draw a magic seal to defeat most boss monsters. Can this be frustrating? Yes, especially if you have DS classic, reaching for that pen quickly enough can be a tad difficult. DS Lite however has the pen relocated in a nicer spot (for right handers) so it should be easy for the right handed DS Lite owners. Now about the other features of game play. Soma Cruz has the ability to gain enemies souls, and depending on what kind of soul it is determines how you use it and what you equip it under. There are 3 different types of souls, and you can equip one soul of each type (until a later feature in the game comes along.) Getting souls (besides bosses) is usually pretty random, you won't get them very often, but you'll need to collect some to get the best game ending. Now as for regular play, this game contains all the features that have been in recent 2D Castlevania's, a Metroid-esque style exploration feature, but also a leveling system like an RPG. This does not dissapoint either. The leveling system is a good way to keep your character growing stronger without you having to manage it very often. Also, you can expect various equipment and weaponry to be in the game as well, giving you a wide variety of gameplay.
For the DS, these graphics are really something. Each area has its own unique feel, and is colored very well accordingly. The backgrounds appear to be pre-rendered 3D graphics, while the front backgrounds are portraits. All the weapons have their own unique look and animations, which gives the player a visual for each and every weapon they use. As far as characters go, the character models and sprites move fluently, and look great too. A Wide variety of sprites are used to give better animations, and truly make the game feel like a masterpiece, even though in terms of graphical ability the SNES could probably handle this. But the attention to detail earns the graphics here a high score.
The Sound quality and Music in this game are brilliant. As with every Castlevania game, you can expect plenty of quality new tunes to enjoy, especially the first area, but every area is well suited and can be catchy. But as Castlevania grows older, the nostalgia factor rises for the occasional old tunes, and the player will find a few of those around the castle as well. The original boss battle music is okay, but when you get to the more larger scale epic battles, the boss music greatly improves and you'll have no problem feeling the heat of battle. The music is a masterpiece, and is one of the best synthesized soundtracks I've heard in years.
The game comes and delivers here. If you can only get one DS game, and it had to be this one, you would not be dissapointed. There are 3 endings to the game, and if you complete a certain one correctly, you can unlock a brand new game, with Julius mode. In Julius mode, you'll get to play Julius Belmont through the game, as well as two other characters, Genya Arikado, and Yoko Belnades, more of Soma's Allies. While you would think it is just a run through the game with the powerful characters, it is not. It feels like a whole new game. It also will change a few tunes in favor for some old ones, another nice perk. Now if you complete all 3 endings and beat Julius mode, well there is still more for you. There is soul collecting, which you could spend some time leveling up and collecting the souls of monsters you don't have yet to improve your weaponry. Then you can do Hard Mode and New Game +, which allows you to start your game over with all the non-mandatory souls and replay the game, but on the difficulty of your choice too. And if you beat all that, and decide you need more, there is Boss Rush mode, which is seeing how quickly you can knock out all the bosses in the game. If you still need more, there is Enemy Set mode, which lets you create rooms filled with enemy souls you've collected, and then go through them as fast as you can. Still not satisfied? There is Soul Trade, which allows you to connect with another DS that has Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, and trade souls you've collected with each other. There is also a VS mode, although I haven't tried that out yet, so I won't say much on that. There is also a sound test and Bestiary for those who are interested. All in all, there is a crap load of replay value here, and although you can conquer the main quest in 10 hours, you can spend another 20 in replay value, and any portable game that lasts that long is quite an achievement.
The Controls and learning curve in this game are great. It starts out simple, but quickly picks up pace especially if you fail to collect some powerful souls, you can get your butt handed to you pretty quickly. However, with proper preparation, things can go very smoothly, and you can easily destroy your opponents. The controls work quite nicely, but should you for some reason not like them, they are all customizable (the 6 Letter buttons) and can be set to whatever you'd like them on. Now when you first select the game, you cannot choose a difficulty level, but once you complete it with the best ending, you can choose hard mode for a greater challenge. All in all, the game will provide a great deal of challenge all the way through, and not just in combat. Figuring out which area to go to next or how to get past a certain obstacle can leave you stuck for quite a while. Boss fights may also leave you stuck for elongated periods of time forcing you to gain a level or two or change your strategy by using different souls or equipment.
Over All: 10/10
From my standpoint, this game is everything the average gamer would like, because of its good story and fun interactive game play, but yet will still please the hard core Castlevania fans with the large areas, mass array of equipment, and souls to collect, as well as the great replay value. The only great flaw I can find with Dawn of Sorrow is the tediousness of collecting souls (it isn't easy to get the good ones) and finding a way to quickly get to your DS stylus (I always took it out before the battle and grabbed it real quick when I got him ready to seal.) This game has pretty much everything, RPG level ups, Platforming challenge, Action Adventure combat, Metroid exploration, and the Castlevania storyline. Anyone who can still find this game on a store shelf should get it immediately, or buy it off Amazon or Ebay, because it is worth their while.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 01/02/07
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