Review by StingX2
"You may go blind but you'll go blind with a smile"
Ah Castlevania, a true classic or a series that has survived despite Dracula dying more than Mario says 'Mamma Mia'. Either way from the NES to the PS2 the series has touched alot of systems including the gba where we find this specimen. This game was one of the first gba games and therefore was pretty advanced for the time, actually it is still pretty advanced now. Let's break it down now piece by piece, inch by inch.
Story has always been a BIG part of games and the Castlevania series never really stressed on it until the release of Sympothy of the Night. Well they decided not to stress on it too much here having very few plot advancements with most if not all before boss battles. Still the intro gives us a nice introduction to the story when a woman named Camilla revives Dracula and kills Morris part of a duo that last killed him. He then proceeds to drop our hero, Nathan Graves and Morris' son Hugh down a gigantic pit and then disappearing without any explanation.
Hugh jealous that you were his fathers most trusted to be given the legendary Vampire Killer whip, that he ditches you to fend for yourself. What a guy!
Konami if I could strangle you, I would! Though I don't know if that would be a friendly strangle or a menacing one, if there was any difference at all. That, dear readers sums up the gameplay pretty much without trying but this is a review so I shall try. Nathan Graves is much like the Simon Belmont remix in terms of slow response and weird jumping. Though Nathan comes packed with the whipping windmill technique that was introduced in Dracula X and learns powers as the game increases like old Alucard. So yes he is basically a Simon Belmont meets Alucard combo but who could hate a character that learns to fly like Peter Pan?
Now that we have the man that leads this game down pact lets take on the actual gameplay. Circle of the moon includes a metroid clone type gameplay with a humongous castle to explore but only little bits becoming available at a time as you learn new powers. Though the fun ends there as Nathan will battle some of the cheapest bosses and enemies ever seen in any video game.
It really isn't that they are that hard it's the fact that Nathan is really weak when it comes to strength. Konami thought they had that covered as the introduced the DSS Card system, which lets you choose one card from each set of Action and Attribute. This is just a nice and dandy idea except Konami forces you to go play Pokemon with your whip in Draculas castle beating on the same enemies over and over till they drop a card. The real kicker is besides the summons they are for the most part useless.
In this day and age we have what I'd like to call "Eye Candy Gamers", who will never play and sort of old school game because they hate them for not being 3d. Of course by default these gamers would hate Castlevania: Circle of the Moon but alot would hate it for the other reason. That little reason being that the entire game is so dark you cannot even see what you are doing for the most part. If you never felt the GBA had games too dark to see, well meet this dark gothic cartridge of squinting pleasure. Sure sure, the GBA SP corrects this flaw but the rest of us GBA gamers will have to gather to the bright lights of a nearby lamp or god forbid the sun.
Then again under the dark or very dark blanket of CotM's graphics lays a very creepy setting of Dracula's castle. Amazingly enough it tops its two sequels in graphical power even though it looks like a bunkered down SNES game. The detail is simply amazing and really has always been a series that has had that kind of detail of brick by brick. If you can actually SEE the game you'll enjoy it, Eye Candy can be tasty.
Since non-SP owners won't be seeing the game hopefully you can listen to it. Thankfully Konami decided to again welcome darkness with the musical composure brought to us within Draculas Castle. Konami shines the most here, which in this series has always been true. Bringing back the must haves like Vampire Killer or reviving tunes like the Old Sinking Sanctuary. A wonderful soundtrack that is among the GBA's top soundtracks still to this day, even if it is only a few years later.
Sometimes Konami jumps out and says 'HERE IS A FREE EXTRA GAME KEEP PLAYING PLEASE' and others they really don't even try 'Want a 99 live code?' then there is the times they try to advertise subliminally 'You unlocked a character for another game, go buy it'. Thankfully this time it was the first option offering a bunch of extra modes giving you Final Fantasy like classes to finish the game with. Want to just be a magic user, how about be really strong, or do you need a challenge. Be at ease dear reader Konami has covered you on all angles.
In conclusion man was meant to be on the moon and Dracula needed to be whipped in a dominatrix type setting. Konami this time has not really outdone themselves in past outings but made a Sympothny of the Night clone for your Go Go Gaming needs. What will keep you coming back is the the different class modes you unlock as you beat the game (for a total of five different experiences). Its rather surprising Konami's focus on replay went with replaying the game instead of copping out and making it a collecting adventure with the magical cards. In the end you will be impressed, you will be amazed, and you might even go blind if you aren't playing on an SP.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/16/06
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