Review by KasketDarkfyre

""How many people wanna whip some ass...""

Castlevania has come through on several different platforms and has come a long way since the days of being a little 8-bit character on a screen in a huge castle. Since those days, it has been given the three-dimensional life with several different camera angles and even the point of huge, detail filled worlds and boss characters. With the Game Boy Advance, it is the first Castlevania game that returns to its roots with a simple interface in both visuals and game play as well as how your character handles. Of the two available Gem Boy Advance games on the market at the moment, it is the harder of the two titles in both exploration and control.

On A Dark And Stormy Night…

In 1830, a battle is taking place in an ancient castle on the outskirts of Austria. One of Dracula’s minions, the powerful Camilla is starting a ritual to resurrect the spirit and body of Dracula from the depths from wince he was cast. The Master Vampire Hunter Morris and his two apprentices Nathan and Hugh have come to stop the resurrection from taking place, only to arrive a few moments too late. With Dracula resurrected, Morris is captured, Nathan and Hugh are cast into the underground of Dracula’s Castle and it is now up to Nathan and Hugh to rescue their teacher from the clutches of Dracula. However, Nathan is left to this adventure alone, as Hugh takes off on his own, and now Nathan must find his way through the murky depths in order to find his teacher and Hugh’s father.

Whip It…Whip It Good

The first thing that you’re going to find out about Circle of the Moon is that it is insanely hard with the way that the game is set up. The enemies that you go up against are ones that will test both your skills and your patience, simply because the damage that you take on when hit will generally kill you in just a couple of hits. As you progress through the game and work to level up Nathan, this becomes a little less problematic, but you’ll find that there something else that creeps up on you. The placement of enemies in some portions of the game make it extremely difficult in order to move anywhere, especially when you’re dealing with a platform stage that requires precision jumping.

Sub-weapons are the same as they always have been, with the items being located throughout the stages in candles and torches. You’ll find that in order to use the weapons, you have to have enough hearts to get the effect and some weapons are good for some areas, where others do nothing more than hinder you in your quest. Other objects, such as cards, armor and health items are generally found on the fly when you defeat different enemies. When you get to a certain point in the game, you’ll find that depending on what you have equipped, will determine whether or not you’ll be able to continue on. This is a key element that was apparent in Symphony of the Night and returns to the gaming screen in full force.

One of the key elements of the game play in Circle of the Moon is the fact that you have to use cards in order to get certain things accomplished. The card system isn’t all that hard to work with and you’ll find that different cards perform different effects for you to use in the various stages. Where one set of cards creates a strength effect, another set will give your infamous whip a different ability that can spell either victory or doom for you depending on where you use them. Cards are found on the fly and at random, so be on the look out as the combinations that you use are important in the later portions of the game and really do change how difficult the game can be.

Control really isn’t much of a problem though you will find that your character doesn’t move quite a swiftly as you might need him to. Unlike Harmony of Dissonance, you will find that Nathan whips straight forward, but if you hold the button, he spins the whip all around him in a circle until you let off the button. Jumping is easy enough to perform as long as you have the dash ability, but if you’re simply trying to jump from platform to platform, you might find a little bit of difficulty getting the right distance on the first time through. Item management is easy enough with the usual menu selection screens, so action/RPG gamers should have little or no problem getting through this.

On A Dark And Dreary Night…

Circle of the Moon is extremely dim in the way that the stages are lit up and the shadows are portrayed. You’ll find that the game has plenty of places where there is hardly enough light to see and only proper placement in an exterior light will give you a better view of the action on screen. The different effects that you get with the card combinations is pretty interesting, but you will find that the enemy designs and the locations really take the cake. With expansive rooms of the castle and the way that the enemies move fluidly in their attacks and retreats, there is enough eye candy here to choke an elephant. Stages themselves have plenty of detail to them including different types of movement in the backgrounds, all of which will catch you attention at the start of the game.

Chorus Of Death

The musical selection that you find in Circle of the Moon is second to none in the handheld Game Boy Castlevania games. With an eerie quality to it that gives you both a chilling and dank look at the world of Castlevania, it is no wonder that the headphones are a wonderful way to block out surrounding noise. Each stage has its own little bit of flare to it that will keep you wondering what it is that you’ll run into next. The sound effects on the other hand are pretty limited in what you have at your disposal, from the simple sounds of the whip being thrown out to the crash of enemies dying, there really isn’t much else going for it. If you look past the base effects, you might find that the music does more that make up for the lackluster sound effects.

Dress Me In Leather Armor And Hand Me A Whip…

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is a wonderful Game Boy Advance game that has both the feel, look and style of older Castlevania games without giving way to copying too much from the current titles. You’ll find that some of the item management is straight out of Symphony of the Night, but the rest of the game is your usual explore and kill adventure that you might love from years past. The difficulty is ramped up to the point of frustration, but a little bit of strategy will get you through from start to finish. The music is top notch while the effects could use a little work and the visuals are classic though a little on the dark side. Regardless, this is a title worth having for the Advance if you’re a Castlevania fan, though die-hard action/adventure fans might have some gripes with the technical aspects.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/04/03, Updated 02/04/03


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