Review by Canadian Guy
"Excellent game with only one real flaw"
Well a lot of time has passed since the original Castlevania game (which was called Vampire Killer) was released back in 1986 on MSX. The adventures of Simon Belmont quickly became the adventures of the entire Belmont lineage. One of the most known Castlevania games is undoubtedly Symphony of the Night. SotN used the Metroid style of gameplay (the player is in one big map he'll have to explore) and combined it with the dark gothic atmosphere Castlevania offers. The combination resulted in an amazing game. The success was such that Konami decided to keep this gameplay and make Castlevania games for the GBA. Aria of sorrow is the third Castlevania game for the GBA. On with the review!
Story: this is the original thing about this game. For one, the game is set in the future. The year you are in is 2035. But don't worry, you won't be seeing any robotic zombies who have been genetically engineered to reproduce by biting people or such. Turns out that in 1999 Dracula came back but was finally destroyed for good by an unknown group of people. Castlevania (Dracula's castle) was sealed in an eclipse and thus the world was freed from Dracula. But history is like a river, and repeats itself (blatant SoM rip off, but I like it). Our hero is called Soma Cruz, he and his fried Mina are going to see the first solar eclipse of the twenty-first century. Some strange things happen and Soma awakes in Castlevania inside the eclipse. Now he must find a way out of this castle.
Graphics: one word comes to mind: IMPRESSIVE. Yes the graphics in this game are even better than those seen in Harmony of Dissonance in 2002. The main character's sprite resembles Alucard, he even jumps, back dashes and jumps in the same way. The animation is top notch, everything is very fluid, it's almost scary that such a little system like the GBA can make things look this good.
Gameplay: another point where AoS differs from the Castlevania etiquette. No more sub weapons! Gone are the cross, holy water, knife and the axe. Instead we get to use Soma's powers. Soma can absorb the souls of the enemies he defeats and with this souls he can use special abilities. There are three kinds of souls: red, blue and yellow. The red ones will enable to you to attack the enemy. The blue ones will enable to transform into other monsters or use special physical abilities such as stopping in mid air or even summon familiars. Last but not least are the yellow souls. These souls are always active an give the player some permanent change as long as it is equipped (like absorb the enemies HP and such). Of course you also get new abilities like the back dash, double jump and so on, which don't need to be activated. Soma doesn't use the trademark whip in his fight against evil: he mainly uses swords, like Alucard. Like in SotN he will come across various weapons and will be able to equip different ones.
Audio: well it's much better than HoD's soundtrack, that's for sure! In fact every single track in this game is an original one. There are bits and pieces of classic CV tracks every now and then, but nothing big. I think the music was very good, with no bad track and a couple of really nice ones (castle corridor and chapel). The sound effects are also done very nicely, with even some voices clips at certain points (try eating the rotten meat). In the end this game has en enjoyable soundtrack superior to both it's predecessors.
Replay value: the one flaw of this game. It's incredibly short. I finished it for the first time with the best ending (there are three different ones) in 4 hours... Tis a shame, but nothing is perfect. The challenge isn't nerve wrecking, but isn't easy like HoD was either. Once you beat the game you get the usual option to play through the game with a new character (I won't spoil, although it's pretty obvious once you meet him/her). You also get the option of playing the game in hard mode, which isn't much harder.
Conclusion: even though this game is very short, it remains one of the best CV games I've played, and the best one on GBA I've played (haven't tried Advance Wars yet). Any fan of Metroid and Castlevania will enjoy this game, I guarantee it.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/12/03, Updated 05/12/03
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