Review by rond556
"Perhaps the closest we'll ever get to Symphony of the Night again"
The Castlevania series has been one of my favorite series for as long as I can remember. I can remember playing as Simon Belmont in the original Castlevania when I was still in diapers. I have played every one, and I can honestly say which Castlvania is the best. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is arguably one of the best and most recognized 2D action games of all time, and it ranks in my top 10 games of all time. With two in the GBA series that terribly failed in comparison to SotN, (but still good games in their own right) Aria of Sorrow perhaps shines as the best Castlevania game for the Gameboy Advance so far, and the closest we might ever get to the legendary Symphony of the Night.
This is the only Castlevania that takes place in the future so far. The year is 2035, 36 years after Dracula was finally killed (again) in 1999 as Nostradimus predicted. You control Soma, a young man with the dark power of controlling monsters. He is sucked into a lunar eclipse which contains the remnants for Dracula's castle. Now, you must run through the castle (again) and defeat Dracula. (again) The story seems like we've seen it before (I wonder where) but there are a lot more turns and twists than you would think. Soma is a pretty cool character as he must try to settle cnoflict within himself as he thinks he's evil with his ability to control monsters, and he has no intention of being evil. The other characters are cool as well, but they're no Alucard or Simon Belmont.
Graphically the game is fairly decent. I was kind of disappointed because the graphics in Harmony of Dissonense wre SO much better. They were a bit more colorful and had a lot more detail than the graphics in Aria of Sorrow. Aria of Sorrow can be more closely compared to Circle of the Moon in terms of graphics. They were a lot more dark and gloomy, and the backgrounds weren't as nicely animated or colorful. This is a bad set back for Aria of Sorrow, but it is tolerable.
The music in this game is a lot better. Harmony of Dissonense had a lot of songs that could be found in the original Castlevania games for the NES, but their quality were exactly the same, so needless to say, the music in HoD was not that great. Aria of Sorrow doesn't have that problem. The music is very gothic like, and does a good job setting the feel of the horror story that is going on.
Gameplay is still relatively the same. You control the guy, and you run around killing monsters, breaking candles, and collecting relics, special moves, and armor. And you do this ALL in a huge elaborate castle (only one this time.....thank GOD!)that you must explore OVER and OVER again, and you must make good use of your memory because you have to remember where you can go when you get a new move that allows you to reach new areas.
Taking aside from the other GBA games, Aria of Sorrow takes back to it's roots of SotN and allows you to get new weapons, and not just keep the same whip the whole game. Not only can you use swords, you can use large swords, (trust me.....they're different) knives, spears, hammers, and knuckles. There is a merchant this time as well. Luckily, there is a teleporting device right next to him, so you won't have to run ALL the way back to him, and his inventory actually updates (GASP!) You still most of the same moves like double jump, slide, and dash.
Perhaps the coolest new aspect of gaming is soul sucking. When Some kills a different enemy, he has the ability to suck his soul and learn his special technique permanently. This game doesn't have knives, axes, Banshee Boomerangs, or holy water, (but you can find all of these eventually as souls) so hearts are used for the souls. There are three types of souls: attack souls, support souls, and special ability souls. Attack souls are very vast and easy to find. These are the attacks you get when you press up and attack. (like the old special weapons) Almost all the enemies have these souls, but there are exceptions. Support souls are souls that boost your stats, and some are special abilities that don't force you to push buttons like walking on water or swimming. Special Ability are pretty much the same as special attack souls except you push the R button. There are a few that do not attack, like gliding. Soul searching can get tedious at times. If there is an enemy that you REALLY want, you have to find a room that he is close to the entrance and run in and out, killing him over and over again until you finally get it (and sometimes it isn't worth it) but they are fun to collect. This game also allows you to connect to another GBA so you can trade souls with a friend (GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL!)
Other than that, the game basically keeps the same gameplay as all the other Metroid-esque Castlevania's.
You might want to go back and collect ALL the souls if you didn't before, plus there is a good item you can get if you try a harder difficulty.
I highly doubt that we'll ever see a Symphony of Night again, but this game is close enough. I would highly pick it up if you love Castlevania like myself. And with Konami's Castlevania on the PS2 coming out, I would definitely pick Aria of Sorrow up because I see the Castlevania 64 all over again with that game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/19/03, Updated 05/19/03
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