Review by tortoise
"Great, but very much more of the same"
With the fourth ''Metroid-vania'' now out on the streets, this series is starting to work its way into the ''for hardcore fans only'' realm. If you've already played Symphony of the Night or Circle of the Moon (and probably Harmony of Dissonance too, but I skipped that one), then you've played Aria of Sorrow. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to you.
Once again, you are taking control of a vampire hunter and exploring every nook and cranny of Dracula's castle. This time Konami threw in a small twist by having it take place in 2035. But other than some very minor points (zombies that throw grenades, a gun weapon, etc), you can't really tell. No matter, I'm not sure I'd like to be fighting ''mecha reaper'' or working my way through high tech laboratories or anything like that.
The gameplay is exactly what you're expecting. Explore the huge castle, looking for secrets, killing enemies, gaining experience, every once in a while running into characters that progress the story, and the occasional boss. It's not particularly hard, I waltzed right through the game with few problems. But the entire setup is nice and satisfying. At first I was disappointed at how similar this game is to previous releases, but after only a little while I didn't care. Most boss fights are pretty dull. It's true most bosses are pretty tough, but you can just wail into them with your best soul and then there's plenty of room in most cases to gain back your magic then go at it again.
Ah yeah, the souls. That's this 'vania's particular ''gimmick''. Every once in a while killing an enemy allows you to acquire their souls, and then you can equip and use these souls for various things. Some are required for exploring the castle, most are just weapons. There's a ton of them, most pretty useless but some very powerful. For much of the game I used the Valkyrie soul a lot, which features a ghost female coming forth and swinging a huge sword for good damage.
The graphics are very good. Some of the best I've seen on the Gameboy Advance. Soma (the main character) animates nicely, the up close portraits are great, and the castle itself is very detailed. Enemies are quite varied and some are pretty clever, like the spirits in the mirrors that pretend to be your reflection till you're ''not looking''.
If you're a hardcore Castlevania fan (particularly post SOTN style Castlevanias) then you probably aren't bothering with any reviews on this game, you know you'll love it. For the rest of us... yes it is a great game. But innovative or even all that different it is not.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/07/03, Updated 05/07/03
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