Review by CyberAkuma

"This game is an orchestration of great gameplay, graphics, and fun!"

Ok, before I go into my review, I have to say that I am reviewing this mostly as an outsider, compared to others who are probably Castlevania die-hards. I can not classify myself into this fold, as I've only player the likes of five games prior to AoS, Castlevania II, Castlevania III, Symphony of the Night and I borrowed the previous 2 CVs for the GBA from a friend. Therefore, I am not gonna try and sound like I have the upmost experience on this game series, simply because I don't.

However, I was told that getting an unbiased review at a game can be a good thing for potential buyers, but I must also warn you that I AM biased. Towards great games that is. :) If you can get past all these, then please read on.

Aria of Sorrow is the newest Castlevania game released, and also the third offering for the GBA (is it any wonder why that system can be sometimes more enjoyable than its home console cousins?). While each of the two previous CV games were great in their own regard, there were still some failings that could not be ignored. Circle of the Moon probably had a great formula for the game, but it was way too dark, so much so that you could hardly see what you were trying to whip at! Harmony of Dissonce had the team responsible for the outstanding SOTN back at the helm, but it didn't have the greatest of music tracks, and it was a bit on the easy side. However, it seems the age-old saying ''third time's the charm'' is definitely descriptive of Aria of Sorrow, because it just makes everything work so well. Allow me to elaborate.

Story - 9/10 I'm not about to spoil it for you, but I have to say that this game was the one that really did a good job on the plot twists. This sort of series was in need of one, to be honest. After slaying Dracula for the umpteenth time, it's nice to get a change. And what change could I be talking about? I suggest you play and find out!

Graphics - 10/10 The graphics are spot on, and do a great job of reminding me of SOTN. Soma animates fluidly and his special attacks also impress. And the graphics are nice and bright so that you can see Soma, his enemies, and the backgrounds quite well. To optimize your graphical enjoyment, you must play this on a GBA SP. Playing this in the dark some how really captures the mood for these types of games.

Sounds - 10/10 The music in this game was well done, it more than makes up for the sort of lackluster tunes from HoD. I was also honestly surprised to see that a few small voice samples made it in. Expect to hear our newest bishonen undead slayer to give out some battle cries when he uses a weapon, shout out in pain when he's dealt a good blow, and so forth and so on. A few of the monsters have thier own cries upon their seperate demises as well. An excellent job, Konami!

Controls - 9/10 As expected from Konami, the controls are tight, responsive, and become intuitive after a short time. You can't expect to bash giant bone-heads if you can't control yourself, right? If you have played a GBA CV before, chances are, you'll know what to expect by now. Also, there is a button configuration option so that you can have even more customization. So, you really only have yourself to blame if you don't do well. The only thing that gave this category a mark down was that I wished that Konami had included an option, selectable or no, to make it so you could backdash by pressing the respective direction in the control pad backwards twice. If that had been included, then it would be utterly perfect. Oh well, it still is good.

Gameplay - 20/20 Now we go right for the jugular of this great game! This CV game is probably the game that has the most radical departure from the series (unless you count Kid Dracula). No more do you have the likes of a ''Heart Count'', or the sub weapons that are powered by them. Instead, we now have the ''Tactical Soul System'', which allows our boy Soma to at times collect soul crystals from enemies, and in turn get to use their powers for his own benefit. (Did I hear some one say Megaman/Rockman back there?) But all joking aside, the system is easily one of the best game engines I've had the pleasure of working with. The thrill of gaining a new ability for the first time, and then seeing what it does can really make for interesting treks through Drac's pad. The gist of the system is this: Soma has basically 4 types of Souls that he can find in the castle.

1) Red - These are the projectile based abilities, ranging from daggers, swords, energy waves, and the list goes on and on.
2) Blue - These are guardian souls, which give Soma an extracuricula ability, like gliding or projecting a barrier of sorts to protect himself.
3) Yellow - These types of souls can alter Soma's traits and abilities as long as that soul is equipped. Such things can be strength enhancers, magical power-ups, or even allowing you to walk on water.
4) Silver - These give Soma a permanent ability, such as sliding, dashing, and double-jumping. Of all the ones listed, these are the only ones that don't utilize Soma's MP meter.

And there are plenty of Souls to be had as well, over a hundred. So you may very well be encited to ''catch 'em all''. However, as you will soon realize, getting all these souls (especially the ones you'll want for the ''best'' ending) will be a massive undertaking. To alleviate this, Konami was nice to allow players to be able to trade souls with each other. Don't think this will allow newbies to be uber-powerful. If some one gives another one of the better souls in the game, they'll get it alright, but they won't be able to make use of it until they level up enough. No twinkin' for you!

In the end, the Soul System allows you to customize your own fighting style, the only things that can perhaps compare to it are the likes of FF7's Materia System and Megaman Zero's Cyber Elf system. And even still, AoS's is in a class of it's own.

Conclusion: Even if you are not a CV die-hard, you should love this game. I implore that you get it as soon as possible, so that you too can see why this game is so enjoyable. Also, quoting Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat is optional, but it adds something in my opinion.

''YOUR SOUL IS MINE!''

Thanks for reading.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/08/03, Updated 05/08/03


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