Review by Jyagan
"They could have at least had ONE robot..."
It's no Symphony, but it comes close
From how fans react, you'd think the only Castlevania game worth noting is Symphony of the Night for Playstation. Sure, it was a good game, but the Action/RPG hybrid has been hyped to death.
So, along come two GBA games, Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance. Both are two perfectly good games, but Castlevania fans everywhere kept drawing comparisons to SotN, measuring them, unfairly, to the playstation masterpiece.
So, along comes Aria of Sorrow, the third game in the acclaimed series. Sadly, this game is destined for the same fate as it's predecessors being compared to SotN, but this game recreates the feel of SotN, and in some areas surpasses it.
The story begins, as so many stories do, when a reclusive trench coat wearing teen and his teenage friend are walking along one day and are suddenly transported into a strange castle. The reclusive teen in mind is Soma Cruz, the main character, and his friend just happens to be dressed in a kimono to quench any allusion to the fact that it's 2035. Heck, if you just picked up the game and played it you probably wouldn't know it was set in the future, seeing that you spend all of your time traversing a large, gothic castle. Throw in a semi-insane cultist, a beautiful Belnades, an all too mysterious Arkaido*Cough*, a amnesia sufferer, and a soldier who decides to sell items rather then, you know, fight, and you have a fairly interesting story. Where is Dracula, you ask? Well, he's more interesting then in other Castlevania games, I'll tell you that much.
Overall, the plot is fairly interesting. It has enough plot twists to keep from getting dull, and plenty of subtle Castlevania references as well for longtime fans. But, it does not make much of a difference of this game,
Killing and stealing immortal souls has never been this fun!
Well, since the story isn't that important this game is carried solely upon the shoulders of its gameplay. And, the gameplay is suitably deep. As with SotN, this is a Castlevania RPG hybrid, so you level up, gain items, and do numerical damage. There are several items scatter around the castle, as well as cash to pay for items in a shop near the entrance of the castle(of course, why a military officer has nothing better to do but sell weapons to an under aged kid is beyond me)
The GBA games have had gimmicks thus far, and this game is no different. This time, it comes in the form of a soul system. Basically, there are four types of souls, souls that give you projectile attacks, souls that give you a toggle ability by pressing the right shoulder button, souls that give you special attributes, and lastly souls that give you abilities such as double jumps and the like. You collect the souls by defeating enemies, and it gives a Pokemon-like collection quality to the game. The downside? The rare souls take forever to receive, adding to the replay(and tedious kill leave room then return and kill again) value of the game.
The game, however, isn't very difficult. There are not many hard bosses, and the game never becomes that challenging. A huge downfall for an otherwise great game.
And, for those who are looking for some old school goodness, a second character gives you the ability to play this game like the old Castlevania's were.
Nothing beats the blood curdling scream of a dying harpies in the morning...
The music in this game is a tragic disappointment. While is a huge improvement over it's predecessor, Harmony of Dissonance, the music isn't memorable, nor humble. Though it isn't so bad that you want to turn the volume all the way down, the Sound test mode is not something that you will want to be accessing a lot. Of course, there are a few notable exceptions, but overall the music is mediocre.
The sound effects and voice samples, however, a crisp, varied and well done.
Ooooh, whoever knew dark, spooky castles could be so pretty
The graphics in this game blow the two GBA predecessors out of the water, and even gives SotN a run for its money. Soma, as well as every enemy in the game, is animated fluently and the backgrounds are vibrant. It also has no signs of slowdown, even when there are many enemies on the screen. Though there are a few nifty effects here and there, it doesn't push the GBA to its limits, but it still pleasing to the eye. It isn't the best the GBA has to offer, but the game is still beautiful.
Short, but sweet
The area the game suffers most in, however, is lasting appeal. Even with 2 characters, easy mode and hard mode, a boss rush, new game+, and three different endings, the game can be completed in around 15 hours. That isn't counting soul catching, however, and if you are dedicated enough, to collect all the souls, it could last you up to 30. Granted, Castlevania games have never been that long, but it's still sad that even with all the extras packed in, it lasts a very short time, but even that short time is a blast.
Game play 9/10
Lasting Appeal 6/10
When I first got my GBA, the first game I picked up was Circle of the Moon, and the Castlevania series since released three quality games for the GBA. Unless you find yourself measuring this against SotN, Castlevania fans and casual gamers alike will find this game fun.
But, of course, my biggest complaint is, how come, in a game set in 2035, you can't fight one super robot? Or even pilot one. They could have at least had a better selection of guns, rather then a few crappy ones, or even make one person dress up in modern clothing. Oh well.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/10/03, Updated 05/10/03
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