Review by DKamikaze

"An absolutely AMAZING game! Viva la Demon Castle!"

My second Castlevania review. What can I say, I'm a sucker for these 2D RPG-platformer games. The past two offerings on the Game Boy Advance have been good, but could not match up to the amazing effort made in Symphony of the Night (Which is quite easily the best Castlevania ever made). Although this doesn't quite match SotN, it doesn't half come close to doing so...

WE'VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU.

The third CV game for the GBA. And lets just say, the old addage is true - Third time lucky. They hit the jackpot. Set in 2035, Soma Cruz finds himself mysteriously warped inside Dracula's sealed castle, he himself having been destroyed in 1999. Soma has to find a way out of the demon castle, hidden behind the solar eclipse...

The plot itself easily matches SOTN, though it doesn't excell. It's clean, it's simple, and it makes sense. And the characters are nice and don't steal the show from the main character - Soma - who dominates the plot. Which is fantastic, because his story is the most fascinating.

YOU GOTTA HAVE SOUL, BABY!

The magic system has once again been redone, instead opting for a ''Soul System''. This basically means, as Soma absorbs the random souls of the foes he defeats, he gains more devastating attacks. This system is not as complex as it sounds, but it really makes you stand back in awe. Red souls are sub weapons, blue are special skills, and gold affect your stats or grant you semi-temporary abilities (Like walking on water). Of course, some things are decidedly missing (The holy water was overlooked for Soma) but you won't really miss them, not when theres over 100 souls to obtain and trade. You'll be too busy trying to find the missing orbs...

And we have FINALLY gotten rid of the belmont whip, and we can now use different weapons. Of course, being the future, you'd expect some fancy guns, but nope. Theres a 9mm Handgun near the end, and thats it, and it's decidedly weak even then. But there are swords, daggers, gauntlets, yes, even a whip for those who REALLY need their fix of the old style play. Theres plenty in there for you to be enjoying, forget about anything else.

OOH, YOU BAD THING, YOU!

The graphics are a lot more subdued than the garish style used in Harmony of Dissonance. They are still crystal clear, but the game doesn't shove neon-style images down your throat at breakneck speed. The backdrops, the graphics, and even Soma, are all wonderfully designed and definately the best yet for the GBA series.

And then, there are the enemies. And OH BOY, are there enemies! 112, to be exact (Including bosses). All detailed and beautifully designed, to fit within the constructs of being classic CV and also being set in the future. And, to further advance itself, all enemies have different attack patterns. But also, the most wonderful thing is when the enemies gang up on you - they attack in harmony with each other, which can be dangerous but also it's the highest comment about the greatly enhanced AI. This game is FAR more challenging than the previous GBA offerings, and thats a very good thing indeed. This game will take you longer than the previous GBA titles. Although, sadly, instead of the gauntlet wonderfully executed within CotM, we once again have a Boss Rush mode. Which, lets be honest, sucks. Theres really no need to play the Boss Rush mode unless you're a show off.

AND MAESTRO, PLEASE...

The sound is where the game has it's downfall. The soundtrack is not terrible, it's rather good. But when CotM had such a memorable soundtrack, you'd have expected just a tad more here, in a game that is still vastly superior. It could have been the icing on the cake for this game. Instead, it does the job well. You won't be humming the tunes for weeks on end, but you'll be humming along to them as you play. Which is more than HoD could manage, so lets not nitpick.

Sound effects do compensate by having a wide range of sound effects, for bosses and Soma. And they are very good, a vast improvement for the GBA series, but most won't notice. Unless of course you're like me and wanted to do a review for the game, in which case you probably will.

TOMATO KETCHUP

So, lets sum this up. Amazing. Astounding. Vast improvement. And definately a worthy decendant of SotN. This game is huge, it's layout is far more intuitive than any of the previous GBA titles, you won't get quite as lost. It handles well, the backdash is a technique you HAVE to master in this game, rather than being there for show. It looks amazing, and it will have you hooked.

But lets be honest here. The game still has it's flaws. It is still too short, and theres only one castle to explore. Theres a hard mode where you have 999 defence (Thereby totally ruining the point of even trying it, since at all times you only take 1 damage.) - and the secret character STILL hasn't been taken advantage of, still being just a cheap excuse to lengthen the game a few more hours.

But all bitching and moaning aside, if you have a GBA, this is one of those titles you will never regret adding to your collection. In a short space of time, Konami have pulled off a feat that few companies can match - a quick sequal that actually surpasses the last game. And for that, they should be applauded. And I won't ruin the plot twist near the end, but lets just say, it's certainly left plenty of room for Soma to come back for a second round... and in my opinion, the sooner, the better. Viva la demon castle, Long live CASTLEVANIA!

Breakdown
Graphics: 10
Beautiful. Beautiful. And thrice, beautiful.

Music: 8
A slight disappointment, but it does the job well enough.

Length: 9
It's a big game. Perfect for those on the move a lot.

Enemies: 9
Lots of 'em. And thats no bad thing.

Difficulty: 8
Still a shade easy, but I'm not complaining too much.

Replay: 10
Only because you'll wanna replay the main game over and over and over...

Lasting Appeal: 10
Weeks. Months. I don't know. But long enough to justify buying the game.

OVERALL: 9
Classic Castlevania, back to give those newcomers a good wake-up call. And old CV fans will love it because it's a lot deeper than the other GBA offerings. If Symphony of the Night is the prince of darkness, then this is it's bride. Let the jubilations begin...


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/12/03, Updated 05/12/03


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