Review by marmaIade man
"A review by someone who hasn't played SOTN."
The last game I have played since Aria of Sorrow is Castlevania IV on the Super Nintendo. I bought this game thinking it would be old school, but I was wrong--in a good way.
Gameplay - 9/10
In Aria of Sorrow, you don't use the traditional whip like you use in the other Castlevanias, but you get medieval weapons such as swords, axes, hammers, and more. You can collect souls by killing enemies. There are 112 enemies,(not including bosses) and each enemy has a certain magic soul. Not every enemy will give you their soul easily. The souls drop out of the enemies once in a while, leaving for a very long game if you want to catch them all. Souls enable you to use the abilities that the enemy with the soul has, such as throwing spears, or sending out evil cats that run across the screen, attacking any enemy on it. The game keeps track of the percentage of souls you have caught. There is also an index of the monsters you have seen, which tells of the things they drop(if anything), along with the EXP(Experience Points) you get for killing them. It also shows the sprites for each enemy you have seen, and tells of their weakness and HP(hit points). This game is like an action RPG, but with no party. You level up after getting certain amounts of HP, and your stats get higher. The game is very short, about 6-9 hours depending on your skill level. If you want to collect all the souls and get to a high level, add a lot more hours to that length. It is easy as well, but the bosses later in the game are somewhat threatening. You collect different abilities, for example, double-jumping, sliding, and dashing. There are numerous save points throughout the game, so you won't have to worry about getting frustrated. You also collect maps of the castle so you don't get completely lost everywhere you go. You can earn gold for killing enemies and breaking candles. Once you get to a certain point early in the game, a man opens up a shop in the castle in which you can buy various items from healing potions to deadly weapons.
Story - 9/10
In the year 2035, you, Soma Cruz, must battle the evil minions of Dracula, much like the other vampire hunters of Castelvania. In this year, the first full solar eclipse of the new century is about to take place. You go with your friend, Mina, to check it out. It seems that you are walking forever up the stairs to the ancient shrine where you will view this eclipse, but in fact you are going into the eclipse itself. It is up to you what to do from there--challenge the allies of Dracula... or turn the game off and return it. if I told you any more it would be considered a spoiler. Let's just say that the story in Aria of Sorrow is one of the better stories in action games on the GBA to date.
Music, Sound Effects, and Graphics - 10/10
The music in here is a mix between gothic and piano-techno. It is like music from a great horror film, but more action-packed and adrenaline-pumping. The sounds enemies make is basically what you would expect from any GBA game. Various clashes, clanks, and wooshes when they swing at you or shoot things at you. Nothing special in the sound effects department, but the music compensates for the imperfect sound effects. The graphics are impressing. You would expect good graphics from a modern game, but you get great graphics. They aren't great compared to modern console games, but they are great compared to other GBA games' graphics. The graphics for soul abilities are pretty good, as well as the foreground and background. I can see no flaw in the graphics.
Replayability - 7/10
This is where the game doesn't shine like Mr. Clean's forehead. Once you collect all the souls, and get to a very high level, and beat the game, I doubt you would want to play it again until about a month. There is a special character that you can get, and there is a Boss Rush mode, in which you face every boss in order to earn prizes. You obtain this mode after you beat the game. There is more than one ending--three I believe. Overall, I am very impatient, so I don't usually like playing games more than once after I beat them. That goes for any game. But it all depends on preferences. I'll make it easier for those who have no idea what being impatient is all about. If you can beat Metroid Prime, or Halo, or Final Fantasy 7, or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and play it over again, then you can definitely beat this and play it over again a heck of a lot more.
Overall, this game is a heaping pile of diamonds. I wished to see more of a challenge, but I suppose you can't have it all in one game. I believe everyone should own this game, and play the heck out of it. You shouldn't rent it, but you should buy it. I believe it will be a game referred to as a GBA great for a long, long time.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/12/03, Updated 06/14/03
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