Review by xXxCountMeOutxXx
"Aria of Sorrow Has Brought Great Joy"
Since the beginning of the millenium, we've seen two Castlevania games make their grand appearances on Game Boy Advance: Circle of The Moon and Harmony of Dissonance. So far, both games have adopted the RPG-esque elements that Symphony of The Night so graciously introduced to the series on the PSone back in 1997. After a suprisingly short time after the release of HoD, Konami has released the newest GBA Castlevania installment: Aria of Sorrow. If you're looking for a game that truly adopts the style of SoTN, then this game is for you.
Enter the first Castlevania game that takes place in the future as you take up the role of High-School student Soma Cruz as many strange occurings are happening at a holy shrine in Japan. But fear not, once you play the game, you'll see that there's nothing about it that's going to exploit the series for what it's worth. Nothing but classic fun here.
If you were dissapointed with the gameplay in the last two installments, then this by all means corrects all of the mistakes made by them. No more clunky controls what-so-ever. The game plays as smooth as it runs and it definitely shows. There's no more whip this time around either, as the game takes a page from SoTN by re-introducing an array of swords and knives for Soma to slash baddies with.
Instead of having Spellbooks or DSS cards at your disposal, this time around you're able to collect "souls" as a rare drop from enemies. These "souls" induce various special powers and they also provide a challenge to collect them all, or if you have a friend with an AoS gamepak, he or she can trade "souls" with you via link cable. (ZING!)
The story is decent, and definitely has the Castlevania feel to it. Many may be skeptical because the game takes place in the future, but worry not, there's nothing so farfetched here that you'll feel as if you're not even playing a Castlevania game. It's all here, and in shining brilliance. I'm not going to give too much away though (-_^)
Absolutely brilliant. While perhaps not quite as good as HoD's graphics, they sure beat the heck out of CoTM's graphics, and they're definitely visually pleasing and many will not be dissapointed with the effort put into them. Soma's animations are incredibly smooth, a problem that has been seen in the past two installments. Enemy animations are also as smooth as ever, and the environmental graphics are top-notch as well. Nothing negative is to be seen here.
Many have probably been dissapointed with the fact that the sound quality in Harmony of Dissonance wasn't exactly up to par, and most definitely borderlining on NES Synth quality. No worries here, because Konami has pulled through once again in making the sound absolutely pleasing by adding a decent score, sound effects, and even a few voice-overs. Kudos to Konami for improving what so badly needed to be improved.
-=Play Time/Replayability=- (7/10)
This is the only downfall of AoS. It's sad but true - the game can be completed without a problem in less than a feeble 5-6 hours, and that's if you take the time to actually search around a bit. My personal completion time was around 4-5 hours.
After you complete the game once, there's a bonus mode in which you can control a certain Belmont (I say "certain" because I'm not about to spoil it for anyone). This is extremely pleasing and lots of fun to play as him as use all of the different techniques to vanquish baddies with ease. This makes up for the short play-time.
Also, collecting "souls" will keep you busy for at least a few hours more if you choose to do so.
This is a short game. However, don't let this discourage you because this is also a great game and definitely worth buying because it'll make any die-hard or rookie castlevania fan light up with joy. It's worth either a definite purchase or a rental, and I hope this review will help decide that. Cheers!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/09/04
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