Review by Wasabi X
"One of the best games ever to be concieved. Aria of sorrow has everything you will ever want in a game."
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is the most recent GBA Castlevania game. All of them have been very great games, but Aria of sorrow shines above them, and most other top tier GBA games to be released thus far. The game is also quite rare, like Harmony of Dissonance, it was pulled from production early, so the game is becoming quite the collectors item. So, if you have seen all the other reviews(which mostly are 9s and 10s) and have a general interest in the game or the series, don't waste your time reading this, go buy the game!
The story revolves around Soma, a teenage boy who is also an exchange student in Japan. He stays with a family that owns a shrine(the Habuka Shrine to be exact), and one night there is a full lunar eclipse(the first of the 21st century...the year is 2035). Soma goes up to the shrine, only to be knocked out, and when he awakes, he finds himself outside of Dracula's castle, with a few strange characters. Soma must now find a way out of the castle, and defeat Dracula. It seems this entire event was destiny, as Soma is the(far) descendant to the Belmont family. But, Soma cannot go directly to Dracula himself, it seems someone else is routing Dracula's powers into himself, you must work your way through his castle, kill him, then leave. More complex then you would think, huh?
But, the story is not the thing that shines the most in Aria of Sorrow, it's the game play mechanics! Aria of Sorrow uses a new system for battle, it's quite unique, but most importantly of all, it works. The game uses a "soul" system. It is very cool. You start out defeating enemies, depending on your luck, they might drop their "soul". There are 3 types of souls. Red, blue and yellow. Red souls indicate abilities. When equipped, they use certain attacks, they are basically your black magic. Blue souls are your "guardian" souls. They will continually use your MP until it runs dry. Yellow souls are your enchanted should. They will give you statistic boosts. There are also silver souls, which are collected once you beat bosses(or are hidden throughout the castle), these are used to advance to new areas within the castle. Anyways, onto the review!
The graphics are all that you can ask for. The environments are much larger than that of other GBA games, which can lead to some graphical issues, but I see none when I look it over. The sprites look amazing, which is a big feat, because there are literally hundreds of them scattered throughout the castle. I did notice some lazy color palette swapped enemies scattered around, but they are few and far between, and don't show up until the tail end of the game. The best part of it all? There isn't a lick of frame rate slowdown or skippy animation in sight. I was throughly satisfied with the graphics in the game, it fixed the darkness problem that plagued Circle of the Moon, and also fixed the hazy effect of Harmony of Dissonance. The gothic feel of the game puts you into the mood. Although you never feel a scare, you aren't supposed to, but it has the potential to.
I liked it. Obviously Aria of Sorrow has the trademark grade A Castlevania music, and that really added to the game, but it's the sound effects that grabbed me. A lot of the weapons have very different sounds, and the souls sound like you think they would also. The voice clips add a small amount to the experience, but all of those that aren't yelling noises are in Japanese, so most can't understand them anyway.
The old Castlevania control scheme lives on! You won't find yourself searching all over for buttons in Aria of Sorrow, as the majority of the game is played with 2 buttons. There is no lapse between the button press time and the response. I was a little upset that Soma moved so slow(though a certain soul can help that...), but you get used to it.
Aria of Sorrow is not a game to be missed. The best Castlevania game on GBA(which is already a huge feat), and also one of the best GBA games period. With superior graphics and sound, plus having one of the most fun and interesting systems of game play ever make it shine. Also, a HUGE factor I use to evaluate GBA games today is replay value, and Aria doesn't come short in that department either. Aria of Sorrow has many different modes of play. It has a hidden character that you can play through the entire game with, and a "New Game +" type mode that we all love. To top it all off, it has a hard mode for those who seek more of a challenge from this easy game. Downsides? Minimal. The game is short(the average person can tackle it well under 10 hours) and, as mentioned before, the game is easy. Now, go pick this game up ASAP, before it gets too hard to find!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/27/04
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