Review by Leetdude

"A wonderful followup to Symphony of the Night"

It is the launch date of the Game Boy Advance. I had reserved my copy of Castlevania because of recommendations from those that had imported it. I get it, along with a clear Game Boy Advance. With great expectations for the follow up to one of the best Playstation games ever, I put it into the Game Boy Advance and turn it on. Greeted with beautiful, evil music and a door creaking sound, my expectations for the game rise. I expected this is a wonderful sign that this is a wonderful game. And I am happy to say, Castlevania's Game Boy Advance update doesn't disappoint great fans of Symphony of the Night, or the classic Nintendo games in the series. With a very nice base of fans from the Playstation, Konami decided to make this update to the series just as good as the previous ones. From the gripping introduction music to the final, intense battle with Count Dracula himself, I have enjoyed this game immensely. It's a true fix to the boredom of car trips that everybody has, and then some. Everything about this game is as good as a launch title has gotten for me.

Castlevania is certain not to disappoint fans of the original games in terms of Graphics. While not quite as detailed, this game looks just as good as the Playstation version of the series. When the game opens, you are greeted by the game select screen, with a creepy gargoyle in the background. After a little bit, an evil castle comes into view. Open the game, and near the first part of text, a beautiful woman is there, along with some small, simple, good looking sprites. You also see the nasty sprite and picture of Dracula himself, as of Morris Baldwin, Hugh Baldwin, and Nathan Graves. Morris looks like the old man he should, and Nathan and Hugh look like ''rowdy teenagers'', naturally. Start moving around, and you will see your character as well as a nice rocky background. You find your enemies, which look like simple character sprites as well. Everything looks very nice, abite somewhat simple. The backgrounds are also wonderful. They do look like you would expect a creepy video game castle to look like. The only kicker here is the darkness of the game. Because of the lack of backlight in the system (which isn't actually a problem, considering the potential draining of batteries), and the eerie darkness that the game deserves to have, this game is quite dark. Make sure that you have either a really good lamp, plenty of sunlight (the front seat of a car IS enough), or an artificial light enhancement device before you play.

The beauty of the ''evil'' effect in Castlevania is added to further by the sound in the game. In the beginning of the game, you are greeted by a creepy theme that would come straight out of a decent horror movie. Turn on the Game Select screen, and a wonderful sound of a creeking door, also potentially straight out of a decent horror movie, comes through the speakers. Choose your file, and the eerie sound of bats tickles your ears wonderfully. Start the game, and a nasty, yet beautiful, MIDI comes through the speakers, perfectly fitting the theme of the castle. When Dracula's coffin opens, a crashing sound that sounds like a Super Nintendo plays. An evil theme, fitting Dracula's image, starts playing. When Hugh and Nathan fall through the floor, an urgent theme starts playing to give you a sense of worry. Start playing, and another beautiful theme comes up. Crack your whip, and it sounds awesome. Truly, the best thing in Castlevania is the creepy music and sound effects, perfectly fitting the wonderful game. This new game in the series, even though it's on a Game Boy with a miniature speaker, is no exception.

Like the rest of the Castlevania games, Circle of the Moon doesn't have a particularly original story, but it certainly gets the job done. A young woman named Camilla performs the spell that resurrects Count Dracula. Morris Baldwin, the classic vampire hunter, comes to fight Dracula with Nathan Graves, his disciple, and Hugh Baldwin, his son. Dracula decides that it is fitting to use the life of the man who defeated him in the first place to restore his entire power and energy. He knocks aside Nathan Graves and Hugh Morris, and they are dropped into a pit. Hugh leaves Nathan alone to find his father himself and be looked upon higher than Nathan, leaving Nathan alone. Although the story doesn't really develop much further, it's what has worked in the past, and it works now. The game isn't big on the story, anyway. However, it certainly should be noted that there is one fairly interesting plot twist in the last hour or three of the game, that will have built up through the game, that will interest you.

The latest installment in the Castlevania series controls very simply, as is expected of a Castlevania game. The A button lets Nathan jump onto platforms. The B button lets Nathan crack his whip. The Start button pauses the game, allowing for menu selection. The Select button allows you to view the map that you have got through as of now. The L button gives Nathan the ability to use some of his Duel Setup System powers, including a flaming whip. The R button allows you to use special moves, such as a very high jump and a ram to break blocks. These abilities can be brought out as you progress through the game. On the menu, you can choose what special powers the L button brings out in Nathan via a Duel Setup System. There are ten Attribute Cards and ten Action Cards that Nathan can find, which pair together to give Nathan a new ability. This potential adds plenty to the game, and is very easy to use and understand.

The game's dark atmosphere and the Duel Setup System adds a lot to this game's fun. While everything else is good, if a game isn't fun to play through, it's crap. It is safe to say that it is very fun to play through Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. The 100 potential combinations in the Deul Setup System add most of the fun, though. Just playing through the game with the whip isn't very fun. Using the Duel Setup System, though, you have many more possibilities in what you do, and much more fun. Most of the interest I have in the game in the first place was brought upon by the ''dark'' image of the game, including the creepy sound effects, eerie music, and dark graphics. This has kept my interest in the game heavy, and adds enjoyment to the game if it is getting boring. I can safely say that this game is extremely fun to play through, and the enjoyment lasts the entire way through the game.

The newest Castlevania game is extremely challenging. After two weeks of intensely playing the game, I've got through the game. This game has been quite difficult for me. I have died many, many times throughout this game. And I've been levelling up nicely, for that matter. If you aren't paying careful attention, thanks to the darkness of the game, you may not notice some of the enemies coming after you until it's too late, and I feel that this is a good thing. It deeply adds to the difficulty of the game. Some of the enemies, such as the Gremlin, are extremely tough to hit, and can cause you serious annoyance. This also adds to the difficulty of the game. However, even though the game can be very difficult at times, there is no frustration involved, thanks to the very nice abundance of save points. This helps the game's amount of frustration a lot, without removing any of the difficulty in the game. It is extremely nice to play through in this way.

Now that I have finished the game, I am able to grade the Replay Value. This game is plenty long. It will take you about 10 to 20 hours in order to get everything in the game, and that's only what you have saved (you will probably restart the game because of dying, losing plenty of progress, many times throughout the game). After you beat it the first time, the second time through will be fresh. It will be fun to see how much you have improved on the game since the beginning (I can rock the first boss without any trouble, this time!). In addition to this, there are multiple modes of the game. This is to show what possible training that Nathan could have got as a Vampire Hunter. These include all around, which is the first mode, as well as focusing on Magic, focusing on close combat, focusing on shooting weapons from a distance, as well as relying purely on luck. Five times through means plenty of playing for you to do.

Graphics: 12/15
Sound: 10/10
Story: 8/10
Play Control: 20/20
Game Play: 27/30
Challenge: 13/15
Replay Value: 15/15
OVERALL: 105/120, 87.5%, 9/10

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is an excellent game that looks to get even more excellent as I progress through the other four modes of the game. What makes it even more excellent is the fact that it is portable, and can be played on car trips that annoy you to death, provided that you have a form of light (the front seat works very well for this). The game is dark and creepy, especially for the Game Boy, which deeply adds to its interest. If you are planning to buy a game at launch for the Game Boy Advance, I deeply suggest this game. You will not be disappointed.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/11/01, Updated 06/24/01

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