Review by zephyrmaster

"High quality platformer that pleases... sort of"

Castlevania Circle of the Moon for Gameboy Advance is a good, but not really great game. I purchased this game used for under $20, and I consider that a bargain considering the general smooth quality of the game. This was my second Gameboy Advance game, and when I first turned it on I was pleasantly surprised to listen to the Gothic choir on the entrance screen and was quite amazed. When my initial euphoria wore down, I realized that I had bought a good game and a good platformer, but it wasn't quite my cup of tea.

Gameplay: This game is a well presented platformer game. Unlike other platformers like Mario, Castlevania features an expansive area with plenty of ''exporability''. This game is very non-linear, meaning you can veer off the beaten path temporarily to gain experience or find hidden items. The castle that you are in the entire game is huge, and is made up of several huge areas. The castle is so large that it has multiple warp points. One minor gripe is the arcade save system, where there are special ''save spots'' that may or may not be where you want them to be. One great part of this game is the fact that once you beat it once, you unlock a new way to play the game...

The controls in this game are simple, and that is good. The L shoulder button uses a DSS card (more on that later), the R button uses a special ability, the control pad obviously moves you around, B whips, and A jumps. There are button combinations that you can use to, like down and A (slide) that can be executed by your main character. One nice feature is that all of the buttons are user configurable, and that is a very good feature in a game.

This game masquerades as an rpg, action, and a platformer game. While this game’s platformer and action elements are fun, the rpg elements are lame and vague. The character stats are uncustimizable; your character just gains the same amount of stats every level. For instance, in the normal mode, when you gain a level, your strength goes up by ten, never more, never less. You do have HP, and your MP regulates how many DSS abilities you can use.

The items that can be found in this game to augment your character are pretty nice. Your character’s standard weapon is the whip, and unfortunately can not be replaced. If you press down and B however, your character will release a secondary weapon. Secondary weapons use hearts with each use, and the amount of hearts lost ranges from only one to 20. There are several secondary weapons in the game, like the knife and the boomerang, but your character can only hold one at a time. As for equipment, your character can use things like armor and rings. You have no limit to inventory space, so by the time you finish the game, you may have 50 copies of lower quality gear, but there is no reason to throw them away. Throughout the castle there are also items like hp potions, mp potions, and meat to heal and restore your character.

There are a few special items and one of a kind items in the game. There are a total of 8 one of a kind items, and they augment your character with powers such as double jump and various other powers. You have to get all of these items to beat the game. The other special items in the game are the DSS (Dual System Setup) cards. There are two types of DSS cards, Action and Attribute cards. At any one time, your character can have one of each selected. When you press L, you activate the DSS, and pressing L again stops it. DSS cards are rare and hard to find, but they give you unique abilities like more powerful whips, shields, and summoned creatures. Using a DSS card uses a certain amount of MP with each use.

The bosses are really nicely done in this game. Although some of them are extremely hard and require a lot of leveling up, most of the bosses are well leveled. The bosses look excellent, and there is a good variety for a platformer game. The enemies in this game are also excellent. Although there are several types of bad guy, each type has sub types, which are usually faster, tougher etc...

There are a few flaws in this game. This game has it’s share of glitches. While none of the glitches will permanently destroy your game or GBA, they can be annoying just the same. For instance, one glitch that I discovered was a glitch on which if you pressed L as you stood on a block that was crumbling, everything on the screen (bad guys + platforms) would freeze in place. As I jumped around the room, the background moved like normal, but the bad guys and platforms stayed on the exact same part of the screen. This problem was easily remedied by exiting the area. This is just one of the glitches in this game. Another problem is slowdown. Gameboy games and console games aren't supposed to lag! This problem usually occurs only when fighting with certain enemies (witches especially)

Story: Mediocre. Camilla, a follower of Dracula, raises Dracula from the dead. You, your mentor, and your mentor's son find Camilla and Dracula together, and all three of you are separated. Throughout the game, the plot doesn't show up very much, occasionally beating or meeting a boss with give you a few lines of text, but that’s about all. Overall, the story is unimpressive but is good enough.

Graphics: Superb for a platformer. The graphics are clear, smooth, and concise (ignoring some glitches and slowdown). The backgrounds are very nice, some of them are even stunning. Sometimes you can see wonderfully detailed sky, the moon, and even large expansive artwork. Some of the background even moves, which is a really cool thing. The enemies look very nice also, all of them have good animation and there attacks are good looking. The character you control is also very well drawn, and is very well animated also.

Sound: Wonderful. The music in this game is top-notch. While it isn't orchestra quality music, it is very good just the same. Some of the sound tracks do play in multiple areas, and that lowers the quality of some songs. The sounds in the game are good, but a gripe I have is that the main character’s grunt when he jumps seems very unnatural to me.

Replay Value: Poor to good, depending on how much you like the game. Each time you beat the game, you unlock a character to beat the game with. There are 4 different characters with who you can play the game with, unfortunately the story and plot remain the same each time. Personally, I didn't really fully enjoy the game the first time through, and I didn't want to play it again multiple more times.

Zephyrmaster’s Overview:

- Fairly fun gameplay
- Superb music tracks
- Wide and almost non-linear castle
- Unique and wonderfully designed bosses
- Few glitches
- Hard to beat

- There are a few glitches
- Hard to beat
- Plenty of menial leveling up required
- No multiplayer options
- Little replay value

Overall, I regret buying this game. It was fun for a while, but there are games with much more replay value than this game. Although this game was a well polished game, I felt that it didn't seem as expansive as I was hoping it would be. If you are considering buying this game, it may be worth it to spend a few dollars on it, but another Castlevania game has already came out for the GBA, and that may be more worth your money.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 09/28/02, Updated 09/28/02

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