Review by TheMadcapLaughs

"A fantastic castle, as well as great graphics and music make this a must-play game, though some of the bosses are let-downs"

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow falls in to a nice little genre called Metroidvanias. This is because many of the portable Castlevanias serve as the basis for what a Metroidvania is. The genre is based around you having a large explorable 2D world which you traverse across. As you traverse you'll gain abilities that allow you to access new areas of the 2D world. Whilst you traverse you defeat various enemies and bosses that block your path.

This game's world is (unsurprisingly) a giant castle with arenas, gardens, corridors, cemeteries, chapels and clock towers within it. The castle feels massive with plenty to do in it and many obstacles to get around. The enemies are mainly things like skeletons, zombies, marionettes, golems, demons, gorgons, medusa heads and other monsters of that ilk. Enemies vary a lot with different attack patterns and status inflictments such as turning you to stone or draining you Magic Power. The bosses begin off as larger versions of normal enemies and are a largely a let-down. However the final few bosses are unique and are quite good and the final boss is absolutely awesome.

You play as Soma Cruz. One night you and your girlfriend go to a shrine to watch a lunar eclipse and are pulled in to a castle. Upon entering it you gain a strange power to absorb monster souls and so the adventure begins.

Whenever you defeat an enemy there's a chance you'll absorb a soul. Each enemy has a different type of soul which falls in to one of three categories – You're allowed to have three equipped (one from each category) at a time. Red souls allow you to fire projectiles in exchange for fixed amounts of MP. Yellow souls give you a constant power up or ability for no cost. Blue souls allow you to activate an ability by holding down the R button which will drain a fixed amount of MP per second. This system works very well for two reasons. First of all it allows you to adjust your character to work with your playing style. Secondly it means that if you're struggling you can go collect some useful souls to make the boss or enemies easier.

The gameplay, though not the best we've seen in a handheld Castlevania, is certainly excellent. There are little gripes I have with it – some of the bosses are let downs, you have to equip a soul whenever you want to swim, it is far easier than a Metroidvania should ideally be and the weapon system is largely pointless as it isn't expanded enough – however I'd definitely say it's among the better Castlevanias.

The graphics are really detailed for a GBA game and the sprites and animations all look very nice. However it would be nicer if the visuals were slightly darker as the gothic feel is almost lost due to the occasional bright background. The music is very good – it knows when to be exciting as well as knowing how to be dreary and dark.

This is a fantastic game and undoubtedly a must-play GBA game

Gameplay = 9/10
Graphics = 9/10
Music = 9/10
Overall = 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/20/08

Game Release: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (EU, 05/09/03)

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