Review by danieltepeskrau
There's no sorrow in THIS aria
"There's no sorrow in THIS aria"
Castlevania. One of my absolute favorite game franchises. It's come a long way and eternally kept the gameplay fresh by constantly changing and updating the levels, the characters, and even the gameplay itself, all the while keeping it true to what you'd expect of Castlevania. Needless to say, it was the three gameboy advance Castlevanias which prompted me to buy one of those things in the first place, and along with it my first GBA Castlevania: Castlevania Aria of Sorrow.
And it goes without saying... THIS GAME IS FREAKING AWESOME!!!
However, you clicked here for a review, so I'm gonna say it even if it doesn't need to be said. This game completely blew me out of the water. When I first bought this game I was thinking "It's probably not going to be great, but it's Castlevania so it can't be bad".
I've always loved being so terribly wrong in a situation like that.
The graphics in this game are just incredible and far surpass what you are expecting in a GBA game. Everything from the characters to the enemies to the backgrounds is simply amazing and clearly pushes the hardware of the GBA to the absolute edge and probably makes the poor Gameboy cry under the weight and strain of it's awesomeness. Putting it up on the big screen with the gameboy player makes you completely forget that it's originally from a handheld and completely immerses you into the eerie scenery and nasty ghouls which haunt Dracula's castle. So why 9 out of 10? I was expecting the same gorgeous artwork found on Symphony of the Night, and found myself very disappointed in the anime drawing style of this game. Not a very big letdown, and probably a huge positive for a lot of people, but this is MY review and I was a little upset.
The controls in this game are simply perfect. There isn't any way to improve on them, and that is pure fact. Easily the best and most noticeable of the control is that Konami finally toned down on that terrible "knock back" from taking damage that has plagued Castlevania since the beginning. Also worth mentioning is how simple yet in-depth the controls in this game really are. Somehow they took just about every technique you could expect and condensed it to 4 buttons. Play this game for 5 seconds and you'll know what I mean. One more final thing to point out: They did away with that annoying thing from Symphony of the Night where you had to equip items to your character's hand before using them. Talk about bonus points.
Music and Sound: 5/10
Sad to say, the music and sound in this game is actually quite a letdown and easily the worst aspect of this game. And don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing the sound quality of this game to Symphony of the Night. The actual tunes used in this game are fairly boring and unimpressive. Not one tune is catchy or memorable, which is very disappointing compared to other Castlevania games. The sound effects are equally lacking. For some reason, they used this ridiculous punch sound effect for every weapon you use, be it a sword, axe, hammer, whatever. It gets old fast. Aria of Sorrow also has voice overs, and while the sound quality of them is incredible, they really messed this up: They are all in Japanese!!! Konami pulled a Megaman X6 and was just too lazy to dub the game into English. Now don't get me wrong, I think I understand. This was clearly Konami trying to capitalize on the popularity of Anime at the time, but it would have been nice to have the option or something at least. I don't even have a word to describe what it is like fighting one specific boss. For some reason, all of his Japanese attack cries sound strikingly similar to dirty English words, and it completely ruins the atmosphere of the fight.
This is what it's all about! Perfect store for gameplay! It is very similar to Symphony of the Night, but somehow, Konami managed to actually improve on it. Quite a bit too, I might add. In this game, you can absorb a "soul" from every single enemy in the game. Whether or not you do depends on the enemy, the usefulness of the "soul", and your main character's luck attribute. You use these souls to gain abilities or adjust your character's attributes, which leaves a lot of room for customization. On top of this, you find tons of varieties of weapons in the game, which lets you adjust the character to specifically suit your needs. It goes without saying that this adds tons of replay value to the game. Oh, and did someone say "replay value?" This game has it in bucket loads! I'm not going into much detail because, well, it's a surprise, but there are tons of things to unlock by beating the game, including alternate modes and alternate endings, as well as a secondary playable character. This game is easily the longest GBA game I have ever played, and well worth the $5 that I spent on it when I dug it out of the bargain bin at Zellers.
They tried something new in this game's storyline, and while I didn't really care all that much for the game's story, it still works and you've gotta hand it to them for trying new things. Unlike other Castlevania games, this one takes place in the future, and in Japan. Now admit it, you were either really disappointed or really intrigued. Like you might have already been expecting based on what you've read so far, they were obviously trying to give this game an Anime-ish feel. All the main characters are fairly stock and have been used about a million times over in other Animes, but although I disliked it, that's probably a very good thing by many people's standards, so I'm not going to say it was a bad thing. Again, I gotta give them the thumbs up for trying a new thing. The one big disappointment in this game is... is... I CAN'T TELL YOU! It occurs at the very end, so I can't say without cranking the spoiler dial through the roof. I'll just give you a hint. For some odd reason, they decided to remove something from this game. It is something that has been in every other Castlevania game, belongs in EVERY Castlevania game, and in my opinion is an integral and crucial part of a Castlevania game. I'm not giving any more hints than that, but it was so important that it cost this game 5 WHOLE POINTS from their Story Score for neglecting to add this one single thing.
Okay, so I bashed it in Music and Sound and I bashed it in Story. But this game's got it where it counts: Gameplay. So I'm asking you, no I'm telling you, NO I COMMAND YOU: Get your grubby hands on this game RIGHT NOW! I don't care how you have to do it, either. Just buy this game as soon as possible. This is easily the best Castlevania since Symphony of the Night, and I promise you that you will love this game.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (US, 05/06/03)
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