Review by wolvevice
"Truly, a really cool game to play and one of the best games the system has to offer"
Castlevania Aria of Sorrow is the 3rd and possibly the best Castlevania game on the GBA. It has many cool features Castlevania fans as well as newcomers will love, while maintaining and even improving the classic action of Castlevania we know and love. Definitely a must own for any 2D gamer that loves pure action and adventure.
The game's graphics are simply amazing. The artwork is nothing less than spectacular and there is great detail in every movement of the main character and in all movements of the enemies you have to face. The different areas look really nice and if you compare the visuals of this game with the other Castlevania games in the GBA , this one has arguably the best graphics. Even though some enemies are very similar to others they look a lot better than of the previous Castlevania games on GBA when you fight them for real or when you look at them in the encyclopedia. There is also some really cool character art in this game you will see when the characters are talking kinda like in Harmony of Dissonance but they do seem to look a little better. Each weapon Soma uses and every soul attack looks really clear and you won't get bored easily on matter how much time you're watching it.
The tracks in this game are very good. The tracks are quite fitting to the areas you go and most of them aren't really all that boring. I can't say these are the best tracks Castlevania can offer because this series is known for some great music but I guess they meet the Castlevania standards. There are however many tracks that are awesome to hear so aside for a few descent ones the music in this game is great. The tunes are clear and upbeat and each area has it's own theme. If that isn't satisfactory then the huge variety of excellent voice acting should be more than enough to cover the 9. Sound effects are alright but there aren't many of them and the sound of hitting the enemy with your standard weapon can get boring if you play the game for TOO long. But all in all the sounding in this game is amazing especially the music and the voice acting and even if there are a few minorities in the sound effects they honestly did a great job in the sounding of this game.
The story this time shows a lot of original content and some interesting differences from any other Castlevania game. Suffice to say there are some similarities with Syphony of the Night for the PS. In this game you're a teenager who supposedly is the next Dracula. His name is Soma Cruz. He and his childhood friend ( I'd say girlfriend) are going to see the solar eclipse that's gonna happen in your local shrine but something strange happens and you wake up with your girlfriend, I mean friend in a giant castle. The rest you'll figure out by yourself but the game has some new AND old characters you'll love to see again. Now even though this is the year 2035 the game doesn't play like you're in space so don't be worried about that. I have to say that even though the plot had potential for a great story, unfortunately they didn't explain some things very well and you might finish the game and wonder about how some factors turned out. It still is a great story though. Eventually, if you get the good ending Soma will gain the powers of Dracula but he will be able to control them. Pretty cool isn't it ? Well, as far as stories go there are some interesting plot twists and the game will keep you curious but nothing too major happens until near the end so most of the cutscenes won't be all that interesting. It is nice however to see something new and exciting other than the standard plots most Castlevania games have. So, despite the fact that the story isn't explained very well it's still nice to see some new ideas and a different plot.
The real highlight of the game and most Castlevania games for that matter. After the opening cutscene in the castle the main character, Soma Cruz will discover his ability to absorb souls. The souls he absorbs from monsters can be used like your secondary attack, like the subweapon used by the Belmonts but there are also souls that you can activate by pressing the R button. Some transform Soma into another creature or act as more defensive attacks. Many of them once activated remain on effect until you press the R button again or if you're out of MP. The third type of souls doesn't require MP, you basically equip it as you would equip an armour and it's effect will be active all the time. These souls often have effects that boost your stats or when you hit an enemy etc. There are more than 100 souls so there is a huge variety of the things Soma will be able to do if you collect them all. Soma's primary weapons are swords, lances, spears and even hammers. Some are more powerful while others are faster and or have better range. There are a few pistols in the game as well. Their not gonna be very strong , with the exception of one, but they are very fast and have a range that fires til the end of the screen. There is a great variety of them as well, which you will find in the castle or buy from the merchant. Soma can also equip armour and accessories also found in the castle or bought from the merchant. So, your goal is to explore the castle and find a way out of there. As you explore the castle you kill various of monsters and enemies and gain experience and hopefully absorb their souls. When you defeat certain bosses and reach some specific areas Soma will gain more skills like a double jump and a sliding tackle. This way you can reach new places and even go underwater. You can imagine that there is a lot of backtracking in this game but thankfully there are many warp points you can use to reach areas more easily. Soma can restore his HP and MP and save the game in various save points found in the castle often before boss fights. That said, the game has an okay challenge in it, some enemies and bosses will be easy but there are many bosses and enemies you will have a hard time defeating. You can read about enemies in the encyclopedia. The game also has a few secrets like invisible rooms you can reach only by smashing the walls and such but it is certainly a lot easier than Circle of the Moon. You can visit the first area where the merchant will set up his shop, buy and sell stuff and talk to Mina, your childhood friend. I f you talk to her the first time you enter the room she will always heal your HP and MP. She usually gives Soma some good advice or some tips you're gonna appreciate but overall the gameplay is just as similar as in every Castlevania game only even hotter.
Not much to say here, fortunately they did not mess up the controls at all in this game and the player can change the controls in the options menu as preferred. Soma can move freely while on the air unlike Juste in Harmony of Dissonance and can easily change his equipment anytime as well as use potions or items anytime in the battle.
Replay Value: 9/10
There are a number of things you can do when you beat the game. The coolest thing is that you can play the game as Julius Belmont! He's a really cool guy and you will notice that you can change your subweapon anytime! With his abilities he can go anywhere on the castle but in order to reach his fullest potential you have to beat all the main bosses and make him even stronger. You can play the game in hard mode as well which is really worth it. It's a great excuse to play the game again and you can get some amazingly impressive items only in this mode. You can also play the game with various regulations like without being able to use items or types of souls. Not to mention the castle is rather huge and you can go around anytime and kill enemies. There is also a Boss Rush mode you can play and win some items, again only available in this mode. You can play the Boss Rush as Julius too. I think you get the idea by now. There's a lot of replayability in this game to keep you busy and it can definetely hook you up if you get interested.
Overall Score: 9/10
This is without a doubt one of the best games the GBA can offer. The game grants pure and non stop action and adventure, excellent and moody music and some really cool features. It's easy to recommend this game to anyone and for Castlevania fans it is a must. Hopefully, my review was convincing enough to interest readers in getting this amazing game and I honestly hope players can enjoy the game as much as myself!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/21/10, Updated 01/10/14
Game Release: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (US, 05/06/03)
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