Review by hempick
"Sean Connery: "All right Trebek, I'll take Swords for 200." ..... Alex Trebek: "That's S-Words, Mr. Connery.""
Before anything else, I think it is important to mention my feelings about the Castlevania series in general. I never had an NES or SNES when I was younger, so the only way I was able to play them was if I went to a friend's house. My first taste of Castlevania was not a positive one. Although I liked the story and motif of the game, I found its gameplay (controls) to be an abomination. (Ironically enough, I did own the original Gameboy and actually liked “Castlevania: The Adventure,” sans the second stage of the third level, which was nearly impossible. But this is not a review of that game, so I will stop there.) I became a fan of the Castlevania series when I bought the game Circle of the Moon a few years ago. I was weary of buying a Castlevania game because of my prior experiences with the series, but I am pleased that I did. In my opinion, Circle of the Moon was (and still is) a fantastic game. Shortly thereafter, I purchased Symphony of the Night, which was a delight as well. I was not compelled to purchase Harmony of Dissonance immediately after its release, but about a week before Aria of Sorrow was available in stores, I was craving some new CV action so much that I finally bought HoD; it ended up being nice, but it was not as great as I assumed it would be. Recently, I have gone back and played some of the older Castlevanias and though I like them more than I did previously and appreciate them for they are worth, they are not really my ''cup of tea.'' So, anyway, that is where I stand in terms of Castlevania.
One of the Aria of Sorrow’s assets in terms of gameplay is the cornucopia of weapons available to our hero, Soma Cruz. As I alluded to in my title, swords are the main weapons in this game. (Although, there are some others, like spears and such, too.) Call me a Castlevania non-purist, but I like having the ability to wield various different weapons, instead of just having that mundanely banal whip all the time. Another nice aspect of Aria is the soul system; this allows you to absorb the abilities of the enemies you kill. Just do not be disappointed if it takes a little while to get certain ones, because they do not automatically give up their souls the first time you kill them.
Whether we have played a Castlevania game before or not, most of us know the basic storyline. Compared to the other games in the series, this installment has one of the better scenarios. However, I do not want to give it away, so I will just say there are definitely some exciting surprises.
As I said before, I like the fact that Soma has a plethora of weapons to choose from. You may be wondering why I mentioned this in the graphics section. The reason is that the graphics are so high-quality that you can see the intricacies of all the different weapons. I love it when games offer different equipment, but sometimes the developers disappoint me and have the same graphic represent every piece of paraphernalia. Thankfully, Aria of Sorrow does not fail in this sense as some other games do.
Replay Factor: 9/10
Some of the other reviewers have complained that the game is too short and it lacks replay value, but frankly, I do not know how or why they have reached this conclusion. First of all, Castlevania games have never been know for having the length of a Final Fantasy game or similar RPG. Second, in terms of replay, this game offers a boss rush mode and an extra playable character after you beat the game. (It may also offer more bonuses that have yet to be discovered by the gaming gurus at GameFAQs.) Additionally, there are over 100 available monster souls to collect; if you want to get them all (which I suggest you do) you will be playing for a long time.
Final Recommendation: 9/10
The only reason I am giving this game a 9 is that I do not feel any game deserves 10. No game is perfect; any game, no matter what it is, could be improved in some way. With that said, I wholeheartedly recommend that you buy this game and play it until you have worn it out so much that it will not work anymore. …then go out and buy another copy. ;-)
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/19/03, Updated 05/19/03
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