Review by bleigh05

"CastleVania: Aria of Sweetness"

Dracula vs a whip. You vs Dracula's castle. And you vs a bunch of odd creatures/bosses. That is a very slight basis of what the CastleVania games have been. Really, it has been the Belmont clan with whips in hand, traversing through Dracula's castle, working their way up to Dracula to slay him. Unfortunately, that is about all I know of CV b/c I never really played to many of them back in the NES/SNES/GB days.

The early CV games were quite good though from what I hear. It wasn't until the 2 CV games on N64 that I saw a bad CV game. And I heard those 2 were very bad. Well, not Superman 64 bad, but a blemish on the CV legacy. Then a new CV game came out for the PlayStation, actually I think it came out prior to both or just one of the 64 titles, but Symphony of the Night changed the CV formula, and boy did it ever.

Heralded as the best CV game ever made, SotN changed the style of the CV games into more of a Metroid meets RPG game. You can fully explore Drac's castle but could only reach some areas with the right abilities. Plus, with every enemy that you defeated, you gained experience. Taking this formula, the Game Boy Advance was granted a trio of new CV games. The first, and most popular, was Circle of the Moon. Then came the rather disappointing Harmony of Dissonance (the Japanese title was much better in my opinion, White Night Concerto). Both followed the formula with adjustments in story and characters obviously. But it was not until Aria of Sorrow that a CV really changed something, the setting.

Most of the CV games took place in Medieval times, or as far as I can remember. But the beginning of AoS takes place in 2035 Japan. But you then get to traverse good 'ol Drac's castle, just like the previous ones. That's only minor, but AoS' main difference is that the main character is not a Belmont, nor related to them. Plus he does not use a whip, but a sword. Plus he has the power to collect the souls of the enemies that he has defeated and use them against them. But other than that, it follows the same formula laid down by SotN, CotM, HoD, but it does it well.

For a GBA game, the graphics are wonderful. Not only do the characters and enemies look good, but the castle itself is a wonder to behold. While traversing thru, some of the background even moves, or there is an enemy hanging around outside, or whatever. The bosses are large and look sweet and so does everything else. 9/10

Most people complained that HoD's music was not very good, but that is not the problem here. The music for AoS is very good. Nice themes for each area of the castle. Plus each theme chimes in with a slight horror tone to it to keep the aura of Drac's castle alive. 9/10

Walk around slaying monsters to gain experience while collecting their souls, 110 total, and doing all that in a Metroid RPG style game. Lots of fun killing enemies and using their souls against them. Plenty of fun. 10/10

110 souls to collect; Boss Rush Mode; and I'm pretty sure there is a 2nd character to play as. Works for me. 9/10

I played a little of SotN and CotM, but not enough to really know what was goin on or what to do, plus I was not much for RPGs at the time. But, in the weeks leading upto AoS's release, I figured I'd give it a try. And boy am I glad I did. Another great game to add the list of great GBA games. Definitely worth playing.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/19/03, Updated 05/19/03

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