Review by NativitylnBlack

Reviewed: 01/27/05

One of the best games for th GBA

This is the third Castlevania game that I have played on the GBA. I played a lot of the old school Castlevanias on the NES, SNES, Gameboy and Genesis. This was easily one of the best Castlevania games, but the best had to be Castlevania 2 on the NES, a kind of Zelda 2+Castlevania type of game. I haven't tried the ones on the other systems besides these. I heard that level ups started on the PS1 Castlevania and all 3 GBA versions have level ups as well. Castlevania is basically a sidescroller/adventure/RPG. It's kind of like Metroid. If you're a Metroid fan or if you like any of the genres I mentioned above then this game should be very interesting. Even if you like vampires or the Dracula stories it should be interesting as well.

The year is 2035, an eerie castle appears in Japan. In 1999 a vampire hunter killed Dracula. A man (I swear he looks like a girl) named Soma enters the castle with his female friend. And so the game begins. The plot like I said earlier is really nicely done. Something that the other Castlevanias I have tried failed to represent. Even though the year is 2035, there is no futuristic feel to the game. The controls are very smooth and easy to learn. The game has a cool system with "Souls". When your character slays a monster, he has a chance to get a soul from his enemy. This soul lets you use the monsters special ability. The bosses also give souls but you always get them unlike normal monsters. There are over 100 souls to collect and with a multi link, 2 people can trade souls.

Another cool feature is that your character can equip weapons, armor and accessories. There is a huge range of weapons from swords and daggers to whips and spears. There are also recovery items such as potions. When you level up, you get stronger stat wise. This game offers a lot in graphics. It's very appealing to the eye. There are tons of monsters and the bosses are very well done. Each weapon has its own graphics and properties when equipped (i.e. Longer, sharper, colorful, etc.). All of the soul abilities are well shown.

All Castlevania games are known for their beautiful music. This game has the same as well. Each section has its own music. Different weapons have their own sounds same with soul abilities, monsters, and bosses. Just wait for the music from the second to last boss, very nice. This game seemed very easy to me. You can level up if you have a problem with a certain area or boss. Or you can buy a lot of healing potions. Most of the early bosses are very easy but later on the bosses can become challenging, especially by the end.

This game is not very long. I finished it in 7 hours the first time playing, that's 7 hours for 100% map completion but not all the souls. But there is "New Game +". For people who played Chrono Trigger, you'll know this. New Game + is when you complete the game, you can create a new game but using your old file. So when you start, you'll be on the same level with all your souls. There are also a few modes to unlock like Boss Rush mode and you can play as another character through the game. I won't say who though. There is also Hard Mode so if you didn't feel challenged the first time through, try Hard Mode.

The soul system the game uses works rather well. There are three slots to equip souls in the menu: top, middle, and bottom. The top takes the place of the sub weapons of the previous games, and it really works a lot better because there’s more variety. These souls are used by pressing up and the B button and they are basically enemy skills. You can throw bones, toss spears, fling knives, shoot lasers, hurl a wave of fireballs, and much more. The middle slot is triggered by pressing the R button and also features a wide variety of soul types to equip. Some include wings which help you make farther jumps, another causes death sickles to fly around the screen and hit enemies, another summons a familiar to help you fight, and another causes your strength to increase by 120% (although it drains MP at a very high rate). The bottom slot is for souls that give you enhancements like higher attack, defense, or luck, and also allow for abilities such as walking on water’s surface, while another allows you to sink to the bottom to explore water filled areas.
The game also has 3 different endings. The first one is the not so good ending you get without the 3 special items. The second is the good ending you get with the 3 special items and the 3 special required souls. The third ending is the bad ending.

To sum up, this is a very well done game. I am not new to the "new Castlevania" age so this is a little repetitive and more of the same for me, but I would strongly encourage others to pick this game up. The game is very fun to play, has nice graphics and sound and has a few modes to unlock. A well rounded game. The problem is that it's fairly difficult to find, so you're probably looking to pay in the range of $30 for it, brand new. But you can do what I did and get it on ebay for $10 or so, a terrific value.

I would give a 9.5/10 overall: RPG elements are fun additions. Collecting souls and using their powers from the huge cadre of enemies is very cool. If anything, the game is too short.

9.5/10 sound: How do they keep coming up with theme-appropriate music? Catchy beats with a dark tone fill the atmosphere. I loved they way they kept the Japanese voice acting.

10/10 graphics: Larger character art and quality animations improve upon the smaller ones in COTM. Backgrounds are true to the game’s gothic theme. My eyes were never bored.

8/10 length: Pretty short, but a lot of content.

8.5/10 replay value (with extra modes): Even after I finished the game, the urge to play was as strong as ever. Multiple possible endings plus a bonus if you get all the souls.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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