Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Game Boy Advance) review
"At first I was skeptical about purchasing Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. My original thoughts were one of disapointment that they would be taking my favorite series and moving it into the future. I thought it would be a diversion of the original gameplay, and I expected to see a game that was subpar in this great series. For a while my thought were even considering boycotting a Castlevania game, something I never thought my brain could process. But when the time came around, and Aria of Sorrow was..."
At first I was skeptical about purchasing Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. My original thoughts were one of disapointment that they would be taking my favorite series and moving it into the future. I thought it would be a diversion of the original gameplay, and I expected to see a game that was subpar in this great series. For a while my thought were even considering boycotting a Castlevania game, something I never thought my brain could process. But when the time came around, and Aria of Sorrow was released, I decided to give it a chance, but not to expect to much. I went to Electronics Boutique, and soon enough my complete collection of Castlevania games, was complete once more. When I put this game in my Gameboy Advance, I expected a game much worse than that of Harmony of Dissonance and Circle of the Moon... Instead I got a game that was even better, and a game I'd quickly rank with the top of the Castlevania series.
STORY (15/15): This is what worried me most of Aria of Sorrow. I expected a complete diversion from the typical Castlevania storyline, and one that would truly hurt the series. While, Aria of Sorrow does not contain the typical Castlevania storyline, it is one that surpasses all of its series predeccesors (besides maybe Legacy of Darkness). First of all you are placed in Japan in the future. Now, you might be thinking, Draculas castle is located in Europe, and that is what I assumed, however a simple boy named Soma Cruz, finds himself looking at an eclipse, and then suddenly is in the Dracula's castle. I was not to fond of the way it started, for I always believed there was some material realism in Dracula's castle.
After that point the storyline really picks up, and you'll meet the most complete and intriguing cast of any Casltevania game. You have Soma Cruz, who's purpose is unsure, except that he can capture creatures souls, the mercenary, the anonymous J, who cannot remember who he is, and Arikado who might have a resemblence to a past Castlevania character. All in all, the cast works perfectly together, to create a complete feeling with this battle against the minions of Dracula, and Dracula's powers themself.
GRAPHICS (13/15): The graphics in C:AOS are ones that you have seen before. The are very similiar to that of Harmony of Dissonance, and are just a brighter version of Circle of the Moon. Now, this is not truly a bad thing, cause both of those games looked beautiful, and while there is little improvement, Aria of Sorrow still looks very magnificent and all the characters and enemies look very intriguing. Also there is no slowdown in AOS, which is very nice, and no loading times at all. All in all, the framerate in Castlevania is very smooth, and while there is little improvement upon past games, it still looks very nice and fulfills its purpose.
SOUND (8/10): Nothing sounds better than that good ol' Castlevania goth music. It really sets the mood for the game, and it is no different in Aria of Sorrow. The music sets the tone, and gives Aria of Sorrow a true feeling, that this is Castlevania castle. Despite it's presence in the future, it is some of the same rehashed music, or been changed, but with that same Castlevania feel.
GAMEPLAY (43/45): There are many gameplay elements present in C:AOS, some that frequent past Castlevania games, and some that are new additions. First of all, Soma does not fight with a whip, because he is not a Belmont. Therefore throughout the game you will collect various weapons, like Alucard did in Symphony of the Night, that you can equip to increase your attack power. The variety of weapons is very large, and the different types all have their own advantages and disadvantages. You can collect these weapons either by just finding them, by defeating an enemy that possesses them, or by purchasing them.
The other major similiarity to Symphony of the Night, is that like the other two Gameboy Advance games, Soma Cruz will gain experience points as he defeats his enemies. These experience points will attribute later on into Some gaining levels. The higher level that Soma possesses, the stronger he is, the more life he has, and other attributes increase. This gives C:AOS an RPG aspect in one case.
The other RPG aspect is in the map system. Dracula's castle is anything but straight forward. You will have to backtrack and search amny places, once you gain the ability needed to surpass certain obstacles. This is very similiar to the gameplay present in the Metroid series, in which you need certain abilities (such as double-jump, or slide) to reach the next section of the castle. These abilities are very useful, and will help you complete you Castlevania experience.
Finally, the largest innovation in the Castlevania series is the soul system. On a negative point the subweapons that frequent Castlevania are no longer present in their material form, but instead you will gain them and many more abilities by capture the souls of EVERY enemy in the game. You capture a soul by defeating an enemy, and if you are very lucky a small circular thing will pop out and infest your body. This is a soul, that will give you special powers that will help you conquer Dracula's castle. There are three types of souls, offensive magic which you can attack with, defensive magic, and the souls that increase your attributes. You can possess one of each type at all times, and the simple control scheme will keep them at your fingertips. The souls at first seem useless and not worth the trouble; later on they will become significant to how you fulfill your task at hand.
REPLAYABILITY (8/10): There is alot more to do in Aria of Sorrow than in past Castlevania games. First of all capturing all the souls, is something not at all easy to do. You will find yourself fighting single badguys like thousands of times, just so you can capture their super-rare soul. This may not seem worth the trouble, and at times it actually isn't, it's still fun to look at the enemy sheet and to find that every soul is captured. Also once you completely finish the game with Soma, you can increase the difficulty, or you can play with a secret special character, who is a major part of Aria of Sorrow, although I will leave nameless for your surprise. The only problem is that Aria of Sorrow is easily the shortest gamelength of the GBA Castlevania games, and you will find yourself near the end very quickly, however this time you have teh ability to prolong the inevitable.
DIFFICULTY (5/5): Circle of the Moon was wicked hard, and Harmony of Dissonace was wicked easy. That left Aria of Sorrow to be placed somewhere in the middle, and that is where it was placed. While at times Aria of Sorrow will still have extremely difficult parts, that is easily remedied by some simple leveling up, and/or, the correct and smartest use of the souls at hand. In the end Castlevania: AOS is a game that is not at all too difficult, nor too simple for any gamer.
OVERALL (92/100): My skepticism was pointless, and could have led me to missing one of the top five games in this great series. I expected little from this game, and recieved lots. C:AOS was a game that most resembles Symphony of Night in the past, and it fully gives you that same feel. I truly loved diving within this game as Soma Cruz, and working my way to the end with his variety of weapons, and the souls that he had at hand throughout the entire journey. C:AOS is a game that needs to be added to ANY Gameboy Advance collection, whether or not you enjoy Castlevania games or not. It is possibly the best game out there, for the GBA, and I highly reccomend that you don't miss out on it. I almost did, and that would be one mistake that I would've never let myself live down...
Community review by ratking (July 27, 2003)
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