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Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (Game Boy Advance) review


"The backgrounds are well detailed, and in certain parts actually move, and appear to be 3D. The animations in the game are fairly choppy, but you really won't notice if you're paying attention to the game. Menus and labels are clear and easy to read, and enemies are easily distinguishable. I was very happy with the graphics, but not astounded."



Introduction:

I've always been a fan of the famous Castlevania series, all through its titles
on NES, SNES, Game Boy, and PSX. I've always enjoyed a good side-scrolling adventure, and when C:SOTN came out of PSX, I loved the new Action/RPG feel. When I heard of the new Castlevania title coming out for GBA, I was extremely excited! Anyway, it lived up to all of my expectations in every possible way,
which I'll tell you about in this review.

Graphics:

While the graphics aren't terribly flashy, and don't do anything new, they're still quite good. If you'd like to imagine these graphics, think of the SOTN graphics, and mix them with the graphics of a SNES Castlevania, and you should
get a pretty good idea. The backgrounds are well detailed, and in certain parts actually move, and appear to be 3D. The animations in the game are fairly choppy, but you really won't notice if you're paying attention to the game.
Menus and labels are clear and easy to read, and enemies are easily distinguishable. I was very happy with the graphics, but not astounded.
They're very dark at times, so you may want to have a good light handy, or else this game can be hard to see.

Gameplay:

Castlevania: COTM shines in all the places a good Konami game should, but one particular aspect kept me playing for 20+ hours--which is, of course, gameplay. The gameplay in COTM is much like SOTN, but more magic-oriented, with a less
complex Equipment system. The game's main feature is the DSS card system. The DSS card system is probably best compared with the Materia system, found in Final Fantasy 7. While COTM's DSS system isn't as complex as the materia system, it's similar in the sense that you combine different items to produce suitable outcomes.

There are 20 DSS cards total in the game: 10 Attribute cards, and 10 Action cards. Attribute cards are all named after Greek gods, and these are probably the more precious of the two sorts of cards. Attributes include Strength,
Defense, Protection, Recovery, and Special. Only one DSS card combination can be used at once, so choose wisely. These combinations use a certain amount of Mind Points, which are replenished automatically. There will be a time when
your intelligence gets so high, that certain DSS combinations will actually drain 0% of your MP. There are 100 DSS combinations total, so you should have a fun time learning and mastering them all, however, acquiring the cards is a much
more difficult process!

Unlike many other games, where special items are acquired after accomplishing challenging tasks, in COTM, the only way to find DSS cards is by killing certain enemies OVER and OVER and OVER. The only problem with this system is that it
really doesn't require any videogaming skill--only patience, and time.

Overall, the gameplay is fantastic, and incredibly deep. With 4 playable
''modes'', Konami will keep you coming back for more.

Sound:

Sound effects and music have always been important to me in a game. They set
the stage for an environment which should immerse and amaze you. The previous Castlevania games have included heart-pounding, mood-setting music which fails to disappoint. COTM is no different. From the opening, orchestrated symphony
which sets the spooky scene for this wondrous game, everything is close to perfection. The boss music is gripping and fast, while the music in other parts of the castle plays according to the atmosphere. The music is catchy, classy,
haunting, fun, and so many more things.

While there is no actual voice acting, I'm quite glad, because I found the SOTN voice acting to be laughably bad, which is generally something only Resident Evil should be allowed to do.

Story:

Like the rest of the series, COTM really doesn't have much of a story at all, but I don't mind. It's always about killing Dracula, which is part of the tradition. He is always resurrected, and you must always have to defeat him, and rescue whomever. In this case, you must rescue your master, while dealing with your rival, and his son. There is short character interaction about once every couple hours, game time, but nothing more. And by no means is it
involving or interesting. This game basically has no story, but what does it matter? I love the game for what counts--it's gameplay!

Replay:

In general, platform and sidescrolling games don't have a ton of replay value, but this is widely expected and accepted. Usually, you play through the game once, and that's it. Sure, there are always all the nitty-gritty secrets and bonuses, but, often, those are only there for the real ''hardcore'' gamers. Thankfully, COTM doesn't follow this trend; at least not completely. Sure, you could just play through it once, without getting every little thing done, but even this would take you 10-15 hours (a reasonable amount of time for a game of this style.) But then again, why not go further?

With a total of 4 playable ''character classes'' (with lack for a better term), you're likely to at least want to play the game twice, maybe more. So far, I've racked up 35 hours with both of my characters (one is the standard vampirekiller, the other a magician) and I still play every now and then. The castle is large, and with so many items, cards and equipment to collect, doing absolutely everything should not be taken lightly. Fans of RPG's will probably want to spend at least 25 hours on this, while fans of platformers and sidescrollers will likely spend 12, maybe more. Ah, replay value is sweet...

Overall:

I absolutely love this game! Never have I had so much fun on a handheld. I expected this game to be good, and it was--in fact, it was GREAT! I think it's safe to say that Castlevania's GBA debut at least matches the success of Playstation's Symphony of the Night. With a very unique and deep magic system, and a pack of challenge, replay value, and impressive features in the sound and graphics department, you just can't go wrong. COTM delivers in every way I could have imagined. This is a
classic for all old-school gamers, and some new-school gamers as well.

Breakdown:

Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 9/10
Gameplay: 9.5/10
Story: 7/10
Control: 8.5/10
Replay: 8/10


Rating: 9.0/10

ender's avatar
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)

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