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Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS) artwork

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS) review

"No matter what game is released for a console, I have always maintained that handheld titles are the best games. I don't know what it is, but for some odd reason I am usually more entertained by handheld games. Handheld titles also have a tendency to truly start or revitalize a franchise. What about the Pokemon games? Those games started a fad that even to this day is still running strong. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is one of those handheld games that, for me, provide the highest form of entert..."

No matter what game is released for a console, I have always maintained that handheld titles are the best games. I don't know what it is, but for some odd reason I am usually more entertained by handheld games. Handheld titles also have a tendency to truly start or revitalize a franchise. What about the Pokemon games? Those games started a fad that even to this day is still running strong. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is one of those handheld games that, for me, provide the highest form of entertainment a video game can provide at the same time reissuing my faith in a franchise I believed done and tired.

An interesting feature in Dawn of Sorrow is that you can capture the souls of your enemies, and by doing so, you can gain their powers. However, you can only have so many souls at one time, but you can have more than one of each soul. What is the point of having more than one of the same soul? Well, you can go to a shop where you can use certain souls to upgrade your weapons into more powerful weapons. At first, I found this system somewhat awkward and unneeded, but as the game progressed I actually found myself hunting down certain creatures in order to make my weapons even stronger than they already were. Also, depending on how many copies of one soul you have, the power of that soul increases. There is also an option to release a soul if needed.

There are four types of souls. The first type of soul is Red Souls, which are souls that are mostly used for attacking. Blue Souls are mostly for defense while Yellow Souls are souls that increase various stats or add some sort of special effect to Soma (the main character of the game). Finally, Grey Souls are souls that are automatically equipped and they are usually souls that are used to traverse farther into the castle, like learning how to go under the water or learning a double jump move.

Dawn of Sorrow has many elements that usually make up RPGs. For example, you gain experience points when you defeat an enemy and level up, which increases your stats, MP, and HP. Also, you can equip Soma with a variety of weapons, clothing, or accessories in order to boost his stats and give him more power. One problem with some RPGs is sometimes having the need to constantly change the items you have equipped to your character to meet the needs of the situation. Thankfully, Dawn of Sorrow has a system where you can basically have two versions of Soma. By pressing the X button, you switch to the other Soma who has different items and souls equipped. This makes gameplay much more fluid and easy to get into.

Another niche that is found in nearly every RPG game ever made is the ability to BUY these items that will aid the player. There is a shop in the game where you can buy maps for the castle, potions, weapons, and many other items. Of course, with keeping in the same vein as previous Castlevania installments, you can also refill your MP by collecting hearts found throughout the castle which are usually found by destroying light fixtures.

Speaking of the maps, the map is conveniently displayed on the top-screen nearly at all times during gameplay. However, the design of the castle sometimes can make specifics on the map hard to see, which can cause some minor annoyances.

There are two special rooms in the castle that are colored red and blue on the map. The red room is a save room, which obviously allows you to save your progress as well as refills your HP and MP fully. The blue rooms are Warp Rooms, which are very useful devices as it greatly reduces the backtracking that would have been necessary if they weren't implemented into the game.

What makes the Nintendo DS so special is its special touch-screen and microphone, which allows games to really expand on gameplay ideas, but Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow manages to still be a practically perfect game without really taking much advantage of the unique features of the DS. However, Dawn of Sorrow doesn't ignore these features totally. To defeat bosses, you are required to connect circles by drawing lines on this strange grid to make various shapes in order to completely defeat the boss. If you fail to make the right pattern quick enough and accurately enough, you will have to damage the boss some more before you are given another chance. These patterns are found in blue orbs that are lying around, which also grant access to other parts of the castle. This feature, though I admit it is somewhat flawed, makes boss fights much more exciting, especially towards the end of the game. You become so unbelievably nervous that you can barely keep the stylus steady, especially if you are just about to defeat a boss that you has been thwarting you repeatedly.

Dawn of Sorrow also touts a level editor, where you choose enemies you've defeated in the game and place them throughout a certain number of rooms, and then play through it. This feature isn't revolutionary, but it is still pretty interesting and does get props for that.

There isn't much to say about Dawn of Sorrow's story, since there really isn't much twists to really make it shocking or even that interesting. However, the anime style of the game makes up for the lack of masterful storytelling by adding some pretty awesome moments inspired by anime. However, if Dawn of Sorrow had some 3D cut-scenes, this probably would have been way more cool, but it still is extremely awesome.

Like I mentioned above, the game takes a lot of its image from anime. The characters are designed like anime characters, and there is even a short video at the beginning of the game that is entirely anime that I actually found pretty entertaining to watch. The sprites are amazing; in fact, Dawn of Sorrow is probably the best looking 2D game I have ever played. Castlevania coupled with the power of the DS allows for a lot more enemies can appear on-screen at one time, allowing for more exciting moments, and there are also some pretty awesome attacks that sometimes take up the entire screen in astounding blasts of power.

Audio, though sometimes forgettable, is not of poor quality. The sound effects are pretty cool and everything fits like it should. There are no complaints in this department, but it is one of the only features about Dawn of Sorrow that could possibly be improved any further.

What really makes Dawn of Sorrow have so much quality to it is the fact that there is a healthy amount of modes to unlock as well as different endings. Some of the modes that you unlock include harder difficulty settings for a new game, a VERY entertaining Boss Rush Mode that takes a ton of skill, a Sound Mode that lets you mix and match music and sound effects from the game, and an entirely new mode that allows you to play as three different characters and switch between them. However, it does not end there as there are even things to unlock in the unlockable modes! There is also a multiplayer function, but lack of online support makes it barely relevant. The main game spans about ten hours, but coupled with the other modes Dawn of Sorrow can clock in at a whopping twenty hours without getting bored much at all.

When people ask me what the greatest DS game of all time is, Dawn of Sorrow will probably always be my answer. Dawn of Sorrow has nearly everything a gamer could want or expect from a 2D title and then some. Though I do admit that the game does have some level design flaws and it could have added some more features that take advantage of the DS better, I still stand by my decision to award Dawn of Sorrow a perfect score of ten. The game is extremely hard to put down, though the difficulty may make more casual players shy away. Over the years, I have awarded very few games with a score of ten, but I am happy to have Dawn of Sorrow join their ranks and permanently pave the Nintendo DS's legacy as not only one of the best handheld systems ever, but one of the best gaming devices ever created.

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Community review by horror_spooky (November 10, 2007)

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