"A really good Symphony clone is still a Symphony clone."
The history of Castlevania has been an interesting one. Throughout the eight- and 16-bit eras, if a game bearing that moniker was released, you often could expect a tough-as-nails two-dimensional platformer where you controlled a dude with a whip who'd battle through all sorts of monsters on his way to confronting Dracula. However, with the PlayStation, a new direction was taken.
Symphony of the Night kept the two dimensions and the platforming, but changed the focus to one of exploration, giving you a massive castle and changing the protagonist to Dracula's estranged son. You'd gradually collect abilities granting you access to new areas of the castle. Meanwhile, the difficulty was dropped significantly, making it a far more relaxing game than its predecessors, as you could explore at your own pace and occasionally find weapons or accessories capable of turning even the toughest adversaries into complete pushovers.
From there, the series embraced the third dimension on consoles and I found myself losing interest around the time I played Lament of Innocence and decided it felt less like Castlevania and more like a half-hearted God of War impersonator. However, the Symphony blueprint wasn't taken out of commission -- it just moved to handheld devices.
The GameBoy Advance received a total of three scaled-down Symphonies, with 2003's Aria of Sorrow being both the last and the best of that number. Not satisfied with being a mere mirror of its inspiration, Aria tinkered with the formula to become something more complex than one would expect of a game that can be beaten in less than 10 hours.
Community review by overdrive (October 01, 2021)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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