It has only been about nine months since the last Game Boy Advance version of Castlevania has been released, Harmony of Dissonance was quite a stellar game, a step above that of Castlevania Circle of the Moon. And now the newest of the Castlvania, Aria of Sorrow is available and it takes everything that is good about Castlevania and mashes it together for a game that rivals Symphony of the Night in terms of excellence.
The story goes a little something like this. The year is 2035, your name is Soma Cruz, and you’re on your way to view the first full lunar eclipse of the 21st century with your friend Mina Hakuba, as the moon crosses the sun you and Mina are knocked unconcious only to wake up in the castle of Dracula. Suffice to say the most pressing matter is to get out of the castle as soon as possible. It is here in the castle that Soma discovers his “dark” power to absorb the souls of defeated monsters.
This soul absorbtion system is quite the amazing gameplay feature. As you progress through the castle you will come upon enemies that once defeated will release their soul which Soma will absorb. The chance of a soul dropping is random and falls under one of four categories. Bullet Souls are souls that will give the ability to do special attacks, much akin to the daggers, axes, boomerangs, and holy water you’ve found before. Instead now you gain the ability to throw spears, stop time, fire lasers, and all kinds of other types of attacks, all at the cost of a little, or a lot of MP. The second soul type is the Guardian Soul, it allows you to have a continuous effect placed on you while draining your MP. This soul allows you to do things like gliding while jumping, turning into a bat, or providing you with a shield. The third kind of souls are the Enchanted Souls. These souls allow you to alter your stats, increases constitution, increase luck, strength, or even give you some other special abailities, like absorb hit points when you deliver damage to enemies. And the final soul type is the Ability Soul, this gives you a special ability that more or less allows you to progress to get through the game, like the double jump or slide ability.
The rest of the game is molded after the Symphony of the Night style of play, you gain levels from killing enemies, explore the castle, find the power ups and beat the game. Along the way there are people you meet to advance the story and weapons you collect that aid you. The weapons found through out the game also can be categorized by the way you attack, for instance there are hammers or katanas that have a swinging type attack, then there are swords that have a slicing type of attack, then there is the physical punch attack, and lastly there is a gun that can be found in the castle. A lot of these weapons can be purchased at the shop found in the castle, while the best of the best weapons can only be found through exploration.
There is a lot of exploring to do in Dracula’s castle, it is probably one of the larger castles in the GBA series, however it is very easy to navigate after a first initial play through that it should not take you more than three hours to complete the game a second time. But believe me if you’re the completist type then you will have to play through again just to get that elusive 100% along with all the souls, which will in the end lead you to a very useful item.
The graphics and sound of this game are marvelous, in the past it has been mostly a trade off between graphics and sound, but it seems like Konami has finally found the right balance between graphics and sound. Soma is very well animated and is also given a voice. Every character has at least one line of dialouge. There are a total of 88 voice samples used in the game, and there is even a sound test mode when you beat the game. Of course the game is still a tad dark, however if you’re using a GBA SP then you won’t even notice this tiny little flaw.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is everything you could want in a portable game, lots of exploration, plenty of action, and a very good story. The only downside to this awesome game is it’s short life span, the game can be beaten within a day if you really wanted to try. If you have the previous two games, then you definitely need to get this game. And even if you have not picked up any of the GBA Castlevania games, be sure to start with this one.
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