Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
The Castlevania series has met with great success over the past 17 years. In that time, Konami has release two Castlevania games for the GBA, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and they have both been well received. Can Konami strike gold one more time, or have they reached the end of the line? Can Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow come up with enough original game play experience to make it worth purchasing another in the series? You bet it does. This game is fun from the moment you start playing.
Like previous Castlevania titles, game play is your typical 2d sidescroller. This means that you can count on lots of fighting, climbing and jumping. You play Soma Cruz, a high school student studying abroad. Konami bills this as the first Castlevania game that is set in the future'2035 to be precise, but what they don't tell you is that it really doesn't affect game play. After witnessing a solar eclipse, you pass out and awaken within a strange castle. The owner of the castle is, of course, Count Dracula. The only way to get home is to fight your way through a labyrinth of mazes, populate with all assortment of hostile monsters.
What made this game really enjoyable, aside from the awesome level of detail and graphics, was the interesting game play elements worked into the game. Every creature that you kill is recorded and earns you experience points. Earn enough experience points and you actually go up a level. This increases your abilities, the most critical of which is hit points. Another nice twist is that as you kill creatures, you have the potential to steal their souls. With their souls, you gain the use of their special abilities, many of which are necessary for you to get to locations that are out of your reach. You will also find many of the special attacks are required to take out some of the more powerful monsters. You don't get unlimited usage though'each use drains some of your MP. Don't worry though; your MP restores itself over time. Want to trade souls with your friends? You can do that by hooking up with your friend's GBA. Wouldn't your mother be proud of you!
While I didn't like it at first, I grew to like the ability to only save your game in the special sanctuaries. Yeah, it makes the game more challenging, but it really fits in with the Castlevania world. Now, even the best of games have their annoyances. One that particularly bothered me was the immediate re-spawn that occurs as soon as you exit an area. While this is a good way to get experience, it's extremely frustrating to finally clear an area, accidentally exit the area and come right back, only to have to fight the same critters over again.
What's good in this game far outweighs the petty annoyances. Konami has struck gold again with Castlevania: Aria of Sorrows. For old time Castlevania fans and newbies to the series, this is one sweet game, which will keep you playing for some time. You need to check it out.
Download Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
With each passing year, gamers can count on timely updates to their favorite franchises you can pick up a freshly crafted Madden, Tony Hawk, and...what the hell? Castlevania? Yep, Aria of Sorrow will be the third GBA Castlevania title in as many years. Don't fret, though Konami doesn't disappoint here: Not only does this latest journey through Drac's pad improve upon the previous game (Harmony of Dissonance), but it also takes the series somewhere it's never been before to the year 2035.
Don't start envisioning phaser-wielding skeletons and goth robots. Keep an open mind. Since the release dates for Aria and Harmony were relatively close together, we really needed to create two distinct games, explains Producer Koji Igarashi. We want to begin a new generation of Castlevania, one that explores what happens after Dracula's utter destruction. That's right Vlad's really dead this time. According to the game's story, a group of heroes were ready for Dracula's reappearance in 1999 and successfully obliterated him by trapping his castle in a solar eclipse. Apparently, without his castle he's a total wuss, so after he was destroyed, they scattered his dust to the winds. Now, back to the future. In 2035, the mild-mannered (and disturbingly feminine) Soma Cruz is visiting Japan as an exchange student. A freakish solar eclipse occurs while he's visiting a local temple, and blammo! He's transported to good ol Castlevania.
Even though Dracula bit the dust, his castle's still teeming with legions of horrible monsters. Luckily, Soma's been blessed with some nifty powers using the Soul system, he can use his enemies own skills against them (see below), and can also equip a full range of weapons, armor, and items, just like Alucard in Symphony of the Night (PS1). The Soul system replaces the traditional sub-weapon setup of past games, so you won't be picking up any axes, holy water, or crosses this time around. Certainly, it is a gameplay revolution, Igarashi says. But the control scheme itself will still be familiar to players, so they shouldn't have a tough time adjusting.
The unexpected addition of the Soul system definitely shakes up the series fundamental gameplay (in a good way), but the development team didnt forget to address the few quibbles that gamers had with Harmony of Dissonance. First, the music has been substantially improved. Hot was the first GBA game we did [Circle of the Moon was developed by a different team: Konamis Kyoto group] we didn't know how far we could push the machine, says Igarashi. Now, we have a much better idea of the GBA's capabilities, so we can pull some really high-quality stuff out of it. We've heard it, and yep much better tunes. Konami has also tackled gamers other main peeve: the difficulty. Harmony was a fantastic game but rather easy. Hopefully, the undead cakewalks are behind us. The internal evaluators playing it at Konami keep telling me that its too hard this time! laughs Igarashi.
Three wonderful Castlevania GBA games in as many years...how do they do it? Deal with the devil? A legion of undead coders slaving away at night, perhaps? All I know is that Aria of Sorrow is the best GBA title to date--it perfectly blends the exploration-based gameplay of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1) with a refreshing story (set in 2035 and packed with cool twists) and a fiendishly addictive new PokemonAWe power-up system. Well, you don't gotta catch 'em all, but 110 of the game's foes drop unique ability-bestowing orbs, or "souls," you can equip (or trade with friends via link cable). Snatching these souls to customize your abilities makes this romp through Drac's abode feel distinctly different and more rewarding than the previous GBA 'Vanias, Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance. Beyond this excellent soul system, Aria still outclasses its forerunners--the eerily beautiful graphics look great, the equipment you pick up is creative (you can wield everything from handguns to swords made of lightning), and the music's a big improvement over HOD's janky tunes. Also, expect a sizable challenge this time around, as the regular enemies pack quite a punch and some of the bosses are hellishly nasty. Don't listen when John "the Hater" knocks Aria for its length--he's dead wrong. Getting the true ending took me just as long as achieving 200 percent in HOD, and there's plenty of incentive to replay. Trust me. Buy this game.
For all the fuss over this being the first Castlevania game set in the future, you'd think Aria of Sorrow would have a few more guns, gadgets, and giant robots to fool around with. Aside from finding a handgun fairly late in the game, I can't remember anything that really took advantage of the futuristic setting, which is disappointing. Still, Aria's gameplay is top-notch, and for the seven or so hours it lasts, you'll have a hard time putting down your GBA. My only gripe is that it ends too soon. There's plenty of stuff to keep you busy (two different ways to replay the game, a Boss Rush mode, over 100 enemy souls to collect, etc.), but the main quest this time around is a bit short.
Aria of Sorrow? More like Ode to Joy--I haven't been this glued to my GBA since Metroid Fusion. Another Castlevania in the same mold as the last two handheld adventures would have been welcome enough, but Konami really ups the ante in Aria with sharper graphics, great tunes, and the best animation I've ever seen on Nintendo's little system. Everything from the boss fights to the spacing between save and warp points is calibrated for a challenging (but never too difficult) experience. And the soul system? Brilliant. It adds meaning to combat and variety to gameplay, making this Castlevania that much more addictive. As far as length, though I'd always want more of a game this good, I agree with Shane: The quest, including soul collecting, is a fair size for a GBA adventure.