Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
When Camilla, a servant of Dracula, brings him back (from wherever he went last), the vampire hunter Morris Baldwin shows up to reverse the process. His two companions, Nathan Graves and Hugh Baldwin, are immediately cast into a pit, while Dracula captures Morris. You play as Nathan Graves, young apprentice to Morris, lost in the depths of Dracula's castle, struggling to learn the vampire hunting trade quickly, and find a way to rescue your master.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
I was never very good at the original Castlevania games. I still have nightmares of jumping from pillar to pillar, getting hit by a flying Medusa head, falling to my death, and then restarting. Things really turned around with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation. With more than a nod to Metroid, Symphony eliminated cheap deaths, created one large Castle that you could explore freely, and allowed your character to go up in levels, add new weapons and armor, and even buy items. Thankfully, for me at least, Circle of the Moon has more in common with this later version of Castlevania than the early ones. There are plenty of items to acquire, you can gain levels through experience points, and there's even a new DSS system. What's DSS you ask? You really want to know? How much money do you have? Okay, okay, I'll tell. DSS stands for Dual Set-up System. It allows you to combine two cards, one attribute card and one action card, to create interesting effects, like flame whips, adding strength, or calling forth monsters. The addition of DSS increases the enjoyment in Circle of the Moon immensely. It is very entertaining to add a card to your stack, and then try to figure out what card to combine it with to improve your abilities. If you enjoyed Castlevania's gameplay, especially Symphony of the Night's, you'll find plenty to like with Circle of the Moon.
The graphics in Circle of the Moon are much harder to rate. While the backgrounds and character animation are decent, the colors are so dark that without full sunlight, you'll be squinting to tell what's going on (even with a lighted attachment). It's like going to restaurant and the waiter telling you that to add ambience, they are going to turn off all the lights. Darkness adds ambience, but ambience only works if you can still see your date. I'm sure Circle of the Moon is a great game, but several times when I played it I wished I could actually SEE how good it was. Since the point of having a Game Boy Advance is to be able to play wherever you want, Circle of the Moon falls flat if you decide to play anywhere but in the brightest light.
If Super Mario Advance showed off the graphical power of the Game Boy Advance, Circle of the Moon shows off the audio power. The music in Castlevania games has always been good, and Circle of the Moon is right up there with the rest. Sure, it isn't as powerful or varied as the CD-based Symphony of the Night, but for a cartridge-based game, it is excellent.
I think Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is a great game. I wish I could be sure, but I missed so much of the game, because of the dark colors, that I have to cut my rating a little short. For being a fun, portable, extension of Symphony of the Night, while still adding new features, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon earns an 87.