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Review – Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)

Ah yes, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow.  Things finally start to come together for out portable Castlevania titles.  This one is set pretty far in the future compared to most of the other Castlevania games so the overall styling is a bit of a treat as well, well, it could have been…

The Belmonts are pretty much the heroes of the Castlevania series but really there’s probably as many if not more games NOT starring
Belmonts than there are games with them.  This game is one of those games, starring the fruitiest hero of any game in the series, Soma Cruz.  Even is name is ridiculous.  Instead of a cape he wears a long white trench coat.  At least it’s not black like some Matrix wannabe.

Still, the fruity hero thing worked in the best game of the series, and it works pretty well here.  In fact this is the closest we’ve gotten to Symphony of the Night on the GBA.  The best aspect is the ability to switch weapons.  There’s even a gun weapon however it doesn’t appear until the end of the game, it’s slow to fire, and generally sucks.  You’d think for a game set in modern times the weaponry would be a bit more… modern.  Of course that would take the sword slashing fun out of things.

Like its predecessors, this game features a customizable power up system.  This one centers on collecting souls of monsters.  Each soul causes different things to happen, usually dependant on the monster it was collected from.  For example, collecting a bat soul will allow you to emit sonar attacks.  You can equip several different souls at a time, one of each type.  Some are always active, others you activate manually.  The souls are used rather cleverly to find the “real ending”.  You’ll have to use a specific set of souls in order to achieve the true ending.

The plot for this game is also quite a bit divergent from the previous games.  You see, in 2023, when the game is set, Dracula is dead.  Like dead dead.   You’re character is called to Dracula’s castle and as he absorbs souls, be becomes consumed by the desire to become the “new Dracula”.  Soma will have to over come this or face off against Julius Belmont in order to save himself.  Of course killing the
Belmont means becoming the new master of the castle.  Yeah, who knew such a flakey guy could be so sinister.

Plot nuances aside, the game play on this title is rock solid.  It’s not quite as good as Symphony but it comes in a pretty close second.  The castle is large and interesting, the enemies are closer to their more traditional selves after Harmony’s oddball designs.  Control is good, the soul system is much better than the DSS and magic books of the previous two GBA titles.

Best yet, there’s a decent sequel waiting for you when you finish this one, though Dawn of Sorrow will require a DS to play.  Chances are you’re only going to find this game in the double pack with Harmony but either way, alone or doubled up, it’s still worth the price of purchase.

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