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"Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow" is a video game released for the Gameboy Advance console in 2003 by Konami. It is based on the long standing "Castlevania" series of video games. In the United States, the game received a rating of "T" by the ESRB panel which deemed it suitable for teenage years and above due to its violent content.
The story of this title breaks free from the previous Castlevania releases and is brought into a futuristic setting. Dracula, the long standing nemesis of the Castlevania series, is declared as truly dead despite his immortal status but his powers are still active. The reincarnation of Dracula is to appear in the year 2035 and it is the player's job to defeat said person. The player will guide Soma Cruz, a younger man who has been discovered as having the ability of "dominance" and is deemed worthy to enter Dracula's castle to defeat his undead minions. "Dominance" provides a new element to the gameplay of this title as it allows the player the ability to absorb the soul of slain enemies in order to gain additional combat abilities. It is very much like "Kirby's Adventure" (NES - 1992) where Kirby has the ability to consume his enemies and gain a certain combat strength from them. Gameplay is that of a two dimensional platform title. Players will engage with numerous rooms and settings within Dracula's castle and, for further progression, must slay various boss characters to unlock previously inaccessible rooms. The game culminates with the player doing battle with apparently Dracula and returning him to the dead for another 100 years in game chronology.
The graphics of this title maintain their typical well drawn appeal and are visually very pleasing. The still background scenes show considerable effort in development and push the Advance's hardware limits very far. Unlike previous titles, notably Circle of the Moon, animations have been remastered and are very smooth in transition which further allows for visual pleasure. The soundtrack is also of a good standard with standard Castlevania theme songs following predecessor releases.
Overall, I would recommend Aria of Sorrow to prospective buyers. It offers the player a considerably long Castlevania adventure with independent sources claiming an available 10 years of in-game time, and would likely be perceived by the player as worthy of completion.
"What the heck is this! A CASTLEVANIA GAME IN THE FUTURE!?" That's just what's going on in the third CastleVania for the Gameboy Advance because the eternal battle to slay Count Dracula now takes place in the year 2035. When we usually think of a CastleVania game, we think 15th century Europe and not some new age Japan setting but that's what happened here. Don't get too worried though, this game still plays a lot like the last two great GBA adventure games and they were already some of the best games on the system. Sure there are a few minor flaws now and again but see why Aria of Sorrow could be one of the better Gameboy Advance games you played in a while.
If you're not too familiar with the CastleVania story lines then be aware that Dracula's castle can have the power to resurrect itself even if Dracula is no more. In Aria of Sorrow Dracula's sinister castle suddenly appears during a rare solar eclipse over a Japanese shrine. You play the role of Soma Cruz, a young man who was unwillingly thrusted into Dracula's castle during the eclipse ceremonies. Although Soma wants nothing to do with the evil powers of Dracula, he's still trapped inside the castle with his best friend Mina and to make matters worse, she may die if they can't find a way out soon. You must now help this young man Soma to escape from Dracula's new deadly castle before his friend dies.
Although Soma may seem like a average young man, he has the mysterious power to capture the souls of the monsters in the castle. All Soma has to do is kill a enemy and maybe he can earn that monster's special power but I say 'maybe' for a reason. Some Souls are harder to get than others and finding all the hundred plus Soul may take quite a while. There are three types of Souls in the game and Soma can use three Souls at once if selected in a cool move by Konami. Other than the new soul system the game play remains mostly the same so Aria of Sorrow is another non linear Action/Role Playing Game. Soma can still gain experience and equip weapons and armour to better his chances against the forces of evil. Just like in the famous CastleVania: Symphony of the Night for the Sony Playstation.
That brings me to the game's controls. The control system works well for the most part but I wish that Soma could dash a little faster, this would have helped to make the back tracking in this game less tedious. Despite some minor nip picking everything else about the controls were flawless, I will complain about Sorrow's looks however.
Although this CastleVania takes place in the future, there is very little evidence that the game is actually in the year 2035. Dracula's place still look like a old European castle and that means you get the usual ancient brick walls and fancy art rooms. I wish that there were more modern day weapons (why is there only one gun and why does it come so late in the game?), enemies (most are returning monsters), and scenery here so it would have made this CastleVania even more unique. The game still has some nice animation and great looking monsters so its not all bad.
As far as the sound goes Aria of Sorrow has the best music of the three GBA's CastleVanias in my opinion. Each new zone has its own soundtrack and the shop music is like something that comes out of an Metal Gear game in a weird twist. The game also comes with a large list of sound effects and even a few voices to go with the background tracks.
In closing, this CastleVania is a lot of fun but if your good at these games it only takes a few days to beat. Aria of Sorrow may seem a bit shorter to some fans and the new soul system can be a little clumsy at times because you have switch spells every so often to complete certain objectives but finding every item and technique becomes very addicting plus I love the fact you can trade souls with other players out there. The story was interesting, the sounds were impressive, and the list of items you can collect over this is simply outstanding. Unlike that lame Nanobreaker game CastleVania Aria of Sorrow is another big winner from Konami.
*Battery back up game
CASTLEVANIA ARIA OF SORROW overall rating: 90/100
For 1 player only
Rated (T) for Teen
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(Ryan Genno) 2007