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Castlevania - Circle of the Moon (GBA)

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      28.04.2009 23:50
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      "Castlevania - Circle of the Moon" is a video game released for the Gameboy Advance console in 2001 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.

      For those unfamiliar with the series, Castlevania is based on a constant war between a family of vampire hunters and the undead. The most notable villain is Dracula who is resurrected every one hundred years and must be slain to prevent global domination. Circle of the Moon, while featuring Dracula as the nemesis, is based on a student/teacher relationship with the player controlling Nathan Graves. Nathan witnessed his parent's death at the hands of Dracula ten years prior and apprentices under Morris Baldwin to become a vampire hunter. Morris tells Nathan of a quick reemergence of Dracula and prepares him to deal with it, and other undead minions, using a priceless family heirloom; a hunter's whip. Gameplay is a standard two dimensional platform title similar to other games in the series. Players will engage with numerous rooms and sections within a large castle setting. Progression is through advancing further into the castle and defeating "boss" characters which will unlock previously inaccessible rooms. Throughout the game the player will find hidden items, weapons and magic "cards" which allow the player to cast duration sensitive spells. The artificial intelligence of the enemies is low and this does not present much challenge to the player. Boss characters, however, are harder to defeat and this is most evident in the final boss character. Completion of the game allows the player to choose different characters, such as a mage, to replay the game with.

      Visually, Circle of the Moon is an excellent title in terms of still objects. The background scenes and enemies in their first appearance on screen are all very well drawn and boast a good use of cooler colours to complement the game's gloomy atmosphere. Movement is poor though and presents somewhat of a jittery animation in both the characters and his enemies. This could perhaps be seen as a minor annoyance to the player. The soundtrack is also of a good standard and takes many compositions from previous titles and places them appropriately within the game.

      Overall, I would recommend Circle of the Moon to prospective buyers. It offers the player an extended play with independent sources claiming an available eight hours of in-game time from star to finish, and would likely be perceived by the player as worthy of completion.

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      16.05.2007 21:13
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      If you like a long and action packed adventure on the go then try this out.

      So many game fans out there love the long running CastleVania series but when it tries to go 3D, the games haven't had much luck, eh? Even the highly anticipated 3D CastleVania: Lament of Innocence for the PS2 got mixed reviews and it's already in the some of the discount bins out there. Sure, I like playing these 3D CastleVanias myself but most hardcore fans want more 2D adventure/RPG's like the cult favourite CastleVania Symphony of the Night. "I say why wait?" Konami has been releasing great 2D CastleVania games for the Gameboy Advance for years now. I'm taking a look back at one awesome premiere launch game for the Gameboy Advance. CastleVania: Circle of the Moon!

      In this grand adventure game you play the role of Nathan Graves, a young man who tries to help his Master and his son to prevent the resurrection of the evil Count Dracula. Unfortunately they are too late and Dracula awakes to siege control of Europe. Before Nathan could even get a hit in the team gets split at the start of the game and Nathan's lone adventure then begins in the deadly CastleVania.

      Before you fight the Count himself you have to survive his loyal minions that range from endless undead warriors to Death himself. Nathan is prepared to fight back with the traditional Belmont-style whip weapon plus he can also gain experience, equip armour, and he can upgrade his gloves so he can grow stronger with time. That isn't it for power ups though because you can even collect various new cards over the course of his long adventure to spice things up even more. The cards may not appear to do much at first but if you put two sets of cards together then you can be able to create a unique special effect. For example: the card of Salamander and the card of Mercury can give you a flaming whip that increases your attack power. There are over a whopping 70 combinations to try out in all adding a tremendous amount of depth for such a tiny Gameboy title.

      Although the game play may sound a little complicated, learning the controls is a breeze. You have the usual action, jump, and menu buttons found in most action games so pro players should feel right at home with CastleVania Circle of the Moon. Nathan will even learn more moves with new controls as the game goes now but all of them are fairly easy to master too. The game also has all the familiar sub menus, gauges and the Super Metroid-like map so that you never feel lost in this large castle.

      Moving on to the game's graphics, COTM looks like a cross between CastleVania Bloodlines (released for the Sega Genesis) and CastleVania Symphony of the Night (released for the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn). The characters are well detailed but they do appear a little cartoon-like at times thanks to the black out lines plus a lot of them appear to be on the small size which makes it harder to see on the small screen. You'll see some awesome looking bosses throughout the castle like the giant twin dragons that fill the entire screen to the huge Ram beast with its fiery background. Although the game looks great, it also looks very dark most of the time and that's not good on the eyes thanks to the original Gameboy Advance's poor non-back lit screen. If you have a Gameboy Player or newer Gameboy SP or DS then this dark issue isn't going to be a problem but owners of the older GBA's are going to be in real trouble here. In other words the game needs to be in perfect light all the time or the original Gameboy Advance screen will just act like a mirror and you'll be lucky if you can see anything.

      The music is a mixture of new and old stuff from previous titles as well. If you're a diehard CastleVania fan like me than you'll easily recognize some of the background sound tracks from past games like the music from the Art Tower in CastleVania: Legacy of Darkness for the Nintendo 64. Although the music isn't quite as good as some of other tracks from the 32-bit and 64-bit games, the realistic sound effects work well for the Gameboy Advance and there's no problem the various screams and whip strikes.

      When Konami first previewed their new CastleVania game for the then new Gameboy Advance, I knew it would be something special and it didn't disappoint. The game is great for fans of the series because its not only a challenging, non linear game that will take weeks to finish but it also includes a little of everything from all of the past CastleVania games. The game even has multiple secret codes where you can enter new passwords once you finish the game that adds to the replay value. Even though the two GBA CastleVania sequels (Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow) were fantastic games, it was Circle of the Moon that originally got the ball rolling plus I actually prefer the incredible card system to the other magic set ups in those other two games. Circle of the Moon may not have the graphics and sounds to compete with those found in Symphony of the Night but if you're looking for a game that's just as deep, this game comes highly recommend!

      *Battery back up game

      CastleVania Circle of the Moon overall rating: 92/100

      For 1 player only
      Rated (T) for Teen
      graphics: 8/10
      sound: 7/10
      gameplay: 9/10
      replay: 9/10

      This review is also on:
      videogames101.com
      epinions.com
      so don't be too mad.

      -StarSoldier1
      (Ryan Genno) 2007

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        08.09.2001 05:05
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        well i have managed to pry myself away from the lovely little hand held bundle of joy to share my experience of Castlevania on the GBA. Having been a big fan of Castlevania on the SNES many years ago, I was eagerly awaiting this new GBA title, and I am glad to say it was every bit as much fun as I recalled on the GBA's older brother! Castelvania on the GBA is a side scrolling platformer in the guise of the old 16 bit side scrolling classics. For those of us old enough to recall the glorious days of fun and adventure on systems that didnt rely on flash graphics, this will be a joy to play and for those new to the style will be pleasantly refreshed at how much fun a game can be without polygons! The game is set in the huge expanse of the Vampires castle, and it truly is huge. You start the game with the basic whip which can be used in a standard attack or by holding the attack button it circles around the player forming a kind of shield. As you destroy the many and varied minions of darkness you are awarded experience points which when reach set points progress the players stats up a level, increasing strength and defense powers. The game is a mix of the arcade action, which it is for the most part, but does include elemets of adventure games where you have to build the experience points, and also the element of DSS cards which allow the user extra powers, varying on the pairing of cards selected. This adds a nice extra element to the game, making it a bit more involved than your regular out and out action game. The game is tough, no doubt about it, expect to spend a while getting through the game and expect a few times when you are lost as to where to go next, but some extra exploring should soon show the answers. the difficulty level is set nicely though, and as you progress through the game you encounter "bosses" which when defeated bestow extra powers on the player which allow access to areas unreachable previously. This makes fo r
        a nic e learning curve, with not too much frustrating searching a real feeling of progress being made. The graphics are clean and crisp and add well to the whole horror style, although being dark can lead to some problems in a room not too well lit with the well publicised GBA's dark screen. Sound also is equally atmospheric with a haunting opening tune when you swich on the machine, in game sounds are fine. All in all, a great game which will keep you involved for a long while, but one which provides constant reward and a nice feeling of progress. One for all GBA fans to own!

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          30.07.2001 20:24
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          The Castlevania series of games has been around for over 14 years and seen on a variety of systems ranging from the NES to the Playstation (just look at http://gamespot.com/gamespot/features/video/history_castlevania/index.html for more information), this game in the series easily ranks among the best. --Storyline-- The storyline is like that of a typical Castlevania game, you play the part of Nathan with the task of finding your teacher Morris and defeating Dracula. When you first start the game you find a woman named Carmilla attempting to resurrect Dracula, while the ritual is succesful Dracula is still initially weak and lacks his full power. Just as the ritual is completed an old vampire hunter named Morris Baldwin arrives with his son Hugh and pupil Nathan, along with Nathans father Morris was the vampire hunter who previously defeated Dracula. They arrive too late however and Morris is quickly captured while a pit is opened up beneath Nathan and Hugh's feat. Hugh quickly goes off to rescue his father telling you not to get in the way, wanting to help however Nathan goes off to explore the castle in the hope of preventing Dracula from killing Morris, you take the part of Hugh. --Gameplay-- Being more similar to the Playstation game "Symphony Of The Night" than any other Castlevania game the game takes place within Dracula's castle. Rather than having a number of levels which must be progressed through you instead have one very large structure which allows you to go where you want when you want (provided you have the ability to get there) and plays very similar to Nintendo's Metroid. In order to prevent you simply going straight to the end of the game immedietely and completing the game you are limited to where you can go by the requirement of special items to go to certain places, when you start the game for example one area may be too high to reach until you get the "double-j
          ump" ability. The game allows you to save at certain points, this prevents you from getting far in the game, dying and having to start from the beginning again. Because you can save only at certain points however it means you sometimes have to be very careful, there is nothing more annoying than beating an extremely tough boss only to die to a simple skeleton. --Weapons-- As normal you start with a whip and can gain special weapons such as an axe, stopwatch or holy water. You can only have one special weapon at once and I personally found myself using my favourite weapon throughout the entire game rather than switching to others as I found that one weapon just seemed to be better than any others. These weapons are nothing new however and have been seen in just about every Castlevania game I can think of. --Items-- You can equip 2 things on your arms and some armour, whenever you kill an enemy there is a chance it will drop one of these items. These items can add to a variety of things, most armour will add to defence however it may also add to things such as strength or luck. As you can change items at any time you may as well use the most suitable for each situation, if you are playing through an easy area and want to try and find better items for example you might want to wear items that increase luck wheras when fighting a boss you might want something that adds the most to defence and strength. Unfortunatly the game continues to drop items even if you already had them which seems pointless as you cannot equip more than 1 piece of armour at once and it seems strange that you would carry 20+ pieces of the same armour around with you (and even stranger that you are strong enough to carry so many suits of armour). --DSS Cards-- This is the main new feature added to the Castlevania universe within this game and one of the most interesting things in the game. Every now and then a DSS card will drop,
          the drops are fairly rare and you probably won't find every single card before you have completed the game. There are 2 types of card and one of each must be equipped for the powers to work. Action cards and attribute cards, action cards determining what happens to your character and attribute cards being what "element" affects you. For example the action card may enhance your whip, make you immune to certain types of damage, summon a familiar and the attribute card may make what happens be based around ice or light or poison. Because of the range of things these cards can do and the fact that when you first find a card you have no idea what it does until you try it one of the most fun parts of the game comes from working out what a card does when you find one. --RPG/Platform-- The game has a number of RPG elements to it but is at heart a platform game. You gain experience by killing enemies, can find items to equip, items that permently increase your skills etc. While the RPG elements help to make it seem as though you are getting more powerful the more you play they aren't perfect and will actually make the game too easy for people with a lot of patience, allowing you to kill the same enemy over and over again just to advance a few levels. For most people who simply play through the game normally their characters will probably be nearly identical anyway as you get no control over what happens to your character when you advance a level, your skills are automatically advanced rather than offering you a choice over what improves. --Life/Replayability-- The game itself may seem quite short when you first start playing but is actually quite long and offers a number of hours of play before you get to the end of the game and even more hours before you find every hidden area. The game is made more replayable by allowing you to play a different type of character after each completion
          of the game. After finishing the game once you can play a Magician character for example which starts with every single DSS card (slightly overpowered at the start of the game) and is better at using these than normal fighting abilities. --Graphics-- The graphics range from being good to poor. The enemies themselves look good with bosses looking particularly impressive, backgrounds however are less impressive as is your characters animation when doing things such as running. The game is also far too dark which makes it less portable than it should be unless you have a light for your system. While this does add to the atmosphere of the game slightly this was taken too far and I am unsure why it was released as dark as it was given that every single review of the game I have seen has complained about the darkness (perhaps it's a plan to try and sell more lights for the system?). Unless played in a place with a lot of light you will struggle to make out details on the screen and playing this game just made me wonder why the Game Boy Advance doesn't have any ability to change the screens brightness. --Sound/Music-- For a handheld game the music is very impressive and helps to maintain the atmosphere of the castle as you play. The sound is just as good, never getting annoying and sounding perfect for the situation it is in for example when you attack with a whip or kill an enemy the sound that accompanies this doesn't sound out of place or at all annoying. --Difficulty-- Like the other Castlevania games I have played the difficulty is quite high, some parts of the game will take a bit of practice to get past and some of the boss battles may even seem impossible at times (the final fight with Dracula for example took me a long time to win). Personally I found the difficulty good for me, I sometimes got stuck and sometimes progressed through an area easily but overall I found it challenging without being fru
          strating. Most enemies (both normal and bosses) have some kind of weakness which may take a while to spot however once you do you should find killing them easier in future. Some people however may find some parts of the game too tough, if you do what I'd recommend doing is saving often and as soon as you are low on health going back to the nearest save point and saving again. By doing this you will slowly gain experience from the enemies you kill which should progress you in level (and hopefully you will find some items/DSS cards at the same time) making areas easier to get through than they once were (enemies may start to die in 2 hits rather than 3 for example). Doing this means you will get through the game slower and you may get annoyed at the repetition, however it's better than spending your time constantly dying with nothing to show for it. --Manual-- The manual that comes with the game is good but not outstanding. It explains how to play the game, controls, storyline and tells you a lot of things you can find near the start of the game without giving away things you will find later in the game. ---Conclusion--- This is one of the best Game Boy Advance games currently available and is well worth buying if you want a fun and challenging platform game. While the game may not be the best in offering a lot of replay value it seems to offer more than games such as Super Mario Advance by actually giving you something new to do once you have finished the game, the game also has quite a long life until you complete it and even longer until you find every single hidden area. Where the game is let down is through being very dark and not having particularly impressive graphics for things such as your characters animation and backgrounds, graphics however have never been the most important thing in a game to me and the game more than makes up for it by how playable it is.

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            30.07.2001 04:45
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            As the Game boy advance came out a couple of weeks ago you might have just saved up the money for a new game to get with it. Now most of you probably got Mario advance or sommat but this game is a very good choice and perfect to start off your GBA collection with so read on and make up your own mind. Now if you were clever enough to buy a Snes a while back you might have taken interest in this game or bought it. If you did complete it on the Snes then you might not be AS enthusiastic as others about this but it will not disappoint. Just the aspect of playing this little gem on a handheld is enough just to smirk at the screen when playing and really enjoy annoy it to the maximum. The plot of this game is the usual stuff with Dracula capturing your master when you try to stop him from being evil. Camilla, one of his believers, of course resurrected Dracula. You go through this VERY spooky castle killing monsters and other stuff on the way. In a way it is like a platform RPG with levels increasing from how much stuff you have killed and all that. Also you receive some power ups to get to new places like dash boots which let you run. What make this game rather fun are the sub weapons that will also help you a great deal through out the game. If you press B + UP you can use one of these weapons, however they are limited. You have to collect pieces of heart by smashing the torches and they get deducted when you use a sub weapon each time. Some of these are: Spear- Jump then throw it at the enemy! Holy water- my favourite of the lot so far. Lob a bottle of holy water at some one and watch them slowly wither away. Battle axe- Throw this baby at people and watch them die. Boomerang- Curl this round some ones head and laugh all day. But it does take a lot of hearts. There are no levels in Castlevania. Jus different areas like in resident evil. You go around the massive castle killing all sorts of demons and having a
            great time. Luckily there are lots of save points, which should be used frequently to survive the castle of death! The game is great fun and one of the best for the handheld beauty from ninty so it is advised to get it. What would you prefer, Mario or killing zombies with a sword/whip. You decide! However, there are some let downs to the game. One of the major ones is the darkness of the game and that it might not always be clear as to what is going on. It is advised to get the magnifier and light that helps a lot in this game. As Nintendo did not put a backlight in, as it would take too many batteries you should definitely purchase a worm light or light/ magnifier to get the most detail out of your games. SO with a light it is no trouble. Another flaw of this game is the length of it. I was playing for half an hour and I had already done 8%. But don’t worry, the game gets very hard and the bosses get quite irritating if you don’t know how to beat them so it will take hours to finish. So I advise you pick this one up and have great fun with it. Cheers guys, T_W

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              28.06.2001 03:07
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              We are fortunate to have Konami on our side - sure, the company's got a ton of games in its library we'd love to see on the handheld, but the company's arguably most known for one specific series: Castlevania. And with the launch of the Game Boy Advance, we're getting one of the deepest, most satisfying titles in the Castlevania series. Though Castlevania: Circle of the Moon isn't entirely overwhelming graphically, its deep gameplay and extremely long quest more than make up for the standard imagery and graphic techniques. This is one must-have game for the new handheld. Features Eighty DSS Spell Effects; Ten magic summon attacks; Battery back-up; but only for Game Boy Advance. The Game Boy Advance version of Castlevania will be very familiar to anyone who's played any title in the series, as the design doesn't stray from the basic formula. You'll whip zombies, spirits, bats, and other ghastly beasts, as well as collect hearts for your secondary weapon (boomerang, dagger, holy water, stopwatch) whilst all the while progressing through the horror that is Dracula's castle. It's now Nathan Graves' turn with the whip, as he's off to rescue his kidnapped father from the resurrected vampire of Castlevania past. The Castlevania series broke away from the structured level design of the NES and Super NES series with the excellent PlayStation edition, Symphony of the Night, and Circle of the Moon on the Game Boy Advance follows a very similar formula. The design is very much like Nintendo's own Metroid: you're in one continuous "world", in this case, Dracula's castle, and the other portions of the huge structure are only accessible when you earn specific and necessary techniques. At the start of the game, you've got nothing but the whip in your hand (sounds like my Saturday nights) - as you progress, you'll earn the ability to run, to double jump, t
              o break specific sections of wall .... and other handy capabilities. These specific techniques are necessary to master if you want to get through the many different sections of Dracula's abode. But don't think you'll get lost - your progress is charted in an extremely handy auto-map feature .... another element that mirror's the Metroid design. Throughout the quest you'll also find rooms that will save your game in progress - and with a quest as long as Circle of the Moon, you'll be extremely thankful for the battery in the cartridge. As you defeat the many different enemies, you're awarded experience points that will level up your character, building up his attributes to assist in his overall attacking and defense abilities. Along with the techniques you earn, you'll also collect items known as DSS (dual-select system) cards along the way. There are two different categories of cards: Action Cards and Attribute Cards, and when one card from each category is combined, it can enable a special attack technique that can be used to great benefit against specific enemies. It's a game of trial and error finding the cards that work with one another, and it adds to the game's fun in giving the player something new to discover, prolonging playability. Unlike other titles in the Castlevania series, Circle of the Moon isn't a graphical showpiece for the system it's made for. When Super Castlevania IV came out for the Super NES, for example, the developers pulled as many graphic effects as the system could handle. Not so here - though the game does look very nice, the imagery won't take the breath away. Some rooms have multiscrolling backgrounds to offer an illusion of depth, but others only have a single scrolling plane. Character sprites are very limited in animation frames, especially in the lead character - he walks in an awkward three-frame cycle, something that you might see out of a Game Boy Color (thi
              nk Pokemon, remember how he walked / cycled ?) version. And, it's dark. The development team toned down the contrast of the graphics to create a specific mood in the game, and that doesn't translate well on the non-backlit GBA screen. Forget about playing this game in locations without a direct overhead light illuminating the screen. But Circle of the Moon is all about the gameplay - and it's here where the game really shines. This is one of the best playing Castlevania games released. The world is huge, the boss creatures are massive in size and challenging to defeat. And the overall quest is extremely fulfilling, as the game will take several hours to complete in its entirety. Circle of the Moon is probably the best 2D game in the Castlevania series, and we handheld gamers are the ones who benefit - the game is very long and extremely challenging without being frustrating or a chore to zip through. It's just a shame the graphics weren't upgraded just a tad, as character animations look like they've been ripped out of a GBC development, and the game needs as much light as you can give it in order to see all the dark rooms in the castle. Still, it's a brilliant game, and definitely among the Game Boy Advance's current top titles.

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