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Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

06 May 2003
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow - cover art
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820 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#137 All-time
#3 for 2003
The demon castle hidden beneath the eclipse reveals itself again. Soma Cruz, who seems to be having the power of dominating souls, have to explore the castle and find the way out for his girlfriend Mina
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Releases 5
2003 KCET Konami  
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XNA 0 83717 50032 2 AGB-A2CE-USA
2003 KCET Konami  
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JP 4 542084 000638 AGB-A2CJ-JPN
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After Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance, Castlevania on the Gameboy Advance was starting to resemble a bald eagle riding the subway. Sure, this winged bird can technically travel to his destination via this man-made transportation construct, but why should he be relegated to the circuitous technological travelling methods of the flying impaired? Shouldn’t this bird of prey be soaring through the skies above the ground of their free will? Seeing this majestic creature stoop to something beneath its full capabilities is a sad sight to behold. Castlevania’s full capabilities in this analogy is Symphony of the Night, the series Metroidvania debut on the first PlayStation console that all of its Nintendo handheld successors failed to meet at eye level. At this point, Circle of the Moon tried deviating away from Symphony to produce a high-quality product, and Harmony of Dissonance attempted to emulate a bevy of Symphony’s elements when Circle of the Moon didn’t appeal to those looking for a Symphony-esque experience. When Harmony of Dissonance didn’t resonate with players either, it seemed as if the GBA’s modest hardware inherently could never hope to match Symphony and its grandiose glory. Symphony fans would have to lower their standards to get their Metroidvania Castlevania fix from here on out, which is reasonably depressing considering Symphony was the franchise's debut in the Metroidvania subgenre. That is, until the third Castlevania game released for the GBA system, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, managed a miracle. Somehow, despite the unfortunate pattern that the previous two games were setting, Konami produced a Castlevania title on the GBA that received glowing praise from fans and critics alike. In fact, Aria of Sorrow’s legacy is defined as not only the first worthy successor to Symphony, but some believe it to be the best game in the entire franchise. While pitting this game against Symphony for the crown of supreme Castlevania title is up to debate, Aria of Sorrow is certainly better than the two GBA Castlevania games that preceded it because it achieves something they desperately lacked: balance.

The refined quality that molds Aria of Sorrow as an exemplary Castlevania title would not be easily assumed by its introductory attributes, for its premise is absolutely bonkers. We’ve accelerated far past the generations of the Belmont clan and their imitators across the second AD millennium to the 21st century. As confounding as a Castlevania game set in modern 2003 where the protagonist has the original Ipod model strapped to his waist, plus the eventual reveal that George W. Bush is a cleverly disguised Dracula stampeding American troops into the Iraq War for a fresh slew of human pain and misery could potentially be, Aria of Sorrow zooms even further into the (not-so-distant year as of writing this) future year of 2035. And we thought Bloodlines being set during WW1 was an instance of the franchise flying too close to the sun of modernity for the series to uphold its gothic, fantasy atmosphere. A rustic, old-world tone is one of Castlevania’s integral idiosyncrasies, and a game in the series taking place well into the information age seems ludicrous. To compound the premise’s insanity, Dracula’s castle has emerged after the occurrence of a solar eclipse over Japan of all places. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there are any vampires, much less Dracula, across the storied cultural mythos of Japan in the slightest. They say it's wise to build off what you know during the creative process (the developers are Japanese), but this is ridiculous. Despite how befuddling this premise sounds, I applaud Konami for subverting the series from the typical stomping grounds of Renaissance/Victorian-era Europe. It might have been a necessary shift considering the lengthy number of entries in the franchise at this point with that setting. Dracula has always been depicted as an omnipotent demon lord placed higher in the underworld hierarchy than Death himself in Castlevania, so placing his emblematic estate in the land of the rising sun beyond the eras of his lore extends the height of his imminence. However, for series purists who obdurately only play the classic 2D platformers, the drastic deviation in time period and the setting is probably enough to make them turn as pale as Alucard (or Juste) and vomit profusely.

If Aria of Sorrow is set in the distant future where the Belmont clan’s relevancy has expired, who serves as the vehicle to uncover the strange phenomenon of Dracula’s castle appearing in the abrupt moonlight? Foreign tourist Soma Cruz is a Castlevania protagonist chosen by the circumstance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His surname might indicate that he’s a Spaniard, but his pale skin and towheaded hair probably indicate that he’s Argentinian. We don’t know for sure. He figured that a tour of the land of the rising sun accompanied by fellow student and Japanese native Mina Hakuba would be a life-affirming lark like any college student traveling abroad. Little did he anticipate, involuntarily teleporting to the vampiric lord’s domain will make his trip overseas more memorable than he ever expected. While he still resembles the androgynous, pretty-boy protagonist common among Castlevania’s main characters, Soma Cruz exudes the attitude and persona of a joe-schmoe who is facing something out of his element that he never asked for. His confusion and general aversion for his new surroundings is executed through the dialogue he parlays with the game’s secondary characters. Mr. Cruz stutters in the face of every stranger who talks to him, and the sentences he’s tentatively trying to utter are usually in the form of questions. I’ve heard a few Castlevania fans express that Soma Cruz isn’t up to par with the impassioned attitude of slaying Dracula expressed by the Belmonts before him. However, I think looking ghoulishly handsome with a glammed-out, David Bowie pomp is a textbook signifier of a Castlevania character. Soma Cruz feels more like an organic human being instead of a Van Helsing He-Man because the developers have managed to hone the narrative-intensive initiative they devised for every GBA Castlevania game. In fact, I can make discerning distinctions about individual characteristics regarding the rest of Aria of Sorrow’s limited cast, such as the virginal Mina, the devilish Graham, and the modest Hammer to name a few. Finally, the prerogative to enhance Castlevania’s narrative capabilities has reached a point of adequacy after two rough, lackluster attempts.

Because Soma Cruz never signed himself up for the onus of taking down The Count, his unpreparedness forces him to scrounge up any sharp or blunt object he can to defend himself from what resides in Dracula’s castle. In the greater context of what this means for the player, Aria of Sorrow reverts back to Symphony’s approach of equipping weapons uncovered by stumbling upon them around the castle grounds and in secret passageways as well as obtaining them from fallen enemies. Gone are the secondary weapons and the trusty “Vampire Killer” whip that persisted into the GBA titles, so the player cannot abuse the mighty cross boomerang. Instead, Soma Cruz is granted the privilege of swapping out a myriad of knives, broadswords, hammers, brass knuckles, a goddamn trident, and comically-sized greatswords to combat the creatures that wish him harm. Soma Cruz can even pop a cap in the monsters with a silver 9mm pistol, but this piece of 21st-century firepower isn’t as potent as one might think. Two camps could argue that implementing the array of equipable weapons as the primary method of combat is a digression because the developers have spent so much effort in translating the classic peripheral tools from the traditional 2D platformers after Symphony omitted them entirely. I’m in the camp that it wouldn't make sense if Soma Cruz had the array of Belmont birthrights at his disposal, so mixing and matching a bevy of melee weapons is better suited for his character.

However, one might notice that the heart-shaped units of ammunition are still present whenever Soma Cruz whacks at the various candles strewn about the estate. Normally, they would replenish the usage of the holy water, ax, and cross roulette but in Aria of Sorrow, they restore the magic meter that coincides with the game’s bonafide point of innovation. Upon defeating an enemy, an orb of three different colors will sprout from their remains and rocket itself to Soma Cruz. Colliding with this eager, disembodied specter grants Soma Cruz the ability to use one of that enemy’s attributes. The “tactical soul” perk ranges from offensive abilities such as throwing boulders and skeleton bones, and stat increases, to the navigational abilities needed to traverse through the Metroidvania design impediments. Did the fairy from Pinocchio grant Kirby’s wish to become a real boy in the shape of an Argentinian guy more effeminate looking than the boy from Death in Venice with premature gray hair? An odd desire for sure, but what I’m ultimately alluding to is that harnessing an enemy’s properties and using them for yourselves mirrors the defining feature of Nintendo’s pink, stumpy blob from outer space. Aria of Sorrow’s mechanic also shares a similar sensation to swallowing powers as Kirby in that unlocking an enemy’s distinct ability is like putting a coin in a gashapon vendor. It’s anyone’s guess how Soma Cruz interprets these powers for himself, and the sheer abundance of enemies in the game ensures that the excitement of receiving a new power will not wane quickly. But these powers are not worn as an ephemeral skin that can be tossed aside or stripped away as a punitive measure for damage taken. The powers of Dracula’s children of the night are stored in Soma Cruz’s inventory, interwoven into the RPG mechanics as overtly as any of the armor or weapons he shuffles through regularly. Because there are an overwhelming amount of powers at hand with completely unique attributes, selecting a handful from the three categories to conquer other enemies and bosses functions almost like a puzzle. I’m slightly disappointed that there aren’t any Yokai roaming around the halls of Dracula’s spacious estate given the rich mythological folklore of the setting. Then again, I suppose it is more intriguing for fans of the series to grasp the powers of enemies that they’ve become so familiar with over the years, and utilizing their attributes is a more intimate way to engage with them. My only real issue regarding the enemy orbs is how disorganized they are in the menu. There is no clear distinction between optional moves and which abilities are needed to progress through the game, which is something even Circle of the Moon did neatly.

Despite the unorthodox real estate in a century beyond the rationale of a vampire’s presence, the interior design of Dracula’s iconic castle setting here is still a resplendent marvel of gothic, European architecture. From the first few steps into the foyer immediately after the winch that controls the gate welcomes the player, every veteran Castlevania player is sure to recognize the familiar aesthetic elements associated with The Count’s castle. The passing of several centuries hasn’t effaced the estate’s ornate splendor a bit, as it still upholds that aura of prestige. Some may argue that the dilapidated bits across the various sections of the castle diminish its spectacle a bit, but what do you expect from a place crowded with monsters galore? It wouldn’t emit as spooky of an atmosphere if the place was as pristine as the queen’s royal palace. More importantly, Aria of Sorrow’s most apparent balancing act is finding a graphical tone to render the cobweb-covered corridors of the manor, something that the previous two GBA games struggled with. The result of Aria of Sorrow’s visual refinement is that the nightside eclipse has shaded Dracula’s palace in a pleasant, dark blue nightshade that reminds me of whenever a full moon illuminates the ground in a rural area with no artificial lighting. This deep, yet vibrant sheen is seen all over the map no matter where Soma Cruz finds himself: from the opening vestibules, the courtyards constructed like warping through portals to escape a maze, to intramural areas such as the cascading caverns of the reservoir and the small, grizzly abattoir section in the Underground Cemetery. A hue of blue evoking the hour of the wolf is the most appropriate tone for a Castlevania game, wouldn’t you say? Also, fans of the franchise are more likely to find Aria of Sorrow’s moody tint to be perfectly agreeable as opposed to dampened visuals that made them squint at every step or the psychedelic onslaught that requires administering eye drops every half hour to withstand regarding both previous GBA Castlevania games respectively.

While Dracula’s castle is not situated in the dank pits surrounded by the crusty walls of the Earth like in Circle of the Moon, the towering architecture is rather compact in Aria of Sorrow. Immediately, most of the map is unveiled as soon as Soma Cruz steps foot into the castle, and the general layout should ring familiar to any veteran players when they open it and see the gray, unexplored areas. After initially glancing at the map, I was a bit concerned that the developers had trimmed the castle down a little too much to the point of reducing Dracula’s castle to a meager gothic-esque Tudor home. I assumed that surely the game’s length would be padded by offering an inverted parallel to the castle that comprised the game’s second half like Symphony. Alas, that theory went out the window as the completion percentage was nearing its maximum after exploring all of the original castle at hand. This review so far has been dedicated to comparing Aria of Sorrow to the previous two GBA games due to being developed on the same hardware. However, perhaps comparing Aria to Symphony should be considered, especially since Aria chooses not to extend itself to the length of Symphony by flipping the castle in some manner. While the second half on Symphony did satiate the lingering craving for more content I had, doubling the entire content proved to be an unnecessary overload. Admittedly, Aria of Sorrow is a bit short, but I respect the developer’s decision to only implement what was necessary. They didn’t trim the muscle of the map as I initially thought, but rather the fat of extensions exposing Symphony as being a bit bloated.

I suppose Aria of Sorrow’s length still felt satisfying because of its difficulty curve. Across the Metroidvania Castlevanias, this is the most divisive and erratic facet of the series, especially among the GBA titles which are situated on two opposite extremes of the spectrum. Arguably, what Aria of Sorrow achieves in this regard is the greatest contribution to balancing the series. Every effort to maintain a suitable difficulty curve in Aria of Sorrow is simply agreeable. From the reasonable number of enemies per room, the steady leveling system, to the placement of the save and teleportation rooms, I’d find it hard to believe that any fans of the franchise (or at least the Metroidvania games) would find fault with the general stability of everything intended to make a Metroidvania Castlevania manageable. Yet, all of the refined points of accessibility do not render the game as a brisk, lethargic excursion through Dracula’s castle as seen in Harmony of Dissonance. In most explorative scenarios, I never encountered anything steeped way beyond my element until I found myself face-to-face with a few of Aria of Sorrow’s bosses. Again, the swamp golem that spanned the vertical diameter of the roof and the chimera Manticore beast was met without much strain. I appreciated the limited weak points of the stocky Great Armor and the swift reaction time it takes to dodge his greatsword lunges, but the repeated process of hacking at his feet didn’t really upset my state of relative contentment. It wasn’t until I encountered this game’s version of Death that I was reminded of his noble worth and status as the grand inquisitor of all things mortal as I was in his first iteration far back on the NES. Death does not fuck around, as the case should naturally be for such an imposing mythical figure. After fighting the first major foe that caused me a considerable amount of strife, the consistency remained for the duration of the game with the most languidly paced Legion fight and a giant, hulking troll named Balore whose burly arms were constantly shoving Soma Cruz aside like swatting a fly. His fight is even presented as a fake out, thinking that Soma Cruz would be facing another easy incarnation of the giant bat that was the series' first boss. While these fights are far tougher than anything presented in Harmony of Dissonance, they don’t quite match up to Circle of the Moon’s grueling duels since Soma Cruz can use his gold currency to purchase potions and edible healing items at Hammer’s shop located in the hub at the entrance of the castle. There is also a warp gate close by, so returning to the gate at the start is fairly accessible in all reaches of the estate. My argument to combat the stance that this point of convenience makes the difficulty moot is that none of the bosses in Harmony required the use of a potion, and the paltry potion supply in Circle of the Moon meant that the player wouldn’t even have a healing item on them to aid them in the first place. I think the necessity for a potion in tandem with the sensible maximum number of them in the inventory is a perfect balancing act to deal with these bosses without enabling the player to depend on them like a crutch.

So does Dracula instill the same challenge as the other bosses of the later game as its final boss? Funny of you to assume this to be the case because the wildest revelation in Aria of Sorrow is that the vampiric lord that has haunted humanity throughout all eras of civilization is deceased. No, I am not bullshitting you and neither is the game. Julius Belmont, the current living descendant of the classic Castlevania protagonists, accomplished the unthinkable and actually smote the Count permanently in 1999 at the turn of the millennium, lest he cause the harm of what Y2K was supposedly going to do I guess. Dracula is finally dead in the ground rotting, but this doesn’t mean that his influence is also atrophying. A prophecy states that an heir possessing Dracula’s immense power will take his throne once his castle reveals itself in the eclipse that shadowed it for so long. One wouldn’t think that hapless Soma Cruz could be Dracula’s successor by sheer circumstance, but a witch named Yoko claims that his soul-sucking aptitude is a vampiric inheritance indicating a dreadful correlation. However, Yoko states that even if Soma Cruz is destined to take Dracula’s throne, his destination ultimately depends on his conscious decisions which can still pave a path for good and righteousness. The real threat is Graham, another Dracula fanboy who is thrilled to unleash the full potential of Dracula’s power on the coincidental notion that he’s the heir apparent because he was born on the day that Dracula irrevocably bit the dust. Even though his enthusiasm implies that he’s confident his prophecy is correct, Soma Cruz’s ability to steal souls jabs at his insecurities. To his credit, Graham musters up some fairly impressive poser powers when Soma Cruz faces him. Once Soma Cruz sucks up Graham’s defeated soul, the Dracula within him starts bubbling up to the surface. The early signs of the transformation result in menacing red eyes and hair as frazzled as Meg Ryan’s after the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally. While things seem as if Dracula is going to rise anew, the true ending involves taking a combination of souls to the “chaotic realm,” a surreal section plastered in blindingly bright white light where time isn’t a relevant construct. At the core of this fractured place is Soma Cruz’s spiritual core where he battles his literal inner demons infecting him with Dracula’s noxious influence, and it is indeed as difficult as the bosses that preceded him. Once he expunges the evil from his body, Soma Cruz returns to the land of the living with Mina, and they can continue sightseeing around Japan. The clear narrative construct of good versus evil portrayed in previous Castlevania games was always cut and dry, but Aria of Sorrow subverts everything pertaining to the concept. The debate of freedom versus fate based on one’s conditions was toyed with in Symphony relating to Alucard, but Aria of Sorrow takes the concept into metaphysical territory which is miles more ambitious than any Castlevania narrative before it. Dracula hardly even matters in the grand scheme of things, as Aria of Sorrow could simply serve as a character study of a humble, honest young man being corrupted by a monumental power as it perverts his moral compass. Considering Dracula is the sole recurring character across the whole series, scrapping him in favor of something far more ambitious and delivering it splendidly is exceptionally admirable.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Castlevania’s fans are Goldilocks from the classic fairy tale and the three Castlevania games developed for the GBA are the three bowls of porridge the bears left out on the counter. First, she slurps down Circle of the Moon and exclaims, “Ugh, this porridge is too grainy, flavorless, and hard to digest!” and pushes it aside. Next, she downs Harmony of Dissonance and revolts, “Yuck, this porridge’s texture is nauseating, and why is it so thick!?” while trying not to expel it from her body in disgust. Lastly, once she gets a taste of Aria of Sorrow, she breathes a sigh of relief. stating that it is “just right” while smacking her lips in pure satisfaction. Aria of Sorrow is a testament to the expression that the third time's the charm, and it achieves its success by finding a middle ground between the two radical interpretations of Symphony’s Metroidvania formula before it. With the fair difficulty curve, refined graphical lighting, perfect pacing, and a brilliant, fun new combat mechanic to play around with, it’s easy to see that Aria of Sorrow triumphs over the Castlevania titles on the same system. Really, Aria of Sorrow’s true competitor is Symphony of the Night and not the other GBA titles because Aria’s quality is exemplary to that extent. Personally, I still think Symphony can claim its title as the reigning champion of the franchise. Symphony is a higher-calorie meal, and it sometimes feels liberating to indulge in decadence even if it will give you a stomach ache. However, I admire Aria’s relatively monastic and intelligent approach to Symphony’s template, so I will not contest any opinions that favor it over the franchise's Metroidvania debut. Arguably, even debating that a handheld Castlevania game is on par with one on a console makes Aria of Sorrow the objective victor overall.
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Erockthestrange 2024-03-12T07:28:34Z
2024-03-12T07:28:34Z
8.5
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Honestly it's weird to me how this game is a step up and a step down at the same time. It literally just is Circle of the Moon but a bit better and yet it isn't cause it came out after Harmony of Dissonance. It's a weird game to begin with as it has nothing to do with Castlevania anymore or at least in the original sense. And I'm all for innovating and shit but this is nuts. Sooo...

we're in Japan now and Draculas Castle just randomly appears over a Shinto Shrine. We're playing like some spiritual descendant of a Belmont like I don't fucking know, the story just feels like cheap Anime fluff and it just makes no sense to me how we got here. I heard that HoD didn't sell in Japan and that's why they went down that path but bro... really? Whatever it's excusable.

Gameplay wise I gotta say: finally there is a huge variety of different weapons. It was really necassery yet I kinda wish I never wanted it in the first place as now it feels like we're playing a random ass 2D RPG. The sub weapons are gone as well. Instead we get souls which are spells collected from killing enemies. So you kill a bat and you have a chance of absorbing that thing as a weapon/spell. It's a cool concept but every fucking monster kinda does the same projectile attack with a different arch. I really miss the sub weapons... and there I say it... I miss the whip. Be careful what you wish for I guess.

I bought the weapon I sticked with for the entire game at the shop which is finally not a half assed feature but you reach the point where you can afford everything really fast. In general I have to say out of the GBA trilogy this is the easiest of the bunch. I just never struggled with any section and I never got lost as well... The castle is layed out in an ok way but it's neither memorable or fun to traverse. Also all areas look lifeless and boring. I really miss the beautiful psychedelic artstyle of HoD.

And there I say it: if we're going to continue down this path I'm worried we'll run out of ideas really fast. I don't know what the next game will bring to the table but if we keep on dumbing it down like this I'm kinda gonna freak out. This game just feels very gamey/grindey I don't know if I can explain it very well but much of the artistry is lost. There's nothing really interesting about it. It's fun and a good timewaster but there's no style to it. It feels like an AI generated Metroidvania. I dunno. Let's see what the future has to offer but I hope we'll find our way. This is definitely a step towards the light but somehow we need to return the art.
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JoahannisBaerStrysl 2024-02-23T19:23:17Z
2024-02-23T19:23:17Z
3.0
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best castlevania
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yoitu 2023-10-04T15:54:23Z
2023-10-04T15:54:23Z
›80%
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Mecanicamente, é o melhor Castlevania “explorativo” da série até então. A mecânica das almas é nada menos que brilhante: simples, fácil de entender e executar, mas que dá ao jogo uma profundidade de jogabilidade que nenhum outro da série chegou perto. É como pegar a base da ideia do sistema de cartas de Circle of The Moon e a executar corretamente.

Gosto muito também de como Aria of Sorrow não vive na sombra de Symphony of The Night e traz seu próprio charme à lore de Castlevania. Os twists do enredo, embora não tão surpreendentes, dão um ar fresco à série, cujas histórias normalmente não me interessam muito.

Agora, é tão bom quanto Symphony? Quase lá, mas ainda não. Tem algo no jogo de Playstation que Aria of Sorrow ainda não replica com tamanha perfeição. Pode ser a música, podem ser os cenários, pode ser o Alucard… De qualquer forma, dos três jogos de GBA, Aria é de longe o que chega mais próximo de tal façanha.
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gabrielctps 2023-05-12T03:00:04Z
2023-05-12T03:00:04Z
4.5
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Title
In some ways, Aria of Sorrow is better than Symphony of the Night, which was the game that started this whole "Metroidvania" thing. In moving to a handheld system, Konami trimmed down the formula and made a tighter-paced game without sacrificing all the secret content that Symphony was known for. It even has a fun story that offers a new twist in the series mythos. However, Aria is also necessarily a less opulent game than Symphony, with its baroque excess and fascinating lopsidedness. It doesn't have the decadently beautiful sprite work or the synth-goth soundtrack of Symphony, either. It does introduce the very fun Soul System, which is kind of like putting Kirby in Castlevania, and offers tons of gameplay variety. So while Symphony still has the unbeatable style, Aria has stronger design, which makes it an essential Metroidvania.
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screechdreams 2021-10-10T05:19:08Z
2021-10-10T05:19:08Z
4.0
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After what I’d consider to be one of the worst of the handheld Castlevania games was released, one could potentially assume that the series would begin to go downhill, with seemingly showing the potential to just begin rehashing the same concept time and time again. Despite this possibility, what actually happened is that Aria of Sorrow kicked off what I consider to be the golden age of Castlevania, starting off with on of the absolute best games in the series. This is the game that rally nailed what made SOTN such a beloved game but made sure that Aria of Sorrow actually had its own identity to go along with it, feeling like a proper evolution of the established formula.

The most obvious changes to this come from the protagonist, Soma Cruz himself, marking a rare time in which the player is in control of someone who’s not a vampire hunter. This narrative difference manages to find its way into the actual gameplay as well, with a big defining feature of this game being the soul mechanic, where the player has the chance of absorbing the power of an enemy after killing it, giving you a unique benefit for each enemy type in the game, leading to a grand total of 110 souls one can obtain. These range from equippable stat bonuses, to powerful magic attacks, to some that have a more niche use, such as being able to swap the HP and MP of certain enemies to be able to immediately defeat them, making for quite a varied player experience that encourages experimentation and provides value for each new type of enemy that you find. Furthermore, the way Soma controls is my personal favourite from any of the games, having the potential attack speed of Alucard, but with far more variety in weapons, with a variety of speeds and attack arcs. This provides the game with more replayability as well, and rewards getting to grips with the movement of the game excellently, making the light weapons far quicker once the player can get the timing down for proper end lag cancellation, giving an experience similar to that of SOTN where the player is constantly improving. I am also a big fan of the heavier overhead weapons as well, simply because it means that the variety makes a larger percentage of the available weapons in the game useful, compared to the very low amount of useful equipment you found in SOTN.

Talking about useful equipment, I feel that the exploration in this game is extremely rewarding compared to any other game so far, with different builds being more viable due to the fact that magic and standard weapons are both largely balanced, allowing for more of the rewards you get from exploring and running into dead ends to feel worth your time. Navigating the castle in general just feels very intuitive in general though, to be fair, with the abilities you obtain throughout the castle often being closely situated by some sort of path you can now access, either allowing for further progress, or acting as a shortcut/teleporter location. At no point in the game does the next key progression point feel out of the way or tedious to walk to, without making the castle feel particularly small or linear either, making backtracking and getting completely lost a very rare occurrence. I can’t really speak too much for the difficulty of this game however, mostly because I’ve beaten it 5 or 6 times over the last couple of years and have basically mastered most of it at this point, although there were still parts that I ended up getting caught off guard by due to getting overconfident, so the game clearly is punishing to some degree, especially when careless. The way the game handles its true ending is absolutely amazing to me as well, with the extra content added past the point in which you’d get the regular ending only being about 30 minutes longer, but being consistently climactic and intense, feeling like a suitable way to cap off the game, rather than tacking on far too much additional content that ends up feeling lazy and boring. I love how the player has to explore to be able to get the information required to clue them in that there’s some big secret to the game, especially with one of the 3 books to tell you what you need being shown out of reach early on in the game, each book telling you of a particular soul to equip for an initially mysterious purpose, leading the player on a trip through the castle to uncover a variety of areas that require some more involved platforming or clever soul use in order to get through, giving the player a final sort of test before the ending section of the game truly begins, making the journey feel all the more significant and giving the game a difficulty curve rather than spiking after beating the fake final boss.

Overall, this is definitely one of the best games in the series in my eyes, polishing the game’s formula excellently while giving it its own unique spin and identity, making it stand out quite nicely, especially given the fact that the game itself is very well put together and fun to play in its own right. The soul mechanic, while completely luck based, is still a system I really love for the variety it brings forth to the game, with there being enough enemies you’ll be slashing your way through that you’ll undoubtedly be able to pick up quite a few without even having to consider grinding at all, giving the game a bit of variance if you end up wanting to play through this multiple times. This is the Castlevania formula at its most tightly designed and refined without a doubt, and the fact that it combined this with some extremely well executed new ideas pushes this forth to become one of the best entries in the entire series.
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Kempokid 2021-06-26T09:43:20Z
2021-06-26T09:43:20Z
4.5
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Catalog

FrostSonium Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-14T20:29:59Z
2024-04-14T20:29:59Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
aphelion_void Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-13T22:39:50Z
2024-04-13T22:39:50Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
kafeis Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-09T19:01:00Z
2024-04-09T19:01:00Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Crash6351 Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-09T09:47:44Z
2024-04-09T09:47:44Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
dandog2142 Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-07T20:41:04Z
2024-04-07T20:41:04Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
rasuecks Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-06T18:05:45Z
2024-04-06T18:05:45Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
leo_n Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-06T13:51:39Z
2024-04-06T13:51:39Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
probablynever543 Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-06T01:32:18Z
2024-04-06T01:32:18Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
SergLeDerg Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-04T02:04:01Z
2024-04-04T02:04:01Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
HatchThePlan Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-02T18:37:00Z
2024-04-02T18:37:00Z
7.7
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
sonyatheotter Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-04-02T18:31:56Z
2024-04-02T18:31:56Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
FirstMate Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2024-03-29T18:09:23Z
2024-03-29T18:09:23Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Content rating
ESRB: T
Player modes
Single-player
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1x Cartridge
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Also known as
  • キャッスルヴァニア ~暁月の円舞曲~
  • Castlevania 暁月の円舞曲
  • View all [2] Hide

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  • Previous comments (21) Loading...
  • to_noid_or_not_to_noid 2023-05-30 20:01:48.790166+00
    A Belated Happy 20th!
    reply
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  • Grungy777 2023-09-12 02:31:03.56038+00
    I liked this one, but as with SotN and HoD, I thought the bosses were way too easy. Death is the only one that really gave me trouble and even that only took a few attempts.
    reply
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  • senegoid 2023-10-03 22:07:58.013267+00
    The Julius fight is so fucking awesome
    reply
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  • Regal_Throes 2024-01-15 04:26:55.022474+00
    Can't give this game anything lower than a 9. Just slightly edges out SOTN.
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  • Coldplaz 2024-01-29 15:29:59.753672+00
    Jesus it took me over an hour to get the Gargoyle's soul
    reply
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  • JoahannisBaerStrysl 2024-02-23 19:48:02.661018+00
    Is it just me or does this game feel extremely clunky and soulless?
    reply
    • PonyPower 2024-03-03 17:15:20.01085+00
      welcome to the club buddy
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  • marco29 2024-03-31 23:27:11.259615+00
    I probably prefer this one over SotN, and that is a really fucking good game.
    Like that one, this is also very easy, but the gameplay loop is so satisfying it doesn't matter.
    reply
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