Konami announced today that Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, the latest game in the company's famous line of gothic-themed side-scrolling action games, has shipped to stores. We dived right in and are here to bring you early impressions and new screens and movies of the game, to preempt our full review and video review later this week.
Aria of Sorrow is the third Castlevania game for the Game Boy Advance, and fans of its predecessors, Harmony of Dissonance and Circle of the Moon, will find themselves in familiar territory right off the bat. The premise of the game is typical: You're in Dracula's castle and you're hunting him down, but he's got a lot of bad guys standing in the way. The catch is that Aria of Sorrow actually takes place in the near future, rather than in the past like all earlier Castlevanias. Nevertheless, the futuristic element doesn't really figure into the gameplay, as Soma Cruz, the game's androgynous hero, fights with swords and magic rather than with high-tech weaponry, and Dracula's castle looks as gothic as ever. No wide-screen TVs or other modern-day accoutrements to be found.
Some of the game's artwork is clearly taken from or refurbished from the game's predecessors, and the whole feel of the gameplay is very similar. Of course, for legions of Castlevania fans, that's a good thing. Aria of Sorrow does introduce a new type of gameplay mechanic into the mix: Soma can absorb the souls of his enemies, gaining their powers. So if you've always wanted to throw a boomerang axe just like the axe armor enemy, or toss a bone in a vertical arc just like the skeleton, then you'll be pleased to know that these and other enemies' attacks can be stolen by Aria of Sorrow's leading man. He fights primarily with short-ranged blades, and as in recent Castlevanias, he gains new special abilities that allow him to reach new parts of Dracula's sprawling castle.
Fortunately, the game's music sounds noticeably better than the last installment, and the graphics are bright and colorful. Aria of Sorrow features big bosses and a lot of the same gameplay that's made Castlevania such a popular series. Check out our new screens and movies of the US version of the game, and stay tuned for a full review and video review.