Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow Review
Aria of Sorrow will be familiar territory for fans of this long-standing series, but they'll love it anyway, and so will anyone looking for a great GBA action game.
It's a good thing you can't truly kill Dracula. Otherwise, Konami would have to stop making these excellent Castlevania games for the Game Boy Advance. Aria of Sorrow, the third Castlevania for Nintendo's portable system, is probably the best one yet, both in terms of its gameplay and design and also in terms of its production qualities. However, it must be said that Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is at heart a very similar game to last year's Harmony of Dissonance and 2001's Circle of the Moon and that all three of these games bear more than a passing resemblance to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a PlayStation game dating back to 1997. Granted, Symphony of the Night perfected an excellent formula for side-scrolling action adventure games--the fact that a game like Aria of Sorrow can get away with directly copying Symphony all these years later is proof that Symphony is a classic. More to the point, like the arch villain of the series, the Castlevania formula seems to be immortal. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow will be familiar territory for fans of this long-standing series, but they'll love it anyway, and so will anyone looking for a great action game for the Game Boy Advance.
For what it's worth, Aria of Sorrow makes a superficial effort to be different from every Castlevania before it. Namely, it's the first Castlevania that's set in a dark, gothic future, rather than in a dark, gothic past. So what's Dracula's castle like in the year 2035? Actually, it's pretty much the same as it ever was. There are maybe a handful of futuristic touches in Aria of Sorrow, but for the most part, the setting of the game is all winding, mazelike passageways through cathedrals, dining halls, catacombs, and so on, just like pretty much every Castlevania since the first one came out in 1986. Here, as the androgynous, white-haired hero, Soma Cruz (who looks just like Juste from Harmony and Alucard from Symphony), you'll wield a wide variety of medieval weapons against a wide variety of undead and demonic foes in your quest to try to find a way out of Dracula's castle. Those keeping up with the Castlevania series will recognize many of the enemies and locations in this game and will feel right at home from the moment the game begins.
The gameplay of Aria of Sorrow is definitely similar to that of its predecessors, but it's been appreciably refined and improved. For one thing, the game packs the most well balanced challenge of the three--it's easier than the very tough Circle of the Moon but tougher than the rather easy Harmony of Dissonance. It also offers more variety than either of those games. Soma can find and equip a huge arsenal of different weapons, including swords, hammers, punch daggers, and much more. These all have different properties--some are quick but lacking in range and power, while others cover a wide range but are relatively slow. Some weapons are flat-out better than others, but it's fun to experiment with all of them.
Moreover, the esoteric card system of Circle of the Moon and the elemental magic system of Harmony have been replaced by Soma's ability to absorb his enemies' souls and gain their powers. It's a great system and, much like all the weapons in the game, packs a surprising amount of variety. Basically, each time Soma strikes down a foe (of which there are more than a hundred different types), there's a chance that he will absorb that enemy's spirit and be able to use it in battle.
There are three different types of souls: Most of them can be "equipped" and used in place of the traditional Castlevania subweapons. So for instance, Soma might shatter one of those bone-tossing skeletons, steal its soul, and then be able to chuck bones right back at his foes. A second type of soul is used for defensive and offensive auras, which can be triggered with the right shoulder button. The first such power Soma gains makes him fall more slowly, like a feather, so that he can drift to previously unreachable areas. A third type of soul can be equipped to grant passive bonuses to Soma's core stats (like strength and intelligence) or to give him powers like the ability to walk on water.
- Player Reviews: 81
- Game Universe:
- Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (PS2, XBOX),
- Castlevania (N64, PC, C64, NES, AMI),
- Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES),
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (X360, PS3),
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Reverie (PS3, X360),
- Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (X360, PS3),
- Castlevania Judgment (WII),
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS),
- Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (PSP),
- Castlevania Double Pack (GBA)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: